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Bhutto assassination: US not to support UN probe
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | January 30, 2008 12:36 IST
The Bush administration on Tuesday made it clear to the United States Congress that it has no intention of supporting the call for a United Nations investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister and leader of Pakistan People's Party Benazir Bhutto.
A senior state department official also said calling for the restoration of the judiciary and the reinstatement of the Chief Justice and other Supreme Court justices sacked by President Pervez Musharraf [Images] was an exercise in futility and unlikely to happen before the February 18 elections.
Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asian Affairs Richard Boucher, appearing before the National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said, "We have been very aggressive in supporting the idea that there needs to be a thorough investigation and a good investigation of the killing of Benazir Bhutto [Images]".
"The Pakistanis have pledged to do that," he said, and added, "They have brought in expertise from Scotland Yard, and our understanding is there's good cooperation there between the Scotland Yard and the Pakistani investigators. But we have not gone further than that".
When Committee chairman John Tierney wanted to know why the Administration has not asked for a UN investigation, particularly since "there's great concern that the directive to Scotland Yard is not as broad as someone might like it in terms of finding out who's responsible other than to find out how it might have happened," Boucher was adamant.
"We have not taken that position," he said. "There are differences between the other cases where UN investigations have been done. It's not a cure-all for any situation. I think we look to, first and foremost, local authorities to conduct any investigation. The addition of Scotland Yard, we think, provides an added measure of confidence".
Boucher said, however, "The US would be watching that very, very closely, and see how it turns out. If there are problems, I suppose we'll deal with them at that point".
With regard to the restoration of the judiciary, the US officials said, while the Administration has urged 'the political leaders and other leaders in Pakistan to focus on the need for an independent judiciary', it was unlikely anything in this regard would take place till after the election.
"Frankly, it had become a very political issue in Pakistan, and I think it's fair to assume that they won't really address it seriously until after the election and that the new leaders, as well as the other people in the government, are going to have to address this".
When Congressman Peter Welch asked if the state department position is that the judges who have been fired should be restored, Boucher said, "Our view is that the issue of an independent judiciary in Pakistan can't be solved that simply".
While acknowledging that the US did not believe that the firing of the judges of the Supreme Court by President Pervez Musharraf was a 'good move', Boucher argued, "To fix it, it needs to be done with the full political process, with the newly elected prime minister and other leaders, and they have to try to get together and figure out how to have a good and independent judiciary in Pakistan".
He reiterated, "The fact is, it's a very political environment in Pakistan. The judiciary has been a matter of political controversy. They need to deal with it. They need to have an independent judiciary, but I can't see them doing it till after the election, with all the players, including the new players".
"If there's a good election, the new players will be credibly elected and have a lot to say in the matter," Boucher predicted.