ISLAMABAD - Former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf yesterday refuted the claim of Mark Siegel that Benazir Bhutto received threatening phone calls from him, which he had made in his testimony before the court in Benazir Bhutto murder case through a video-link.

In a statement issued by Musharraf, he said: “I strongly and unequivocally reject the claim of Mark Siegel, a close advisor, paid lobbyist and co-author of the last book of the former prime minister Ms Benazir Bhutto. I am shocked and amazed at Mr Siegel's assertion that I made a threatening phone call to Ms Bhutto. This claim is entirely false, fictitious and appears to be willfully fabricated,” he added.

“Besides meeting Ms Bhutto twice in UAE, I only spoke to her once in my life on the phone after she had returned to Pakistan in October 2007. In that conversation, I shared with Ms Bhutto, intelligence information that was conveyed to me personally by the leadership in UAE, indicating suicide bombers were planning an attack on her.”

The former president added that Benazir would not have approached him for security if she was scared of him. Similarly questioning the validity of the statement, Musharraf said had there any truth in his claim he would have mentioned it in his book based on Benazir Bhutto published soon after her assassination in December 2007.

He said that he find the testimony of Siegel despicable. “It could not be further from the truth. I not only resent the implications, but finds them to be libelous with malicious intent, designed and perpetuated through him by the enemies of Pakistan who want to distort facts in an attempt to shift the blame,” he added.

“Mr Siegel's statement also compels me to inquire from him, why did he choose to omit this fabricated claim from the last book of Ms Bhutto: Reconciliation, Islam, Democracy and the West, which he co-authored and was published after Ms Bhutto's assassination,” he remarked.

“It is also widely known in the public domain, that Ms Bhutto wrote a letter to me a few days before her return to Pakistan in October 2007, in which she had expressed threats from General Hamid Gul, Brigadier Ejaz Shah, and Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi. If I had also threatened her, I wonder why she would write to me to solicit protection from these gentlemen. It is also extremely mystifying as to why Former president Zardari, who Siegel claims was also present with Ms. Bhutto when she received this threatening phone call from me, has never mentioned it and did not pursue this claim aggressively while he was the President of Pakistan for five years,” he added.

“Nonetheless, I strongly believe the truth will ultimately prevail; justice will be served, and these false politicised charges against me will be discarded by the courts,” he concluded.

A day earlier, Mark Siegel had testified before an anti-terrorism court that former president Musharraf had barred former prime minister Benazir from coming back to Pakistan.

This he had stated while recording his statement with the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi in Benazir Bhutto assassination case via video link from the United States.

In his testimony, the American journalist had claimed he was with the former prime minister on September 25, 2007, when she had received a call from Musharraf “threatening her with dire consequences if she returned to Pakistan.”