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Bhutto murder: Musharraf denies involvement
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad | January 04, 2008 00:53 IST
Ruling out the involvement of military and intelligence agencies in the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] on Thursday said that he had warned her about threats to her life but she had ignored them.
He also dismissed suggestions that he was involved in her death. Saying it was below his dignity to answer a question about whether he had 'blood on his hands', Musharraf said he was brought up in a very educated and civilised family with beliefs and values.
"I am not a feudal and I am not a tribal. I have been brought up in a very educated and civilised family with beliefs and values," he said during an interaction with the foreign media for state-run PTV's Aiwan-e-Sadr Say (From The Presidency) programme.
Musharraf said that the government had in November stopped Bhutto from going to Liaquat Bagh ground in Rawalpindi - where she was assassinated on December 27 -- because of alerts from intelligence agencies about threats to her life.
Describing the ground ringed by numerous buildings as a vulnerable place, Musharraf said: "This time she went of her volition, ignoring the threat."
The President, who on Wednesday sought the help of Britain's Scotland Yard to probe Bhutto's death, ruled out the involvement of the country's military and intelligence agencies in the assassination.
"No intelligence agency of Pakistan is capable of motivating or indoctrinating a man to blow himself up," he said, adding one has to find out who gained the most from Bhutto's killing. "Would I and the government be the maximum gainer? Or is there someone else who could gain more?"
Asked if Bhutto had been alerted about the threats to her life, Musharraf replied: "Whether we knew of the threat perception to Benazir Bhutto [Images] and whether she was informed of the threat? Yes, indeed she was."
In addition to alerts from domestic intelligence agencies about threats to Bhutto, Pakistan had also been warned by the intelligence service of a friendly foreign country that sent a special envoy with a letter containing information about the threat. This information was conveyed to her, Musharraf said.
Musharraf said that he spoke to Bhutto after the suicide attack on her homecoming procession in Karachi on October 18 and asked her to take adequate measures for her security.
He said he had asked Bhutto to take steps for her safety but she ignored it.
The Pakistan President also admitted that he was not fully satisfied with the probe so far and acknowledged that the crime scene had been quickly hosed down, possibly destroying evidence, after the assassination.
"I'm not fully satisfied. I am sure that they did not do it (clean the area) with an intention of hiding some secrets or that the intelligence agencies instructed them to hide secrets," he said.
Musharraf also said that Bhutto had exposed herself to risk by emerging from the sun-roof of her armoured vehicle, while leaving Liaquat Bagh, after addressing an election rally.
"Her vehicle was bulletproof. (Pakistan People's Party leader Makhdoom) Amin Fahim was on her left and Nahid Khan was on her right. Nobody got hurt, only her (Bhutto) when she rose through the sun-roof," Musharraf said.
Asked if there had been any shortcomings in the security provided to Bhutto, Musharraf said, "The lapse was not on the government's side." Bhutto had been given four mobile police squads comprising 30 personnel, led by an officer she had hand-picked, he said.
Over 1,000 policemen had been deployed at Liaquat Bagh, there were about five walk-through gates and a bulletproof rostrum and policemen had been stationed on the roofs of nearby buildings. It was the responsibility of the PPP's leadership to have ensured that Bhutto did not expose herself to unnecessary risks, Musharraf said.
He pointed out that there had been 19 suicide bombings in the last quarter of 2007, in which 400 people were killed and 900 were wounded, and all of them had been traced back to Pakistani Taliban commanders Baitullah Mehsud from South Waziristan and Maulana Fazlullah from Swat valley in the North West Frontier Province.
Asked if the Scotland Yard team would be free to probe all leads, including Bhutto's allegations in a letter to the President about certain officials and provincial former chief
ministers who posed a threat to her, Musharraf said: "I call these accusations baseless because I know the realities. There are certain political implications of certain things."