Seven senior Pakistani officials have been suspended from their positions and prohibited from leaving the country as a result of a United Nations commission report on the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's information minister told CNN Sunday.
The officials were senior police officers and senior administration officials who held different positions at the time of Bhutto's death, said Qamar Uz Zaman Kaira, federal information minister.
The senior police officials include Chaudhry Adbul Majid, Saud Aziz and Yasin Farooq. Irfan Elahi, a senior administration official of the Civil Service - a top official in Rawalpindi District - is also on the list. The contract of an eighth official, Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema, a former Interior Ministry spokesman, was terminated in connection with the U.N. report, Kaira said.
"After the investigation, their future will be decided," Kaira said.
The three-member U.N. inquiry commission, in a scathing report issued Thursday, said former President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's military-led government failed to protect Bhutto and that the suicide bombing that killed her "could have been prevented." In addition, police deliberately failed to pursue an effective investigation into Bhutto's death, the panel said.
Cheema, who was working on a contract basis for the Civil Defense Department, held a news conference the day after Bhutto's slaying to detail the cause of her death. He told reporters that Bhutto died from a head injury when the force of the blast caused her to hit her head on a lever in the vehicle she was riding in. He blamed her death on Baitullah Mehsud, a top Pakistani leader with ties to al Qaeda, and presented an intercepted telephone conversation between Mehsud and a Maulvi Sahib, in which Mehsud was heard congratulating Maulvi on a job well done. Mehsud was killed last year in a suspected U.S. drone strike.
The Pakistan Peoples Party, led by Bhutto before her death, said Saturday it accepted the report, and blamed Musharraf for failing to prevent Bhutto's death.
Bhutto had returned from a self-imposed eight-year exile to run in the country's general elections two months before her assassination and already had escaped one attempt on her life.
She was killed in December 2007 by a 15-year-old suicide bomber while campaigning in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi, the seat of the country's military.
"No one believes that this boy acted alone," the U.N. report states. "A range of government officials failed profoundly in their efforts first to protect Ms. Bhutto, and second to investigate with vigor all those responsible for her murder, not only in the execution of the attack, but also in its conception, planning and financing."
The report stops short of identifying a particular culprit.
No arrests have been made as of Sunday as a result of the U.N. report, Kaira said. But he pledged the government will go after those named in the report for their complicity in Bhutto's assassination.
A spokesman for Musharraf said Friday that the government offered adequate protection for Bhutto.
"I believe the government at the time did whatever they thought was reasonable," said Muhammad Ali Saif, a spokesman and adviser to the former president.
"It was repeatedly stressed [to Bhutto] that she should be careful because of numerous credible threats against her," the spokesman said. "Unfortunately, she did not heed these requests and she went ahead and took part in the procession. The government did take whatever reasonable measures to protect her.
"There's no prescribed standard for maximum or minimum security. The very fact that she deemed it necessary go to a public meeting shows that she herself was satisfied with the level of security the government provided."
The U.N. commission's chairman, Chilean U.N. Ambassador Heraldo Munoz, said the panel's role was "fact-finding" and not prosecutorial. Asked whether the failure to protect Bhutto was deliberate, he said, "It is not up to us to make inferences." But he added, "It is clear that warnings were passed on, on various occasions, and Ms. Bhutto received also information in this regard from outside Pakistan.
"Nevertheless, what we have found is that the passing of information was not accompanied by commensurate measures to protect her, particularly given the fact that an assassination attempt had been made against her the very day she returned to Karachi, [Pakistan]," he said.
Nationwide polls conducted shortly after Bhutto's death found that a majority of Pakistanis believed Musharraf's government was complicit in the assassination. Bhutto's supporters took to the streets after her killing. The ensuing riots left 58 dead and more than $200 million in property damage.
The Pakistan Peoples Party went on to win the most number of seats in elections held in 2008, and Musharraf resigned. Bhutto's widower, current President Asif Ali Zardari, asked the United Nations to look into his wife's death after taking office, and he was one of the more than 250 people interviewed by the commission.
- Journalist Nasir Habib contributed to this report for CNN.