Police on Wednesday arrested two senior police officers in court for alleged dereliction of duty over the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, a prosecutor said.
Benazir Bhutto was assassinated almost exactly three years ago in a gun and suicide attack after addressing an election campaign rally in Rawalpindi, on December 27, 2007.
In April, a UN panel accused the government of failing to provide Benazir with adequate protection and said investigations were hampered by intelligence agencies and other officials who impeded “an unfettered search for the truth”.
A court in Rawalpindi this month issued warrants for the arrest of Saud Aziz, who was city police chief at the time of the killing, and Khurram Shahzad, another senior policeman for their “failure” to protect Bhutto.
“Both of the police officers have been arrested. The court rejected their application for bail and the judge said ‘this was their duty to carry out the post-mortem’,” special prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali told reporters.
Ali previously accused the officers of being responsible for a controversial decision to hose down the scene of the killing, therefore destroying key evidence, and for failing to provide her with adequate security.
Asked about the charges against the officers on Wednesday he told reporters: “Several other points need to be investigated.”
“Today, the honourable judge rejected their application for bail and ordered their arrest because it was the state’s obligation to carry out a post-mortem.”
According to the prosecutor, the judge rejected as evidence an audio tape in which Benazir’s husband, now President Asif Ali Zardari, apparently asked for the post-mortem not to be carried out.
The court has been adjourned until January 7.
At the time, the government of then military ruler Pervez Musharraf blamed the assassination on Pakistan’s former Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement.
Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack in August 2009, one of the most high-profile casualties of the covert American campaign targeting al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan’s tribal belt.
Benazir, who served two terms as prime minister, returned from exile two months before she was assassinated, to stand for election.
Zardari led Pakistan People’s Party to election victory in February 2008 and is now the head of state.
After the UN report was published in April, Pakistan removed senior police and intelligence officials from their posts.