Musharraf denies his involvement in Bhutto's assassination

Musharraf denies his involvement in Bhutto's assassination

Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has denied allegations about his involvement in the assassination of ex-premier Benazir Bhutto, saying President Asif Ali Zardari knows who killed her.

Reacting to remarks made by Interior Minister Rehman Malik yesterday during a briefing on the assassination in the Sindh Assembly, Musharraf told TV news channels that the security of political leaders was the responsibility of provincial governments and not the federal government.

Matters related to Bhutto's security were handled by workers of her Pakistan People's Party, he said. He contended that Bhutto's widower, President Asif Ali Zardari, knew who had killed her.

He said he had informed Bhutto before her return to Pakistan from self-exile in 2007 about the threats she faced.

"Benazir did not consider me to be a threat," Musharraf said. During the briefing in the Sindh Assembly, Malik said the PPP-led government will bring Musharraf back to Pakistan through Interpol to face trial for his alleged role in failing to provide adequate security to Bhutto at the time of her assassination.

Khalid Qureshi, the officer heading the investigation into Bhutto's assassination by a suicide bomber in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007, said Musharraf was named in the chargesheet he had failed to provide the "VVIP security" that Bhutto was entitled to as a two-time former premier.

However, Musharraf claimed that Interpol will not get involved in the matter. He criticised the government's report on the assassination, saying it was unfounded. Musharraf said he had met Bhutto twice in Dubai but had not spoken to her after her arrival in Pakistan on October 18, 2007.

"I was not in contact with the slain PPP chairperson after October 18," he said.

Musharraf contended that it was by no means the duty of the President to provide security to the former premier, who had returned to Pakistan voluntarily. He said he had alerted Bhutto about threats to her life before the first attack on her hours after she flew into Karachi on October 18, 2007.

He further said it was yet to be ascertained who had asked Bhutto to emerge from the sunroof of bulletproof SUV just before the attack that killed her. Talking about his plans to return to Pakistan, Musharraf said he was willing to face the courts in which cases had been filed against him.

An anti-terrorism court conducting the trial of seven men accused of involvement in Bhutto's assassination declared Musharraf a "proclaimed offender" or fugitive after he failed to cooperate with investigators.

Cases have also been filed against him in connection with the killing of Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti in a military operation in 2006.