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Pakistan may turn to Interpol for help in arresting Musharraf

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan will ask Interpol for help in arresting Pervez Musharraf, the country’s former president, for his failure to prevent the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the interior minister said yesterday.

Rehman Malik said the government was seeking Musharraf’s arrest because he allegedly failed to provide adequate security for Bhutto, who was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack in 2007.

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An Interpol spokeswoman said any eventual request from Pakistan would be “assessed in accordance with our rules and regulations.’’

Musharraf, a onetime US ally, went into self-exile in Britain in 2008 after being forced out of the presidency he secured in a 1999 military coup. The current government is being run by Musharraf’s political rivals, and the president is Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower and political heir.

A Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant for Musharraf last year over the allegations.

Musharraf, a former army general who wants to return to Pakistan to take part in what will be bitterly contested elections expected this year, said the government was playing politics over the case.

“This is all politics,’’ he told ARY television station yesterday. “It’s just point scoring and nothing else.’’

Pakistan may ask Interpol to issue a so-called red notice, the agency’s highest-level alert, equivalent to putting a suspect on its most-wanted list. Such a notice on Musharraf would alert police in all member countries to heed the Pakistani warrant and arrest Musharraf.

It is unclear whether Malik will go ahead with his threat.

The former prime minister was killed on Dec. 27, 2007, shortly after returning to Pakistan to campaign in elections Musharraf agreed to allow after months of domestic and international pressure.

Two police officers and five alleged members of the Pakistani Taliban have been charged in connection with the assassination. But Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party has continued hinting that it believes Musharraf or his allies may have been involved.

Zardari asked the United Nations to investigate the assassination. The inquiry found Musharraf’s government did not do enough to ensure Bhutto’s security.

The UN officials were not tasked with finding out who the culprits were. But they identified two main threats facing Bhutto - Islamist extremists such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban who opposed her links to the West and secular outlook, and members of the “Pakistani Establishment,’’ the term used locally to refer to a powerful and shady network of military, intelligence, political, and business leaders that the Pakistan People’s Party has long maintained is an enemy of the party.

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