5 Dec 2010

Pakistan orders arrest of police officers in Bhutto case

9:03 pm on 5 December 2010

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has ordered the arrest of two senior police officers on allegations they failed to provide adequate security for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto before her 2007 assassination.

A prosecutor argued that they failed to make foolproof security arrangements and also ordered the crime scene to be hosed down despite resistance from other officials.

The two police officials were named as Saud Aziz, former police chief of the city of Rawalpindi, where the attack took place, and one of his deputies, Khurram Shahzad.

Ms Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack after an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi on 27 December 2007, weeks after she returned to Pakistan after years in self-imposed exile.

A report by a United Nations commission of inquiry released in New York in April said any credible investigation should not rule out the possibility that members of Pakistan's military and security establishment were involved.

It heavily criticised Pakistani authorities, saying they had "severely hampered" the investigation.

The Pakistani government may be reluctant to act on a call by a UN commission to investigate thoroughly the assassination because of fear of its own powerful security forces, analysts say.

The initial investigation blamed a Pakistani Taliban leader and al Qaeda ally, Baitullah Mehsud, for Ms Bhutto's murder.

Mehsud was killed last year in a missile attack launched by a US drone aircraft.

The UN report said no-one believed the 15-year-old suicide bomber who killed Ms Bhutto acted alone, and the failure to examine her death effectively appeared to be deliberate, but the commission did not say who it believed was guilty.