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Page last updated at 11:20 GMT, Friday, 16 April 2010 12:20 UK

Q&A: Benazir Bhutto inquiry

A United Nations inquiry into the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto - who died after wounds suffered during a gun and bomb attack at a political rally in the city of Rawalpindi on 27 December 2007 - has presented its findings to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Benazir Bhutto

What were the findings of the inquiry ?

The UN inquiry into the assassination of Pakistan's former prime minister said that her death could have been prevented if proper security measures had been taken by President Pervez Musharraf's government.

Compiled by an independent commission appointed by the UN, it concluded that the pervasive presence of Pakistan's politicised intelligence agencies hampered the investigation.

"The commission believes that the failure of the police to investigate effectively Ms Bhutto's assassination was deliberate," the report said.

It urged Pakistan to launch a "credible" probe which it said would be a major step toward ending impunity for political crimes in Pakistan.

The head of the commission, Heraldo Munoz, said the authorities had failed to protect Ms Bhutto - who at the time was was a candidate in forthcoming elections.

What was the remit of the inquiry?

The three-member panel was mandated to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms Bhutto's death, not assign criminal responsibility.

The probe was intended to mirror a similar previous UN inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 and differed from other probes in that it was designed to answer all the questions surrounding Ms Bhutto's death.

Will the UN report help bring those responsible for the murder to justice?

The BBC's Barbara Plett says that will be difficult because the report has said enough for Pakistanis to know that any credible criminal investigation would have to interrogate the powerful military establishment.

Farahnaz Ispahani, an aide to the president, was quoted soon after the report's publication as saying that "the report will pave the way for a proper police investigation and possible penal proceedings".

What questions remain unsolved?

The principal question was and remains: Who was responsible for the plot which led to her assassination?

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says it is clear from the basic evidence that at least two people were involved in the actual attack - the suicide bomber and the gunman.

Our correspondent says that one of the people thought to be behind the attack, Ikramullah, is still to be arrested. Another man who is suspected to be involved is Qari Ismail - a Taliban militant said to have masterminded the attack. His whereabouts are also currently unknown.

The first government investigation said that she died from a wound to the head caused by hitting it on the roof of the vehicle she was travelling in.

Benazir Bhutto's convoy momnets before her death
There are differing accounts of what caused Ms Bhutto's death

This was after the explosion. But footage obtained from a cell phone clearly showed her falling as she was shot by a lone gunman.

Subsequently, the government put the blame on the then supreme commander of the Taliban in Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud. He denied being involved in the assassination and has since been killed in a suspected US missile attack.

Ms Bhutto herself had said she expected to be targeted by elements within Pakistan's state structure. Her party believes Pakistan's powerful security agencies - who have often been accused of being above the law - may have been involved.

What power did the UN inquiry actually have?

The inquiry had no real legal power. It could not compel anyone to appear before it and its findings are not legally binding. The inquiry intended "to appeal to anyone" who had knowledge of any hitherto unrevealed facts to come forward. It had the full backing of the government of Pakistan.

How did the inquiry do its work?

It first collected all known details about the assassination. Its members then visited Pakistan to interview witnesses and experts and conducted an investigation on the ground.

Did they work with official agencies?

The inquiry was conducted at the request of Pakistan's current government, so it was officially aided by all relevant government departments. However, it did not get access to the files of the country's intelligence agencies. Initially many former and current intelligence officials refused to appear before the commission. But later on, several top military and intelligence officials, including the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), met the commission.

What other inquiries have there been?

There has been one other inquiry conducted by police officers from the UK's Scotland Yard one month after the assassination. They were called in after then President Pervez Musharraf agreed to involve international agencies but vetoed UN intervention. But the Scotland Yard probe was limited to how Ms Bhutto was killed, whereas her family and the present government wanted to find out who was responsible as well as how it happened.

What government/police investigations have taken place into the assassination?

There was a single investigation conducted by a joint team of Pakistan's security apparatus. It concluded that the assassination was carried out by militants loyal to Baitullah Mehsud and that the murder was carried out on his orders.



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