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Musharraf denies role in Bhutto’s assassination

Fri., Jan. 4, 2008, midnight

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday vehemently denied that he or his government played any role in the death of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and instead blamed her for not heeding warnings to take extra precautions.

A week after Bhutto’s assassination, Musharraf bristled at the suggestion – often made by Bhutto supporters – that he or his allies had had a hand in her death, saying the government lacked both the means and the motive.

“I have been brought up in a very educated and civilized family which believes in values, which believes in principles, which believes in character,” he said in a news conference for foreign journalists held at the president’s house. “My family is not a family which believes in killing people.”

Musharraf added that he did not think the nation’s powerful intelligence services were capable of recruiting someone to carry out a suicide bombing against Bhutto.

Instead, he again pinned responsibility on Islamic extremists, singling out Baitullah Mehsud and Maulana Fazlullah, two pro-Taliban commanders who have each created armies of radical followers in the country’s restive northwest.

Bhutto’s followers have focused their suspicions on several people with either past or present ties to Musharraf, four of whom Bhutto had named in a letter to the president as enemies plotting to kill her. One of those she implicated was Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, a former chief minister of Punjab province and a likely candidate to be prime minister if Musharraf’s allies do well enough in next month’s elections to form a government.

But Musharraf said the allegation that Elahi, or anyone else from the government, had participated in the attack was “baseless,” and that Scotland Yard investigators who he had invited to probe the matter would not be pursuing that possibility.

“I would like to know how she died, ultimately,” Musharraf said. “But I will not like anyone to go on a wild goose chase and start creating a disturbance.”

Sherry Rehman, spokeswoman for Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, accused Musharraf of trying to set the terms of Scotland Yard’s investigation before it even began. “It’s not for him to decide what’s a wild goose chase,” she said.


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