Officials named in UN report suspended
By Syed Irfan Raza
ISLAMABAD: Four days after the release of the UN Commission’s report on Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, the federal government went into action and suspended eight officials, including former City Police Officer (CPO) Saud Aziz, who were responsible for former prime minister’s security at the venue of her last public meeting. Their names were also included on the Exit Control List (ECL).
These officials have been suspended and the contract of Director-General of Civil Defence Brig (retd) Javed Iqbal Cheema has been cancelled. Brig Cheema, as the spokesman for the interior ministry, was the first government official to state that Ms Bhutto had died because of injuries she sustained when she hit the lever of the escape hatch of the vehicle she was travelling in. He was serving as DG National Crisis Management Cell (MCMC), a department of the interior ministry, at that time.
However, on Sunday there was no official word about the fate of the PPP leaders identified by the UN report for having provided ‘insufficient’ security cover to Ms Bhutto. These PPP leaders include high-profile government functionaries such as Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza.
Aware perhaps of the fingers being pointed at him, Mr Mirza claimed on Sunday that he and Rehman Malik were under investigation and that he had volunteered himself for it. However, there has been no confirmation of this from the interior minister.
Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar confirmed the suspension of the eight officials and said the orders had come from the prime minister. “The action on the UN report has been started on the directives of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.”
He added that the officials’ names had been placed on the ECL.
Those who have been suspended include former Rawalpindi CPO Saud Aziz; former District Coordination Officer (DCO) Rawalpindi Irfan Elahi; Former Inspector General Police, Rawalpindi, Chaudhry Abdul Majeed; Superintendent Police Ashfaq Anwar; SP Operations Yaseen Farooq and Khurram Shahzad. The suspended officers are expected to be presented before the second Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which is investigating the murder of Ms Bhutto, in a couple of days. They are expected to testify before the JIT.
Sources within the PPP say an FIR would also be registered against former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, the suspended officials and some PPP leaders who had been made responsible for her security by the party. The decision to take action in the light of the UN report was taken by the PPP Core Committee meeting held on Saturday. The meeting was chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari.
Some PPP leaders are willing to confirm this. For instance, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has promised action against all those responsible for Ms Bhutto’s death. “Action will be taken against all those who have been identified in the UN report including those who were in the black Mercedes,” he told a private television channel.
The UN Commission’s report says that the black Mercedes was part of the security detail as the back-up vehicle. This Mercedes was supposed to follow the vehicle of Ms Bhutto as she left Liaquat Bagh. However, the report concludes that the Mercedes left ahead of Ms Bhutto and it exited the venue a few minutes before the shooting and the blast took place, which claimed the lives of the PPP chairperson and some party workers.
According to dissident PPP leader Senator Safdar Abbasi, who was in Ms Bhutto’s vehicle, Mr Rehman Malik, Law Minister Babar Awan and Presidential Spokesman Farhatullah Babar were in the black Mercedes.
However, these are not the only PPP leaders who have been thrust into the limelight by the UN report. The commission’s findings also mention that Ms Bhutto’s then security advisor Zulfiqar Mirza and others had formed a security force —Janisaraan-i-Benazir Bhutto — comprising 5,000 volunteers who were supposed to form a human shield around her at public meetings. But, it appears, that this force was missing from Liaquat Bagh at the time of her killing.
Some security analysts believe that the UN Commission’ report has provided enough lead to initiate criminal investigations to catch the planners, abettors, financiers and killers.
Sources close to Saud Aziz say that he is ready to face justice and that he is confident that he can fight his case at any forum. According to the sources, he is claiming that he has not received any such orders.
Mr Aziz is also reported to have questioned why no action had been taken against Musharraf, who had been directly held responsible by the UN commission for the then government’s neglect of Ms Bhutto’s security.
Source: Dawn, 19 Apr, 2010