The plot behind the 2007 assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto was hatched at the home of a Pakistani army brigadier, claimed a media report, which was dismissed as "totally concocted" by Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
A fresh probe had uncovered the role of nine men, including the brigadier in whose residence the plot was hatched, The Express Tribune newspaper reported, quoting unnamed sources. The findings of the investigation, conducted under the Interior Ministry's supervision, were deliberately kept under wraps, even from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party's top leaders, it claimed.
The probe's findings are in the possession of Interior Minister Malik and had been seen only by President Asif Ali Zardari in its entirety, the report said. It did not say whether the brigadier purportedly identified by the probe was a serving or a former army officer. However, the Malik dismissed the report. "It is a totally concocted story, a false story. No conspiracy was hatched in any brigadier's home," Malik told reporters in Karachi. He said all the reports he had received so far on the assassination did not show the involvement of a brigadier. The conspiracy to assassinate Bhutto was hatched in militant hideouts and not in the home of any brigadier, Malik said.
The Express Tribune reported that Zardari had "temporarily shelved plans" to share the contents of the inquiry report earlier this week. Zardari was keen to "first take the army leadership into confidence before ordering the arrest of certain uniformed personnel over their alleged involvement" in the assassination, the report said. Five of the nine conspirators are alive while the other four, including those sent to kill Bhutto, are dead, according to the inquiry report.
The five surviving men "were the ones who hired the killers and gave them shelter and logistical support." They will "now be formally charge-sheeted and put on trial," the daily reported.
"Both logistical support and rehearsals for the murder were arranged by uniformed persons, who were part of the plot. Militant groups, which were working closely with the nine plotters, provided the manpower," the report further said.
The joint investigation team had traced two new mobile phone SIMs used to communicate on the day Bhutto was
assassinated and the the Federal Investigation Agency had drawn up a tough questionnaire for former President Pervez
Musharraf on the basis of investigations conducted by the team, the report said.
The questions for Musharraf were "framed once the role of the nine plotters became clear and the inquiry team managed to
lay its hands on the main accused who was part of the plot to eliminate" Bhutto, it added.
The daily claimed that Zardari was "undecided on how to handle the more explosive contents of the inquiry report." It quoted sources as saying that Zardari had "deliberately withheld presentation of the inquiry report before the PPP central executive committee" during a recent meeting at Naudero in Sindh province.
Though "Zardari had agreed in principle to make the report public, he wanted to give it some more thought," the report said.
Zardari and PPP leaders are "keen to fight off the somewhat popular impression that they are disinterested in tracking down" Bhutto's killers, it added.
The daily further reported that the military leadership had "signalled their willingness to cooperate with the civilian government and put any accused military officer on trial."