Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari asked the U.N. to delay a report on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto as he wanted investigators to quiz four personalities, including former U.S. top diplomat Condoleezza Rice, who had prior information on threats to her life.
Mr. Zardari is “said to have quietly given names of four international personalities — U.S. ex-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Saudi Arabian intelligence chief Prince Muqrin (bin Abdul Aziz) and the UAE intelligence chief — to the U.N. inquiry commission to ask them: How did they know the secret in advance that Benazir Bhutto would be killed?,” The News daily reported on Thursday.
The U.N. commission has been asked to meet these “four indirect witnesses” before submitting its report on Bhutto’s assassination in 2007, the paper said quoting its sources.
This new information had also resolved a two-and-half year old mystery about which two countries had warned Bhutto about a possible attack on her life when she returned to Pakistan from self-exile in October 2007, the report said.
It identified the two countries as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, “whose intelligence chiefs had warned the Pakistan People’s Party chairperson (about) threats to her life”.
It added that Prince Muqrin had warned Bhutto about threats to her life.
The report claimed that the U.N. commission was making contacts with the four personalities to “seek explanations from them as how did they already (know of) threats” to Bhutto’s life.
It quoted sources as saying that Mr. Zardari believed the “inside information” that could be shared by these four personalities “might greatly help the inquiry commission to identify the real killers whose secret plans somehow reached the intelligence agencies of Afghanistan, the U.S., UAE and Saudi Arabia, and which turned out to be prophetically correct”.
Pakistan’s permanent representative to the U.N. Hussain Haroon held talks with U.N. officials in New York to convince them that it was important to interview these four personalities, the report claimed.
Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar has said that Mr. Zardari wanted three friendly countries that had warned Bhutto before her return to Pakistan to share information with the U.N. commission.
Mr. Babar did not name these countries but media reports have said they are Afghanistan, UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Babar said one of these countries has shared its views with the U.N. commission and hoped the other two would also do so.
The News also quoted its sources as saying that Mr. Zardari was “not satisfied with the U.N. report” on the killing of Bhutto after he learnt that commission which was paid over half a billion rupees by the government of Pakistan to meet its expenses, did not contact the four international personalities.
The sources said Mr. Zardari knew the information given by these personalities to Bhutto as she kept him informed about these warnings.
Hours before her assassination, she had also told Mr. Zardari that Mr. Karzai had informed her that Afghan intelligence had information about a possible attack on her.
The sources said Ms. Rice was a “potential witness” because the U.S. provided a “steady stream of intelligence” to Bhutto about threats to her and advised her aides on improving her security.
The source said senior U.S. diplomats had multiple conversations, including at least two private face-to-face meetings, with top members of the Pakistan People’s Party to discuss threats to Bhutto’s life and review her security arrangements after a suicide attack on her motorcade the day she returned to Pakistan from exile in October 2007.
Keywords: Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir Bhutto assassination, U.N inquiry, Condoleezza Rice, Afghanistan President, Hamid Karzai, Saudi Arabian intelligence chief, Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, UAE intelligence chief