ISLAMABAD: President Pervez Musharraf Thursday ruled out the involvement of security forces or intelligence agencies in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, however, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the investigation conducted so far.Talking to foreign media here at a programme “Aiwan-e-Sadr Se”, the President insisted there had been no security lapse when Ms Bhutto was killed at the campaign rally on last Thursday. Musharraf said Bhutto had gone ahead with the rally while ignoring the threats. He said she was provided with adequate security, including a bulletproof rostrum and a police chief of her choice. He said that two aides next to Ms Bhutto in the car survived. She died only when she came out above the sunroof of her vehicle, he added.
About the recent crisis in the country the President said it is because of outpouring of sentiments in the aftermath of the assassination of the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. President however regretted that some elements started arson and looting mainly in Sindh in the wake her tragic death. He said there was undermining of the government in Punjab and also the destruction of public and private property. He said the Scotland Yard investigators would assist the Pakistani investigators to probe the causes and to unearth those behind the assassination of late Benazir Bhutto.
Replying to a question about the security provided to the late Benazir Bhutto, President Musharraf said she was given maximum permanent security. Four mobile squads of about 30 policemen were deployed with her and she herself picked the Chief of Security. He said at the venue of the public address on December 27 there were over 1000 policemen deployed. He said the rostrum was bullet-proof and all the roofs of the buildings in the area were occupied by policemen.
About the motives of assassinating the former Prime Minister, the President said any one who wanted to assassinate her is to be seen what gains were there for him. He posed the question as to who is the maximum beneficiary of her elimination. He said a Scotland Yard team has been invited to probe the incident and look into the pieces of evidence gathered.
To a question the President said he was not fully satisfied with the investigations into the tragedy. He said cleaning of the road could be inefficiency and not by design to hide any thing. To another question he said Benazir Bhutto was informed about threats to her life before and after her arrival in Pakistan on October 18 last year. “Even a foreign country sent its envoy to me who conveyed the security concerns about her safety,” he mentioned. Responding to yet another question regarding the security arrangements at Liaquat Bagh, Musharraf said there was foolproof security inside the venue but she faced real threat while coming out where thousands of people swarmed her and no police force can perform its duties perfectly in such a situation.
President Pervez Musharraf replied in affirmative when asked if there were threats to his life as well. He said there is also threat to some other people and they have told about it. He said there are some elements who want to disrupt the democratic process and destabilize the country. He said the intelligence agencies are hunting them down and some of them were nabbed from Mianwali and Sargodha with explosives and suicide belts. He said there was need for political reconciliation and election was the answer to the problem of extremism and terrorism. The President said there is a crisis in the country and the terrorists might take the advantage of the situation but expressed the confidence that the government would be able to hold elections in a peaceful manner.He said 400 people were killed and 900 others injured during the last three months in terrorist acts and 90 percent of the suicide bombings were traced to either Baitullah Mehsud or Maulana Fazlullah.
He said Al-Qaeda is not getting stronger and it is on the run. Al-Qaeda has three categories including the masterminds, the facilitators and the perpetrators. He, however, said he was concerned about Taliban that are providing support to Al-Qaeda.He told a questioner that Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan was living in his house and the government would not mind if he comes out. He, however, said the government will not allow any one to indulge in agitation and vitiate the already tense atmosphere. President Pervez Musharraf reiterated that the February 18 elections would be held in free, fair and transparent manner and they will have to be peaceful. He rejected allegations about rigging and said there is no such possibility in the presence of a foolproof and transparent mechanism devised for holding of the elections. Previously there were some loopholes in the system which have been removed during his tenure, he added.
The President said for the first time the concept of caretaker government before the elections has been introduced to give comfort to the opposition. He said the Elections are conducted by an autonomous constitutional institutions the Election Commission and its chief is a retired judge of the Supreme Court. He said before nomination of the Chief Election Commissioner, government invited opposition parties to suggest names for the purpose but none of them gave perhaps this would have deprived them of the opportunity to level allegations of rigging later on.
He said the Chief Election Commissioner is an honourable, fair, just and capable person to do the job entrusted to him. He also explained the electoral process to say that it was transparent in nature. The village and building of each and every polling station is identified, polling agents of the contestants remain at the station throughout the voting. He said previously there was criticism that the rigging takes place while transporting results from the Returning Officer to the Election Commission. To ward off such criticism, it has been decided that the Returning Officer would announce the result there and then.
Musharraf said any number of foreign observers and media persons are welcome to visit polling stations and watch the voting process. He said the credit goes to the present government for consolidation of the election process. Never in the history of the country, any government completed its tenure and it was for the first time during his tenure that the government completed its mandated five years and now elections are going to be held. Musharraf said he is a firm believer of democracy and empowered the people at the gross root level by introducing real essence of it.-SANA