Probe makes no headway; Malik passes buck to cabinet division
By Syed Irfan Raza
ISLAMABAD: Investigators have failed to find any clue to the assassins of Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, while Interior Minister Rehman Malik has held the cabinet division responsible for the security of the deceased.
The interior minister on Thursday presented a preliminary report on the assassination to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that also blamed the ill-fated minister for the security lapse.
Talking to reporters, Mr Malik said it was the responsibility of the cabinet division to provide security to Mr Bhatti and rejected the possibility of a security lapse on part of police and the interior ministry.
“A fool-proof security escort comprising 15 strong and fully armed personnel was provided to the slain minister, but he opted not to avail it during his visits to preferred and frequented destinations,” he said.
A source in the cabinet division said there were 22 bullet-proof vehicles in its pool which could not be provided to all federal ministers.
Some of the bullet-proof vehicles are under the use of the prime minister, while one each has been provided to Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza, Senate Chairman Farooq H. Naek, the interior minister and Law Minister Babar Awan.
Meanwhile, former information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira revealed that the government had given clear instructions to al security departments after the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in Islamabad on Jan 4 that their personnel had stick along with the persons they were protecting all the time.
Talking to a TV channel, he said: “Even if Mr Bhatti had refused to take the security squad with him, it should have been be the responsibility of the security personnel to disobey him and keep him under their cover.”
According to security sources, an intelligence agency had intimated the interior ministry last month that some people, including foreigners, had been seen around the residence of the slain minister in sector I-8/4 and his mother`s house in the same vicinity.
They said the suspects appeared to be well trained.
The intelligence agency had also hinted that some of the foreigners were staying in two houses close to the minister`s residence in the same sector.
The interior ministry had been advised to take immediate steps for the safety of Mr Bhatti, as the foreigners who had been spotted close his house could not be taken into custody or arrested because of their `status`, the source said.
The investigators have picked up 15 suspects, including a cleric of a mosque, in connection with the killing. Of them, two were picked up from Gunjmandi in Rawalpindi, three from I-8 Markaz and the cleric from a mosque in the sector.
The interior minister said his ministry had received an intelligence report late on Wednesday, cautioning the political forces to be careful as the terrorists might attack more important people.
He claimed that minorities were safe in the country and said the death of Mr Bhatti would not go in vain.