Pakistan Chief Prosecutor in Bhutto Assassination Shot Dead

The Pakistani chief prosecutor investigating the assassination in 2007 of Benazir Bhutto was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the capital Islamabad early today as he drove to a hearing.

The car carrying Chaudhry Zulfiqar was attacked as he headed to an anti-terrorism court in the nearby city of Rawalpindi for proceedings related to the Bhutto case, according to police. “His guard said that someone from the rear fired on the car,” Irshad Ali, the officer in charge of the police station nearest the incident, said by phone. There was no claim of responsibility.

Former army dictator Pervez Musharraf, now under house arrest in Islamabad, is being probed in the Bhutto case over allegations he failed to provide her adequate security. Musharraf’s administration said former Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud ordered Bhutto’s murder after she criticized the Taliban for terrorist attacks in Pakistan and announced she would help the U.S. eliminate the group.

A spokesman for the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Wasim Khawaja, confirmed the killing of Zulfiqar, adding that a female passerby hit by his car also died. The prosecutor’s driver was injured during the firing, he said.

In a statement, President Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower, ordered a thorough investigation to get to “expose the real culprits involved in the murder of Chaudhry Zulfiqar.”

Rally Bombing

Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack at a rally in Rawalpindi in December 2007. A United Nations report, issued in 2010, said her death may have been prevented had security forces taken proper steps after death threats were made against her.

“Bhutto was seen as pro-American and was on the hit-list of al-Qaeda and its affiliates like the Pakistani Taliban,” Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute Peace Studies, said by phone, while declining to comment on possible motivations for Zulfiqar’s murder.

The prosecutor was also directing the investigation into the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai by Pakistani gunmen, Geo television reported, without saying where it got the information.

India said the November 2008 commando-style assault that killed 166 people was carried out by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, possibly with the aid of what it called Pakistani “state actors.” Pakistan denies any official involvement.

After initial denials, Pakistan acknowledged the Mumbai raid was planned on its soil and began a trial of some Lashkar members. India has accused Pakistan of being half-hearted in its pursuit of the perpetrators.

Musharraf has been under house arrest since April 19 after a court revoked a bail agreement on charges relating to his declaration of emergency rule in 2007, which was subsequently ruled illegal. He has since been kept at his residence on the outskirts of Islamabad, which has been declared a sub-jail.

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