A UN-appointed commission will on Wednesday begin a fresh investigation in to the 2007 assassination of Pakistan’s former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, whose death continues to be the focus of conspiracy theories across the south Asian country.
The commission is led by Heraldo Munoz, Chile’s ambassador to the UN. The members are Marzuki Darusman, the former Indonesian attorney-general, and Peter Fitzgerald, who has served the UN previously as head of the initial mission of inquiry into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
Speculation over suspects tied to Bhutto’s killing has ranged from Pakistan’s Taliban militant commander Baitullah Mehsud to conservative political groups in the country.
The ruling Pakistan People’s party (PPP), led by Bhutto for almost 30 years, has promised a comprehensive inquiry similar to that of the UN’s inquiry into the killing of Hariri.
“We look upon the Hariri case as the type of an example that we could usefully follow,” a senior Pakistan foreign ministry official said on Tuesday. “It is an opportunity for us to remind the world that we have suffered very badly. Pakistan is in the front line of the fight against militancy and even our top leaders like Benazir Bhutto paid the price”.
Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president and widower of the late prime minister, hopes the UN investigation will reveal not only those directly responsible for the fatal attack on Bhutto but will also extend to those involved in a supportive role.
“We believe the (UN) commission’s findings will eventually expose the financiers, the organizers, the sponsors and the conspirators of this terrorist act and bring them to justice,” Mr Zardari had said earlier this year after UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon visited Pakistan.
The UN and the Pakistani government had agreed that the commission’s mandate is mainly to inquire into the circumstances surrounding Ms Bhutto’s killing, leaving the matter of criminal responsibility of those involved to the Pakistan government.
Shortly after Bhutto’s assassination, local municipal officials ordered their staff to use water hoses to clean the site of the attack. PPP leaders said it was an attempt “to wash away critical bits of evidence”.
Near the historic Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi where Bhutto was killed, there was widespread scepticism on Tuesday over the extent to which her killers will be found. “It has been almost 19 months since she was killed. What can the UN do now which is different from what has been done before to find the killers?” asked Saeed Awan, a fruit seller.
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