Eight Pakistani officials suspended over Benazir killing


Islamabad : The Pakistan government Monday suspended eight of its officials, who were responsible for security of Benazir Bhutto’s last public meeting venue, following a UN panel’s report on the former prime minister’s assassination.

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The suspended officials include Rawalpindi’s former City Police Officer Saud Aziz, former Inspector General Chaudhry Abdul Majeed and six others who were handling Bhutto’s security during the rally Dec 27, 2007, when she was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack.

All the eight officials are expected to testify before the Joint Investigation Team, which is probing Benazir’s murder, in a couple of days.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar confirmed the suspension of the eight officials and said the orders had come from Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.

“The action on the UN report has been started on the directives of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani,” Babar was quoted as saying by DawnNews.

The suspension comes four days after the UN Commission probing the slain prime minister’s murder said in its final report Friday that the then government of President Pervez Musharraf was directly responsible for not providing enough security to Bhutto.

Sources within the ruling Pakistan Peoples’ Party say an FIR would also be registered against Musharraf, the suspended officials, and some PPP leaders who had been made responsible for her security by the party.

The decision to take action in the light of the UN report was taken by the PPP Core Committee meeting held Saturday. The meeting was chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari.

The government has also cancelled the contract of Director-General of Civil Defence Brig (retd) Javed Iqbal Cheema. Brig Cheema, as the spokesman for the interior ministry, was the first official who declared that Bhutto had died because of injuries she sustained when she hit the lever of the escape hatch of the vehicle she was travelling in.

According to the UN report, a black Mercedes which was part of the security as back-up vehicle and was supposed to follow Bhutto’s vehicle as she left Liaquat Bagh, left the venue a few minutes before the shooting and the blast that claimed the lives of the PPP chief and some party workers.

The commission’s findings also say that Bhutto’s then security advisor Zulfiqar Mirza and others had formed a security force “Janisaraan-i-Benazir Bhutto”, comprising 5,000 volunteers who were supposed to form a human shield around her at the rally. But, it appears, that this force was missing from the venue at the time of attack.

Meanwhile, sources close to Saud Aziz say that he is ready to face justice and that he is confident that he can fight his case at any forum. Though, he claimed that he has not received any such orders.