Page last updated at 12:55 GMT, Friday, 16 April 2010 13:55 UK

Benazir Bhutto murder 'avoidable', UN inquiry concludes

Commission head Heraldo Munoz unveiled the findings

The assassination of ex-Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto in 2007 could have been prevented and the subsequent inquiry was bungled, according to a UN report.

It says insufficient security measures were taken by the government of then President Pervez Musharraf.

And it concludes that the police deliberately failed to investigate the murder properly as they feared intelligence agency involvement.

An aide to President Musharraf said the report was a "pack of lies".

'Failed profoundly'

The independent UN commission of inquiry urges the authorities to launch a "credible, serious" investigation into Ms Bhutto's death at a rally in the city of Rawalpindi "and bring those responsible to justice".

Its report says that the pervasive presence of Pakistan's powerful politicised intelligence agencies hampered the initial inquiry.

Shoaib Hasan
Shoaib Hasan, BBC News, Islamabad

The contents of the Bhutto commission report have not come as great surprise to most people in Pakistan.

The top leaders of the ruling PPP party will be pleased with the inquiry's conclusion that more thorough investigation needs to be conducted into the assasination.

But it is unlikely that any such exercise will take place in the near future. The fact remains that the UN commission's initial assertion that the inquiry into Ms Bhutto's assassination was deliberately bungled by the police due to pressure from the country's intelligence agencies is likely to be repeated.

This is in line with the general public opinion in Pakistan - that the real powers in the country do not want the whole truth to come out.

In the end, the controversy surrounding Ms Bhutto's assassination is likely to continue.

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

"These officials, in part fearing intelligence agencies' involvement, were unsure of how vigorously they ought to pursue actions, which they knew, as professionals, they should have taken."

The report criticises the intelligence agencies for conducting parallel investigations, gathering evidence which was only selectively shared with the police.

Speaking at a news conference at the UN in New York, the head of the commission, Heraldo Munoz, said: "A range of government officials failed profoundly in their efforts, first to protect Ms Bhutto and second to investigate with vigour all those responsible for her murder, not only in the execution of the attack but also in its conception, planning and financing."

One of President Musharraf's aides, Rashid Qureshi, told the BBC: "The report makes absurd statements. The inquiry was not well conducted."

He insisted that President Musharraf was not in charge of Pakistani security at the time of the assassination as he had already resigned as head of the army.

Ms Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) - led by her widower, current President Asif Ali Zardari - said it was satisfied with the inquiry.

Senior party leaders told the BBC that the findings were "exactly what they had been saying all along".

And a presidential spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, said efforts to track down the perpetrators behind the assassination would be redoubled.

Publication delay

The commission was set up in July last year in response to a request from Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto

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

Its report had been due to be published at the end of March but was delayed for two weeks at the request of President Zardari, who had called for the investigation.

The government said it wanted extra time to include input from Afghanistan, the US and Saudi Arabia, three countries that had apparently warned Ms Bhutto of a death threat.

President Musharraf has declared that the late head of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, organised the assassination.

Ms Bhutto herself had written that four suicide attack squads were after her, some linked to al-Qaeda.

But she also accused a group of senior politicians and intelligence officials of plotting to kill her, and many of her followers blame elements of the military establishment and President Musharraf's government for her death.

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