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UN probe into Bhutto assassination begins

Article published on the 2009-07-01 Latest update 2009-07-01 14:04 TU

Benazir Bhutto near Lahore in 2007(Photo: Reuters)

Benazir Bhutto near Lahore in 2007
(Photo: Reuters)

The UN's probe into the assassination of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has started work, a UN official announced in Islamabad on Wednesday. The commission, headed by Chilean UN Ambassador Heraldo Munoz, has a mandate to work for six months before reporting back to Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

The commission's work will be limited to fact-finding despite calls by Bhutto's supporters for a full-scale investigation such as that into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

It will share its findings with the UN Security Council and the Pakistani government. The government will be responsible for determining "the criminal responsibility of the perpetrators", according to UN spokesperson Hiro Ueki.

The other members of the commission are former Indonesian Attorney-General and politician, Marzuki Darusman, and former Irish Deputy Police Commissioner, Peter Fitzgerald.

The commission is expected to visit Pakistan but no dates have been set yet.

Bhutto headed the Pakistan People's Party and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, is currently President of Pakistan.

Few Pakistanis are taking the UN enquiry very seriously, says correspondent Omar Waraich.

Q+A: Correspondent Omar Waraich

01/07/2009 by Rosslyn Hyams

He adds that five people already face trial in connection with the killing but that there is scepticism about that process, too.

"There's a sense that the Pakistani investigation agencies will always round up people in the initial sweep but those may be people who are very tenuously linked to the events," Waraich told RFI." So those five people are not being treated [...] - not by the Pakistani people, not by the political class, not by the media - as the people who may have killed Ms Bhutto."

The government has accused Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud of being behind the killing and is offering a four-billion-euro reward for help in capturing him.

The military is preparing an assault on Mehsud's mountain hideout. Last week one of his opponents, Qari Zainuddin, was found shot dead in his office, while the army accused his supporters of kidnapping boys for training to become suicide bombers.