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Updated: February 2, 2010 17:40 IST

Benazir murder: UN probe team in Pakistan

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A girl stands in front of the portrait of Pakistan's slain leader Benazir Bhutto during a prayer ceremony to mark the second anniversary of her death. File photo: AP.
A girl stands in front of the portrait of Pakistan's slain leader Benazir Bhutto during a prayer ceremony to mark the second anniversary of her death. File photo: AP.

A four-member UN team arrived here on Tuesday on its fourth visit to Pakistan to probe the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The team, during its stay in Pakistan, would record the statements of several important personalities here as well as in Sindh, Online news agency reported, quoting a private TV channel.

Strict security measures were in place at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport as the team arrived.

Pakistan had sought a UN probe a year ago after its own investigations and those by Scotland Yard failed to make headway into Bhutto’s killing December 27, 2007 in a gun and bomb attack as she left a political rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.

This was because the area where the incident occurred was washed clean soon after the killing, destroying whatever evidence that might have been gathered.

In July last year, it was announced that the UN team would have a limited mandate.

Its mandate does not include undertaking criminal investigations or prosecuting the perpetrators, which are the sole responsibility of the Pakistani government, a spokesperson for the office of the UN secretary general told reporters in New York.

In December 2009, the Pakistani government barred the UN team from meeting the country’s top military leadership as part of its investigations.

In a letter to the Pakistani government, the team’s head, Chilean Ambassador to the UN Heraldo Munoz, had sought access to top military and intelligence officials for interrogation.

Among those the commission specifically wanted to meet were Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, as also former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj and former Director General Military Intelligence Maj Gen Nadeem Ijaz, both of whom were in office when Bhutto was assassinated.

The government, however, denied the commission permission to do so.

The government initially remained silent on the letter for some time, but after repeated requests from the UN commission, forwarded to General Headquarters (GHQ).

The GHQ, in return, turned down the request, saying it was against the prestige of the army chief and other top military officials to stand before a UN team for questioning.

The GHQ also contended that the request was against the terms and conditions and agreement made with the UN Commission.

The UN Commission countered that under its terms and conditions, Islamabad was to provide access to any official or individual that the commission thought could throw light on Bhutto’s assassination.

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