Sunday, September 20, 2009

Growing questions on death of Benazir Bhutto

Bruce Loudon

UNITED Nations investigators are preparing to question former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, amid mounting doubts over official versions of how she died and claims of a cover-up.

The Weekend Australian Magazine reveals today evidence that a bullet - probably sniper fire from a high-velocity rifle - killed the former prime minister.

The Musharraf regime said a "bump on the head" resulting from a Taliban or al-Qa'ida suicide bomber killed Bhutto on December 27, 2007, shortly before an election she was expected to win.

This evidence contradicts the regime's claim that the murder was the work of the Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US unmanned drone attack.

There is no history of the militants using sniper fire - or even regular gunfire - in any of the hundreds of suicide attacks they have mounted in Pakistan.

Also revealed in The Weekend Australian Magazine is detail of the cover-up that followed Bhutto's murder. The crime scene in Liaquat Bagh, a park in Rawalpindi, was washed with high-pressure hoses within 45 minutes of the blast, destroying almost all forensic evidence.

Naheed Khan, Bhutto's political secretary for 23 years, who cradled her head as she died, told The Weekend Australian Magazine: "There were bullets coming from different directions. There are lots of high buildings overlooking the area. This was a typical intelligence (agency) operation."

Ms Khan's husband, senator Safdar Abbasi, who is also a doctor, was in the Toyota Landcruiser when Bhutto was attacked. "The way she died - her instant death - suggests very sharp sniper fire. A typical intelligence (agency) operation."

The Weekend Australian Magazine reveals that, despite the law in Pakistan mandating autopsies in all cases of murder, and doctors attending Bhutto telling police that one should be carried out, none was performed on her or others who died in Liaquat Bagh.

Within hours, her body had been flown to Sindh province for burial, without a full forensic examination.

There is no suggestion of any involvement by Mr Musharraf in her murder. But the UN investigators want to question the former general. Given the authority he wielded in Pakistan, including over the army and its agencies, Mr Musharraf, 66, is thought to be in a better position than most to cast light on events surrounding the assassination.

At his apartment off London's Edgeware Road, living under the protection of the British government, Mr Musharraf has appeared untroubled by demands to bring him back to Pakistan. He has played bridge with friends and eaten out during the holy month of Ramadan.

An internationally brokered secret deal allowed Mr Musharraf to step down and assured his future security.

After long delays in getting Security Council approval for its mission, the UN investigators started looking into Bhutto's death in July and are expected to report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this year.

The investigators are reported to be preparing to talk to people in London and Washington, including CNN presenter Wolf Blitzer. On October 20, 2007, Bhutto sent Blitzer an email, through a friend, reading: "If it is God's will, nothing will happen to me. But if anything happened to me, I would hold Pervez Musharraf responsible."

Investigations into Bhutto's killing are the subject of controversy in Pakistan.

Source: The Australian

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