Benazir assassination probe report: ‘Strongly worded’ UN letter being kept under wraps

ISLAMABAD: The government has kept secret a ‘strongly worded’ letter of the United Nations written in reaction to Pakistan’s response to the UN inquiry report on Benazir Bhutto assassination, according to informed sources.

The letter was written by Ambassador Heraldo Munoz, the head of a three-member inquiry commission on Benazir assassination, after then foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi sent a reply to the UN in July 2010 raising serious objections to the 60-page report released on April 15, 2010.

The UN letter is reported to have exposed the Pakistan Peoples Party’s intention of not revealing the names of perpetrators, planners, financiers and abettors of the fatal gun-and-bomb attack on the former prime minister after a public meeting outside Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi on Dec 27, 2007.

When contacted, Mr Qureshi confirmed that the UN letter was lying with the Foreign Office, but he declined to comment on it. “I think you should better ask the Foreign Office why the letter has so far not been made public,” said Mr Qureshi who had not shared the letter with the nation during his tenure as foreign minister.

But he regretted that even after a lapse of five years the PPP government had failed to expose the faces behind the assassination.

“PPP leaders have been saying that they know her killers, but I don’t know why they are not making their names public,” he said.
Asked if any other person knew about the UN letter, Mr Qureshi said former ambassador to the UN Abdullah Hussain Haroon was in the country now and he was the most suitable person to comment on the issue.

Dawn has learnt that Mr Haroon met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and requested him not to release the substantive part of the letter. The request was accepted.

Several attempts were made to contact Mr Haroon, who lives in Karachi, but he was not available.

Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan expressed ignorance about the letter and said he would have to get information from relevant officers. He later told Dawn: “I tried my best to contact the relevant official, but he was not available.”

The UN decided not to reopen the inquiry following Islamabad’s objection to its report.

Talking to journalists in Islamabad on Dec 24, 2010, Farhan Haq, associate spokesman for the UN secretary general, had said the world body would soon respond to Pakistan’s objections to the inquiry commission’s report. “Mr Ban Ki-moon had full confidence in the commission, and that he would soon respond to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s letter in which he had raised objections over the probe concerning Ms Bhutto’s murder,” the spokesman said.

Mr Qureshi’s letter stated that the UN commission’s observations about the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were not based on evidence. “Comments and observations about the army, ISI or the so-called establishment are only the opinions of the members of the commission. They do not represent authenticated determinations based on any fact or evidence,” Mr Qureshi wrote in the letter which was made public by the UN.

He was of the opinion that the report had a serious flaw because the commission had failed to approach third party states or provide some reliable information to unearth, if any, international linkages perpetrating, planning, financing or abetting Ms Bhutto’s assassination.

According to the terms of reference agreed with the government of Pakistan, the commission was to inquire into facts and circumstances of the assassination and to submit a report to the UN secretary general within six months. The duty of determining criminal responsibility for the assassination remains with the Pakistani authorities. After the initial six months, and at the request of the commission, the secretary general extended the commission’s term to March 31, 2010. Sources in the UN close to the author of the inquiry report, Heraldo Munoz, Chile’s former UN ambassador, told Dawn that he was not happy over Pakistan’s reaction to the report. He pointed out that it was for the first time in UN history that a government had requested an inquiry and even paid for it, but then rejected the findings.

“We were reluctant to conduct this inquiry. We undertook the job at the repeated requests of the Pakistan government which had expressed full confidence in the inquiry commission and even paid for it. Initially, everyone welcomed the report, including President Zardari’s office. And now this,” Mr Munzo was quoted as saying.

The report was not only opposed by the military establishment but also by sections in the civil side of the government.

Former ISPR director general Maj-Gen Athar Abbas had agreed that the military had some reservations over the report because it went beyond the mandate of the commission. “We have conveyed our reservations with special reference to security-related issues to the government and asked it to record protest with the UN,” he had said.

Leave a Reply