Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday rejected any suggestion that he or any members of the Pakistani military or intelligence agencies played a role in the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and said the attack was probably carried out by the same extremists responsible for a number of suicide bombings in recent months.
Taking questions from foreign journalists at the Presidential House, Musharraf defended his police force and investigators, saying that Bhutto had defied the government's warnings when she decided to go ahead with the rally in Rawalpindi, where she was killed a week ago.
He added that she had broken standard security rules by standing in the open top of her vehicle as the crowd swarmed around her and by not leaving the rally quickly.
In a televised question and answer session that lasted more than 90 minutes, Musharraf appeared relaxed and confident, telling journalists that they often got their facts wrong and that they did not understand the situation.
He denied that he was unpopular in the country and dismissed the accusation from Bhutto's party that he was delaying elections by six weeks to give his people time to rig them. He said he wanted elections as soon as possible.
"There is no complicity" in Bhutto's killing, he said. "Would I or the government be the maximum gainer from doing this? Or would there be someone else who would gain more?"
He said that in the past three months there had been 19 suicide bombings by the militant leaders Baitullah Mehsud and Maulana Fazlullah.
Most of the attacks were against military and intelligence targets, he said, calling it a "joke" to suggest the military and intelligence agencies would be using the same people who were attacking them.
"No intelligence organization of Pakistan is capable of indoctrinating a man to blow himself up," he said.
Meanwhile, a team of British police arrived yesterday to join the investigation into Bhutto's death.
The small Scotland Yard team arrived at Islamabad airport, but members declined to comment.
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