Pakistan To Ask Interpol To Arrest Ex-president

Published February 21, 2012 3:00PM (EST)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan will ask Interpol to arrest ex-President Pervez Musharraf for his failure to prevent the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the interior minister said Tuesday.

Rehman Malik said the government was seeking Musharraf's arrest because he allegedly failed to provide adequate security for Bhutto, who was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack in 2007.

He made the comments in a televised address to lawmakers in Sindh province, Bhutto's political stronghold.

Musharraf, a one-time U.S. ally, went into self-exile in Britain in 2008 after being forced out of the presidency he secured in a 1999 military coup. The current government is being run by Musharraf's political rivals, and the president is Bhutto's widower and political heir.

A Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant for Musharraf last year over the allegations.

Musharraf, an ex-army general who wants to return to Pakistan to contest what will be bitterly contested elections likely this year, said the government was playing politics over the case. Musharraf has repeatedly denied any legal responsibility for the killing.

"This is all politics," he told ARY television station on Tuesday. "It's just point scoring and nothing else."

Legal expert Hashmat Habib said Interpol has the right to detain Musharraf and hand him over to Pakistan if it chooses to issue a warrant. But it is unclear how the international police organization will respond, or indeed whether Malik will go ahead with his threat.

The former prime minister was killed on Dec. 27, 2007, shortly after returning to Pakistan to campaign in elections Musharraf agreed to allow after months of domestic and international pressure.

Two police officers and five alleged members of the Pakistani Taliban have been charged in connection with the assassination. But Zardari's Pakistan People's Party has continued hinting that it believes Musharraf or his allies may have been involved.

Zardari asked the U.N. to investigate the assassination. The probe found Musharraf's government didn't do enough to ensure Bhutto's security and criticized steps taken by investigators after her death, including hosing down the crime scene and failing to perform an autopsy.

The U.N. officials were not tasked with finding out who the culprits were. But they identified two main threats facing Bhutto — Islamist extremists like al-Qaida and the Taliban who opposed her links to the West and secular outlook, and members of the "Pakistani Establishment," the term used locally to refer to a powerful and shady network of military, intelligence, political and business leaders that the PPP has long maintained is an enemy of the party.

Bhutto's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was executed in 1979 by a military dictator, and the party's rhetoric has long been infused with tales of political marytdom at the hands of the army.

After her death, the PPP rode a wave of public sympathy to garner the most seats in the February 2008 elections. Months later, the party forced Musharraf to step down as president by threatening impeachment, and the presidency was eventually won by Bhutto's widower Asif Ali Zardari.

Musharraf later left for London, and has since spent a good deal of time on the lecture circuit, including in the United States.

By Salon Staff

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