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‘Those Named by Benazir Before Assassination were Never Probed’

Alex Constantine - May 12, 2016

May 12, 2016

The head of the Pakistani Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the Benazir Bhutto assassination, has said it had not probed three men named by her in a letter months before her killing, saying they might try to harm her.

During cross-examination on Wednesday, former Federal Investigation Agency additional director general Khalid Qureshi said the JIT had not investigated the former director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt. General Hamid Gul (retd); former director general Intelligence Bureau (IB), Brig Ejaz Shah (retd) and former Punjab chief minister Pervaiz Elahi.

All these people were mentioned by former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in a letter she wrote to US lobbyist Mark Siegel in 2007 months before her assassination, Dawn online reported.

Bhutto, who was in office from 1988-90 and 1993-96, was killed in 2007 after leaning out of the sunroof of her bulletproof vehicle as she left a campaign rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.

When asked by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi, whether Qureshi had examined those named by Bhutto, the JIT chief replied in the negative.

It was also disclosed before the court that Qureshi was a member of the Punjab Police JIT which had conducted the initial probe.

The investigation into the murder was divided into two phases. Soon after Bhutto's assassination, the then Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid) government formed a probe team of which Qureshi was a member.

The team arrested five suspects who belonged to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Al-Qaeda militant group took responsibility for the attack, but then president Pervez Musharraf was later indicted for not providing Bhutto enough protection.

In 2008, the investigation was assigned to the FIA and Qureshi was appointed the JIT head.

The JIT conducted another inquiry and implicated Musharraf, Deputy Inspector General Saud Aziz and Senior Superintendent of Police Shahzad in the case on account of the crime scene being washed to destroy evidence and for not providing Bhutto adequate security.

The JIT report also held Aziz responsible for not conducting Bhutto's autopsy.

However, when asked whether Qureshi watched the press conference held by former president Asif Ali Zardari after Bhutto's assassination, in which Zardari said he had not given permission for the postmortem because he did not want his wife's body to be "desecrated", Qureshi said he had not done so.

Qureshi also said he had never approached Zardari in this regard.

The court was adjourned till May 16 and the prosecution was directed to submit a report on the closing of evidence.

Musharraf has also been accused of treason and changing Pakistan's constitution as well as murder of Muslim leader Abdul Rashid Ghazi and Balochistan Governor Nawab Akbar Bugti.

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