UN inquiry commission touches upon dubious role of Pakistani agencies in bhutto murder


LAHORE: The UN Inquiry Commission states that during the course of Bhutto murder investigations, it encountered abundant confirmation of the pervasive reach, control and clandestine role of intelligence agencies in the Pakistani society.

The UN Commission report states: “A number of knowledgeable and credible persons with whom the Commission spoke cited the pervasive reach, control and clandestine role of intelligence agencies in Pakistani society. In the course of this inquiry, the Commission encountered abundant confirmation of this not only in law enforcement matters, but also in various aspects of the country’s political life during 2007. 249. In the course of this inquiry, the UN Commission encountered abundant confirmation of this not only in law enforcement matters, but also in various aspects of the country’s political life during 2007. Particularly noteworthy was the intense involvement of intelligence agencies in criminal investigations. While it is often necessary, especially in terrorism cases, for intelligence agencies to provide significant assistance to police investigative authorities, in the investigation of Ms Bhutto’s assassination, the role of intelligence agencies far exceeded an assisting role, with the effect of subordinating law enforcement institutions”.

The UN inquiry report points out that the agencies, and in particular the ISI, carried out parallel investigations into both the Karachi suicide attack and the assassination in Rawalpindi. The report states: “A former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter told the Commission that the ISI had conducted its own investigation of the Karachi attack and had successfully detained four men who provided logistical support for the attack. None of the police or other civilian officials interviewed by the Commission regarding Karachi reported any knowledge of such detentions. The same source told the Commission that ISI agents covering Ms Bhutto’s meeting in Liaquat Bagh on 27 December were the first to secure her vehicle and take photos of it after the attack there, among other actions. One very prominent and directly knowledgeable former government official informed the Commission that the ISI was, in fact, responsible for the investigation of Ms Bhutto’s assassination. Others have asserted that the Intelligence Bureau had and still has a significant role in the investigation”.

According to the Commission’s report, members of the JIT that investigated Ms Bhutto’s assassination all but admitted that virtually all of their most important information, including that which led to the identification and arrest of those suspects now in prison, came from intelligence agencies. The report says that several high-ranking law enforcement officials expressed concerns to the UN Commission that resources to build investigative capacity, especially in terrorism cases, have gone to the intelligence agencies, while police resources and capacity lag. “Indeed, in the aftermath of the attempts on General Musharraf’s life, the capacity of the ISI was strengthened to allow it to engage more effectively in such investigations. This tendency has led to a distortion and imbalance in the functions of these institutions and presents a challenge for the future in ensuring the democratic rule of law. Given the historical and possibly continuing relationships between intelligence agencies and some radical Islamist groups that engage in extremist violence, the agencies could be compromised in their investigations of crimes possibly carried out by such groups”.

The UN Commission report adds: “Wiretapping can, of course, be a legitimate intelligence and law enforcement tool. Yet in its efforts to determine the provenance and authenticity of the phone intercept used to implicate Baitullah Mehsud in the assassination of Ms Bhutto, the Commission received credible information regarding the systematic wire- tapping by the ISI and the IB not only of suspected terrorists and other criminals, but also of politicians, government officials, journalists and social activists. These activities are not authorized or overseen by judicial authorities and are not in keeping with the operations of such agencies in a democratic society. Beyond their involvement in criminal investigations, the UN Commission encountered a far-reaching presence of intelligence agencies in several key aspects of the tumultuous events of 2007, which formed in important part in shaping the circumstances and context of Ms Bhutto’s return to Pakistan. This pervasive presence at times called into question the ability of other institutions to exercise their full, independent mandate and functions”.

About the involvement of the intelligence agencies in the general elections, the UN report states: “The involvement of intelligence agencies, and specifically the ISI, in influencing electoral outcomes in past elections is well-documented and was confirmed to the Commission by a former senior intelligence official. Ms Bhutto had her own concerns and reportedly asked General Musharraf that ISI interference in the elections be curbed as part of guaranteeing free and fair elections. The day after her July meeting in Abu Dhabi with General Musharraf, an aide to Ms Bhutto was sent secretly to Islamabad on her behalf to review the work of the firm hired to create the new electoral lists; his site visits for this purpose were facilitated directly by General Kayani and other ISI staff. The former senior intelligence official also explained that in 2007 the ISI had guaranteed that there would be no rigging. While by all accounts, the 2008 elections were “the most fair” in recent Pakistani history, constitutionally, the task of safeguarding the electoral process is the role of the Pakistan Electoral Commission.

About the role of the ISI in the Musharraf-Benazir negotiations, the UN report states: “The deep and direct involvement of the ISI, through its most senior leadership, in the political negotiations between General Musharraf and Ms Bhutto in all of its stages and the role of all of the intelligence agencies in efforts to sack the Chief Justice and influence the composition of the Courts are additional examples of their central function. This pervasive involvement of intelligence agencies in diverse spheres, which is an open secret, has undermined the rule of law, distorted civilian –military relations and weakened some political and law enforcement institutions. At the same time, it has contributed to wide-spread public distrust in those institutions and fed a generalized political culture that thrives on competing conspiracy theories”.


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