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FIA reluctant to record Malik’s statement

ISLAMABAD: A joint investigation team (JIT) of the FIA probing the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is reluctant to record the statement of Interior Minister Rehman Malik, although it is required under the UN commission’s terms of inquiry, sources in his ministry told Dawn on Thursday.

Benazir Bhutto Pakistan NewsThe JIT, headed by additional director general of FIA Khalid Qureshi, has sent a questionnaire to almost all those government officials and leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party who have been directly or indirectly accused of not providing adequate security to Benazir. But it is reluctant to send the questionnaire to the interior minister.

“I have not thought about sending the questionnaire to Mr Malik,” said FIA Director General Waseem Ahmed, who recently got an extension in his service on the recommendations of the interior minister.

Mr Malik had said in a statement that the questionnaire had been sent to all accused, including former Punjab chief minister Pervez Elahi and Intelligence Bureau chief Ijaz Shah. The two have been accused of not providing foolproof security to the PPP chairperson.

Senator Safdar Abbasi and wife Naheed Khan, Makhdoom Amin Fahim and some others, who had accompanied Ms Bhutto on the day of her assassination on Dec 27, 2007, have returned the questionnaire to investigators after filling it.

“My wife and I have replied to the questionnaire. We had earlier recorded our statements before the Scotland Yard and UN investigators and the JIT,” Senator Abbasi told Dawn.

The sources claimed that the FIA had also prepared a questionnaire for the interior minister, but could not dare send it to him.

But the FIA chief rejected the claim. “The FIA has never prepared any such questionnaire for the interior minister nor is it thinking about it.”

Mr Malik, who was in charge of Benazir’s security, has been accused of leaving the place a few minutes before the gun-and-bomb attack. He was in a PPP substitute vehicle, along with the present presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar and Law Minister Babar Awan. According to the party arrangement, he was supposed to be behind Ms Bhutto’s vehicle.

Former Rawalpindi police chief Saud Aziz, who is under detention, claimed in a statement that Mr Malik was responsible for poor security arrangements which led to Benazir’s assassination. He said the minister was in close contact with police and it was his responsibility to stop her from standing up and looking out from her jeep.

Members of the UN inquiry commission had met the minister a number of times and also visited his residence to record his statement. He had reportedly said that he was ready for questioning.

In the light of the UN commission’s report, the JIT recorded the statements of a number of people, but not of the interior minister.

The JIT also sent a questionnaire to former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, who is in London. He has been accused of not providing adequate security to Benazir Bhutto during her last public meeting in Liaquat Bagh.

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