Nearly three years after she was assassinated, investigators have concluded that former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was killed by the Pakistani Taliban in a gun-and-bomb attack in Rawalpindi, according to a media report on Tuesday.
The Federal Investigation Agency came to this conclusion following a probe into the assassination, the Dawn newspaper quoted its sources in the organisation as saying. The FIA is expected to submit its report on the investigation to an anti-terrorism court on October 30.
The FIA's investigation team was initially reluctant to submit the chargesheet to the court because it could not complete its probe regarding the three accused who are absconding -- Abdur Rehman, Saddam and Faiz Mohammad.
The report prepared by the FIA states that the three men were killed in a military operation in the tribal areas. Five of the accused, all members of the Taliban, have been arrested. They are Muhammad Rafaqat, Hussain, Sher Zaman, Aitzaz Shah and Abdul Rashid. The head of the FIA's probe team, Khalid Mehmood, told Dawn that the investigation had not been completed but did not deny that a report would be presented to the court on October 30.
The report has accused slain Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a United States drone attack last year, of masterminding the murder of Bhutto. A United Nations commission that probed the assassination had, in its report, said that blaming the Taliban leader for the assassination before completion of investigations was tantamount to throwing the probe off track.
The UN commission's report had indicted the previous regime led by General Pervez Musharraf for failing to provide effective security to Bhutto despite numerous threats to her life. It also called on Pakistani authorities to make a determination of the criminal responsibility for planning and carrying out the assassination.
Sources said the FIA investigation team had not recorded the statement of any public office holder who had been accused in the case. Earlier, the FIA team had decided to send a questionnaire to Interior Minister Rehman Malik because, being a minister, he could not be summoned or interrogated. However, no questionnaire was sent to Malik.
A key accused in the case, Ashfaq Anwar, who was head of the Rawalpindi police's elite force at the time of the murder and responsible for Bhutto's security, has gone to Britain on a scholarship. Major (retired) Imtiaz Hussain, the personal security officer of Bhutto, is now serving as a deputy inspector general in Quetta.
He held a meeting with Bhutto's widower President Asif Ali Zardari on October 18. Bhutto, 55, was killed in a gun-and-bomb attack in Rawalpindi minutes after she addressed an election rally on December 27, 2007.