POLITICS: U.N. Panel Rejects Request to Reopen Bhutto Probe

  • by Thalif Deen (united nations)
  • Inter Press Service

The rejection came less than 24 hours after a report on the killing was due to be released here.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters Wednesday the commission believes it has finished its work 'and that there is no need to include any further information'.

'On the basis of what the commissioners have informed us, so far, they believe their work is done,' he said.

The rejection was a virtual slap in the face to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Bhutto, who also made an 'urgent request' to delay the release of the commission's report.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, however, acceded to that request, and the report is now due to be released Apr. 15.

Hours before the postponement, the secretary-general, who met with the three commissioners, said that 'all relevant facts and circumstances have been explored, and the report is now complete and ready to be released.'

But at the eleventh hour, the United Nations held back the report following Zardari's request.

A press conference scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, where the report was to be released, was cancelled.

The appointment of the commission followed a request by the government of Pakistan for an investigation into the assassination of Bhutto, and the circumstances leading to her assassination, by a suicide bomber.

The commission, headed by Chilean Ambassador Heraldo Munoz, also included Marzuki Darusman, a former attorney-general of Indonesia, and Peter Fitzgerald of the Irish National Police.

The fact-finding report, which involved about nine months of legwork, apparently criticises the military and the security establishment in Pakistan for its failure to protect Bhutto.

It also virtually conforms some of the findings of a team from Britain's Scotland Yard which criticised the government for its failure to prevent a cleaning-up of the crime scene, thereby eliminating crucial evidence.

Bhutto was killed in December 2007 during a presidential election campaign. The assassination took place about 10 weeks after her return from political exile.

According to reports out of Islamabad, the Pakistani government wanted the commissioners to question two unidentified heads of state who reportedly warned Bhutto about the threats to her life, which were deemed relevant to the investigation.

Asked about these warnings, Nesirky said the commissioners have seen a considerable amount of relevant information, including what has been in the news media in recent days.

'After conferring, in light of the latest information, they continue to say that they have completed their work,' he said.

As to the possibility of an extension of the commission's mandate, he said the commissioners have said they have finished their work.

'Any extensions to take into account the delay in presenting the report will be purely technical,' Nesirky declared.

He also said the government of Pakistan, if it so decides, is free to provide any further information if it believes it is worthy of consideration.

The setback to the Zardari government comes at a time when the president is on the verge of losing his political authority with parliament threatening to strip some of his powers.

Meanwhile, Swiss legal authorities have been asked to reopen a longstanding corruption case against Zardari.

The request follows the Supreme Court's decision to invalidate an amnesty granted to the president under which he was protected from prosecution.

But in the light of the Court decision, he could be investigated on corruption charges while still in office.

But Zardari has vehemently denied the charges and insists he has immunity while he is still president.

© Inter Press Service (2010) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service