Rogue elements in establishment could be behind Bhutto’s murder: Musharraf

Islamabad, Dec 27- Pakistan’s former military dictator Pervez Musharraf for the first time has acknowledged that some rogue elements in the establishment could have been involved in the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto, a media report said on Wednesday.

Musharraf’s comments came as Pakistan observed Bhutto’s 10th death anniversary yesterday.

involved in the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto,

Asked whether rogue elements within the establishment could have been in touch with the Taliban about  the killing, Musharraf, 74, replied, “Possibility. Yes indeed. Because the society is polarised on religious lines.”

Bhutto, who served twice as the prime minister of Pakistan was killed on December 27, 2007 in a suicide attack in Rawalpindi as she was coming out of a park after addressing an election rally.

Musharraf, who was president at that time, had accused former Taliban leader Baituallah Mehsud for orchestrating the murder.

In an interview to BBC, Musharraf said his assessment about Bhutto’s murder was a hunch rather than solid proof.

Bhutto’s murder was a hunch

“I don’t have any facts available. But my assessment is very accurate I think…A lady who is known to be inclined towards the West is seen suspiciously by those elements.”

Bhutto was the first woman Prime Minister of the conservative Muslim majority nation

Musharraf has been charged with murder, criminal conspiracy and facilitation for murder in relation to the Bhutto case.

In the interview, Musharraf denied any role in the killing.

“Honestly I laugh at it. Why would I kill her?”

Musharraf’s denials came as Bhutto’s son and her political heir Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in a separate interview with BBC accused the former president of killing his mother.

“The fact is that Musharraf  is the killer of my mother,” Bilawal said and accused Musharraf of taking advantage of the turbulent political situation in the country to eliminate her.

Bilawal’s accusation resonated with an article by renowned journalists Hamid Mir who in a write-up published by Geo News listed details of a meeting with Bhutto a couple of days before her murder.

“Let me tell you today, very clearly, that they have already decided to kill me and they will kill me soon. After they do, they will blame the Taliban or the al Qaeda. But you must name Musharraf as my assassin,” Mir quoted Bhutto as telling him.

Mir further wrote that he was “stunned” and asked why would ‘they’ want to kill her.

She said Musharraf did not want her to return before the elections.

“I did not listen to him. So he threatened me on the phone and said your security is based on the state of our relationship with me. Two foreign governments have advised me not to return to Pakistan as I could be killed,” Mir quoted Bhutto as saying.

Journalists Mark Seigel and Ron Suskind had claimed that months before her assassination, Bhutto received a phone call from Musharraf who told her not to return to Pakistan.

Siegel later through a video link also testified before a court in Bhutto murder case that Musharraf made the threatening call to her.

A UN Commission also probed the murder on request of the Pakistan government and concluded that the murder could be avoided if proper security measures had been taken.

An anti-terrorism court in August issued verdict in the Bhutto murder case and set free five accused militants who had been in custody since she was killed.

However, the court awarded long term jail sentences to senior police officers for showing negligence.

The high court later suspended the sentence of the two and set them free on bail.

The court in its verdict also declared Musharraf an absconder.

Musharraf is facing treason charges in Pakistan for imposing emergency rule in November 2007, arresting judges and limiting their powers.

He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Musharraf, who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1999, has been living in Dubai since last year when he was allowed to leave Pakistan on the pretext of medical treatment. PTI