NEW YORK - Former president Pervez Musharraf was well aware of the plot to assassinate Benazir Bhutto, a close friend of the Pakistan People’s Party leader has said, emphasising that it is time to give her justice.

“The motive was clear - the elimination of the iconic leader of the country’s dominant party that seemed on the verge of a landslide victory,” wrote Mark Siegel, a Washington-based lobbyist, in an opinion piece in The New York Daily News, a mass circulation tabloid.

Investigation reports by both the United Nations and the Pakistani government “blame the Musharraf government for the assassination of Benazir,” wrote Siegel, who was her collaborator on the book “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West.”

Despite full knowledge that her assassination would be attempted, Seigel said Musharraf’s failure to provide security all but ensured that the conspiracy would succeed.

Benazir, he wrote, had believed that Musharraf was complicit in the attempt to take her life in Karachi by not providing her enough security. In fact, his involvement in the Karachi and Rawalpindi attacks was much more direct and insidious.

“Despite the fact that Musharraf had ordered intense security teams to guard two other former prime ministers who were his political supporters, Benazir was provided with virtually no security at all. The crime scene in Rawalpindi was almost immediately washed down, with forensic evidence hosed away by the police,” he wrote. “No witnesses were interrogated. No autopsies took place. Nor did an investigation.”

Musharraf, Seigel said, had threatened Benazir with dire consequences if she returned to Pakistan to lead her PPP in the upcoming elections, where she was the major threat to defeat him. Benazir quoted Musharraf as saying that she would be responsible for what happened to her.

Afterward, she emailed to Seigel to say that if anything happened to her, she would hold Musharraf responsible.

“But there is hope: If and when Interpol issues a red warrant for Musharraf, the police of all 190 Interpol member countries will have the authority to arrest him”, he said.

“Meanwhile, the democratically-elected PPP government (which Benazir would have led) is in its fifth year in office, and will be the first civilian Pakistani government to complete a full term. The 1973 constitution has been cleansed of the arbitrary powers seized by military dictators. There is an independent judiciary, a robust civil society and an energetic, uncensored press.

“Benazir Bhutto famously said that ‘democracy was the greatest revenge.’ We have given her that democracy. Now it is time to give her justice.”