UN to Form Commission to Probe Bhutto's Death
UN to Form Commission to Probe Bhutto's Death, Pakistan Says
By Michael Heath
July 11 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistan and the United Nations reached a ``broad understanding'' on establishing a commission to investigate the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon responded ``positively'' to Pakistan's request for a commission and the two sides agreed on its funding, composition, access to information and safeguards on the inquiry's ``objectivity, impartiality and independence,'' Qureshi told reporters in New York yesterday.
Ban wants consultations are required on ``modalities and structure,'' Qureshi said, according to a statement on the UN's Web site. Bhutto was killed in a suicide bombing Dec. 27 in Rawalpindi after addressing an election rally.
Her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, pressed for a UN probe even after London's Metropolitan Police said in February its investigation showed Bhutto died from a head injury sustained when the force of the blast threw her against her vehicle's sunroof. The report rejected allegations by Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party, now headed by Zardari, that she was shot dead.
Ban's office confirmed the agreement shortly after Qureshi's announcement, the Associated Press said. He plans further talks with Pakistani and UN officials to work out all the details, it said.
President Pervez Musharraf asked the U.K. police force, known as Scotland Yard, to help with the investigation in January when Zardari and PPP leaders rejected the government's conclusion that Bhutto wasn't hit by bullets or shrapnel.
Bhutto's assassination triggered nationwide riots and prompted the government to postpone parliamentary elections by six weeks until Feb. 18. Her death helped swing the public against Musharraf and his allies were defeated at the ballot, allowing the PPP to form a coalition government.
No autopsy was performed on Bhutto's body and the crime scene was cleaned shortly after her death, prompting suspicions of a cover up and Zardari's demand for the UN investigation.
The government last month asked Ban to ``establish an international commission for the purpose of identifying the culprits, perpetrators, organizers and financiers behind the assassination of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto with a view to bring them to justice.''
Pakistan's previous government said al-Qaeda-linked Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was behind the assassination. Mehsud, who has a stronghold in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan, has evaded capture by Pakistani security forces.
Bhutto, 54, the first woman prime minister of a Muslim state, held a moderate view of Islam and maintained close contacts with the Bush administration.
The bombing suspects were of the opinion that Bhutto was following a U.S. agenda and would have tried to eradicate the Taliban and other extremist groups if she came to power, Police Inspector-General Abdul Majeed said Feb. 17 as he concluded Pakistan's probe.
Mehsud provided about $6,300 to finance the assault, Majeed said at the time, adding that five people confessed to helping plan the attack.
To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Heath in Sydney at email@example.com