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Saturday July 02, 2022

Benazir’s assassination: Pressurised to blame Musharraf, claims Rao Anwar

Rao Anwar said he did not ink the document because he was being pressurised to implicate Musharraf by the then-interior minister Rehman Malik

By News Desk
June 18, 2022
Former police officer, Rao Anwar. Photo: The News/File
Former police officer, Rao Anwar. Photo: The News/File

KARACHI: Rao Anwar, a former high-profile but notorious police officer in Karachi, has claimed in a rare interview that he did not sign the report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted to probe the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto on purpose.

Anwar said he did not ink the document because he was being pressurised to implicate former president retired General Pervez Musharraf, by the then-interior minister Rehman Malik. The minister, added the ex-cop, wanted Musharraf named without recording the former president’s statement or interrogating him. “I did not sign [the JIT report] as Malik pressurised me to accuse Musharraf,” Anwar told Geo TV over the phone. “I asked for evidence and he did not have any.” The ex-cop said he was also ready to give the statement under oath.

These days, Anwar is out on bail in cases where he is accused of being involved in the murder of 400 people in fake police encounters, including Naqeeb Mehsud, a young and aspiring model.

Bhutto was murdered on December 27, 2007 in a suicide bombing in Rawalpindi. The main suspect in the case was Ikram Mehsud, who was said to be in-charge of the operation, and had been named in the court as a second suicide bomber. While Baitullah Mehsud was named as the mastermind of the attack.

Anwar told Geo TV that another terrorist group, led by Tayyub Mehsud, was involved in the October 18, 2007, attack on Bhutto’s motorcade in Karachi, which left 180 people dead. “They [Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party] could have arrested both Ikram and Tayyub and solved both cases,” Anwar said. But the PPP government of 2008 did not show much seriousness in the cases, he adds. “It [the cases] were politicised more than dealt with on merit.”

The former cop also raised doubts about Malik’s role and believed that the former interior minister should have been probed in the case as the head of Benazir Bhutto’s security. Yet, he never was.

Rao Anwar is considered to be a close confidant of former president Asif Ali Zardari. The cop also questioned why the former interior minister kept the two Blackberry phones of the former prime minister with him for nearly two years. Malik died recently after being infected with Covid-19, and did not record his statement either with the Federal Investigation Agency or the Joint Investigation Team. “Once, I went to meet Zardari and asked him about the Blackberry phones, he told me to go and ask Malik,” Anwar claims. “So then I went to Malik. First the minister denied he had the phones and then got angry on why I went to Zardari.”

Those phones, he adds, could have helped the investigation into Bhutto’s death. When asked why Bhutto wrote in a letter to the police that Musharraf, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi and Brig. Ejaz Shah would be responsible if anything happened to her, Anwar said that there was no evidence to substantiate the claim.

He asked why those named by Bhutto were never interrogated during the PPP’s government. Or why the murder of a key witness, Shahenshah Hussain, was declared a blind case and never pursued? “You can’t merely implicate someone without questioning them or interrogating them,” he said, adding that the probe should have started from Rehman Malik as he was the head of security.

Rao Anwar, who at that time was posted at the Gadap City Police Station, was inducted into the Joint Investigation Team formed to investigate Bhutto’s murder. The JIT also comprised senior intelligence officers.

When Geo TV asked him why he was bringing these revelations to light now, the ex-cop said that he wanted to bring some “facts on record” after hearing about the deteriorating health of Musharraf.

PPP leader Farhatullah Babar, meanwhile, told this author that there were some legal issues and, therefore, he would comment [on Anwar’s claims] after speaking to Latif Khosa. He said he would inquire about the legal position and status of the JIT report if a member of the JIT refuses to sign it, and how important it was to interrogate Musharraf.

Babar also asked how Anwar’s statement could be believed, saying this could be linked to reports of bringing Musharraf back to Pakistan as efforts were being made to acquit the retired general from the cases he was facing.

Mazhar Abbas is a journalist, columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang. He tweets @MazharAbbasGEO

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