President Asif Zardari is said to have quietly given names of four international personalities - US ex-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Saudi Arabia intelligence chief Prince Muqrin and the UAE intelligence chief - to the UN inquiry commission to ask them How did they know the secret in advance that Benazir Bhutto would be killed? The UN commission has now been asked to first meet these four indirect witnesses before submitting its report on Benazir Bhutto assassination. With this new information, two and a half years old mystery also finally stands resolved that which two friendly countries had actually warned BB about attack on her life before she decided to return to Pakistan on October 18, 2007.

These two countries were the UAE and Saudi Arabia, whose intelligence agencies chiefs had actually warned the PPP chairperson against threats to her life. Generally, it was believed that apart from the UAE, the second friendly country was Iran. But now it has been revealed that this was Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief Prince Muqran bin Abdul Aziz who had warned the former prime minister about threats to her life. After receiving the names of four new indirect witnesses from Islamabad, the UN inquiry team was making contacts with all of them to seek explanations from them as how did they already knew threats to BB’s life.

The sources said President Zardari believed that inside information to be shared by these four personalities might greatly help the inquiry commission to identify the real killers whose secret plans somehow reached the intelligence agencies of Afghanistan, the USA, UAE and Saudi Arabia, and which turned to be prophetically correct. One top sources claimed that this was the main reasons which had delayed release of UN inquiry commission report after President Zardari gave names of these four top people to the UN commission through Pakistan permanent representative in at the UN Hussain Haroon. Haroon held extensive talks with the UN team in New York to convince them as to why it was important to interview these four personalities.

Talking to The News, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar confirmed that this was true that the Pakistan government wanted three friendly countries to share their information with the UN. But he did not name any country or drop any hint about the country which was being asked to share the intelligence. He said “We want comments of three friendly foreign governments which had warned Benazir Bhutto of plots to assassinate her around time of her return included in the UN report. One foreign country government has shared its perspective with the UN commission. We hope the other two governments will also share their perspective. That hopefully will help the commission in its task. Hence the two weeks delay,” he said.

However, Babar did not deny the names of three countries and former US secretary of state as revealed in this news report. Meanwhile, sources said President Zardari was not satisfied with the UN report into the killing of Benazir Bhutto after he came to know that quite surprisingly, the otherwise high level commission which was paid over half a billion rupees by the Government of Pakistan to meet its expenses, did not contact these four high profile international personalities, who at different occasions had warned Benazir Bhutto about threats to her life before she returned to Pakistan.

The sources said Zardari knew the information given by these four personalities to Benazir Bhutto as none other than BB herself kept her spouse on board about these warnings so that he should know what sort of information were coming from which corner of the world. Later, she had also told Zardari after meeting Hamid Karzai in Islamabad, hours before her assassination, that he had informed her that his country intelligence agency too had information about the possible attack on her life. The sources said President Zardari was of the view that these four personalities who knew about possibility of threats to life of Benazir were in a good position to help the UN commission to know from where they all got the information and what were their sources.

The sources said the information shared by these four personalities with BB was not an ordinary thing to ignore. They said the arguments given by the Pak envoy at the UN was mulled over by the commission and they decided to delay the report till interviewing these four witnesses. When asked about the inclusion of name of Hamid Karzai in the list of witnesses, sources said actually just few hours before her assassination on December 27, 2007, Benazir Bhutto was informed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai about threats to her life. Also the former two-time prime minister was also warned that her meeting with the Afghan president, just few days before the elections, could create more troubles for her. Now President Zardari wanted the commission to ask more questions from Karzai.

Likewise, the sources said Condoleezza Rice was also a potential witness because the US had provided a steady stream of intelligence to Benazir Bhutto about threats against her and advised her aides on how to boost security. The source said senior US diplomats had multiple conversations, including at least two private face-to-face meetings, with top members of the Pakistan People’s Party to discuss threats on her life and review her security arrangements after a suicide bombing marred her initial return to Pakistan from exile in October, 2007. The intelligence was also shared with the Pakistani government.

An American intelligence officer was quoted soon after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto that she knew people were trying to assassinate her. One official said now Ms Rice would be asked point blank to respond that how she knew that Benazir Bhutto life was under threat and she would be killed. The intelligence agency chiefs of the UAE and Saudi Arabia would also face similar questions from the commission as this might resolve the mystery that who had killed Benazir Bhutto and what were their sources of information.

Rauf Kalasra - The News