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March 14, 2009

Waiting for the UN — II


March 14, 2009

This is the concluding part of the article published on March 9 issue of The News

Multiple bullet injuries establish the presence of other pre-positioned marksmen. The question then is: was the presence of these other ‘hit men’ the possible reason why the police forced her to abandon her exit route? This was also stated in the Dawn and Geo TV reports by PPP officials.

Was the change of the route by the police pilot car to marshal the prey towards the trap? Is that also why there was no other security vehicle around her car at the time of her Shahadat? And where was the bomb-proof back-up vehicle if one had been provided? And who was in it? Dr Shahid’s programme brought out the contradictions in important statements. Were these recorded earlier by any one? The investigators should have found out about gunmen and vehicles through a thorough probe of the phone records and interrogation based on that record as suggested below.

Almost as fast as the place was washed out, the then government came up with an outlandish theory. It claimed that she had died hitting a lever in the escape hatch of the vehicle due to the impact of the bomb blast. That theory died with the footage showing that she was down in the vehicle before the blast. The PPP co-chairman, and now president, also categorically debunked this over-hurried explanation within a couple of days of the tragedy. He categorically stated that his sister, a doctor, had seen the body and did not believe the government’s version. Why was that government so desperate to deflect the possibility of firearm injuries and to bury the evidence in such a rush?

Evidence of well-positioned sharpshooters may also have been collected through other means. They must have used cellphones. Now, if all persons who made calls via towers of cellphone companies linking the site at Liaquat Bagh with their mainframe been questioned the circle could have been narrowed. Suppose 5,000 calls were made

during the hour before the assassination and the half hour thereafter through these towers. Each caller could be identified from company records. Each person, without exception, should then have been grilled narrowing the inquiry down to 20 to 30 suspect calls.

But have the 10,000 persons, each caller and recipient, been questioned? Not to anyone’s knowledge. The evidence of recall and memory may have been irretrievably lost or degraded by now. Besides the tell-tale chips lost to the drains of Rawalpindi, this would be the best evidence. Is it lost too?

Statements of witnesses under Section 161 CrPC must be recorded as soon after the event as possible. Otherwise they lose their evidentiary value. Superior courts have held that a delay of even two to three days may be fatal to the credibility of the witness. What will be the value of these statements if recorded now after one year of the incident? This amounts to deliberate degradation of evidence.

Even the Scotland Yard findings are untenable. How could it come to any conclusion whatsoever without autopsy reports and statements of the cellphone callers, or without cogent evidence of who had decreed the washing of the crime scene?

Then there is the curious case of Khalid Shahenshah. He was not only in Shaheed Bhutto’s car, but was also assassinated some weeks after her. He has been shown in some tapes as making intriguing signals with his hands and eyes while standing close to her as she addressed the Liaquat Bagh rally. Who murdered him, and why? Did he know too much? Why were his movements not monitored after Liaquat Bagh? Or were they? If so, by whom?

There are other questions such as: what linkages have been established between the Karsaz and Liaquat Bagh incidents? Both happened in General Musharraf’s watch. In both cases, the crime scene was washed away within hours of the incident. In both, she was the target. Who could serially have ordered the immediate and blatant destruction of evidence and remain immune from scrutiny?

What about the conversation and other circumstantial evidence that can be derived from Ron Suskind’s book: “The Way of the World”? It cannot be disregarded altogether. It is serious stuff. It could be the key. Has any effort been made to contact him and record his statement?

People are also wondering why has no FIR been lodged by the aggrieved party after her Shahadat? Had the police approached any one in this behalf? If not, why?

Then there were the letters and complaints by Rahman Malik himself. The president had recently pointed out that Malik had written 25 letters to the Interior Ministry complaining of lax security arrangements.

He complained that nothing was done in response to any of those letters. According to caretaker interior minister General Hamid Nawaz, Malik had been appointed the contact man and coordinator for Mohtarma’s security by the caretaker regime. Then why did the officials not comply with his requests? And why have they not been taken to task after fortunes changed almost a year ago?

Investigation is only about collecting evidence. The final conclusion is drawn by the court after a trial. But the trial becomes meaningless if the evidence is destroyed or lost by efflux of time. The UN cannot help in the collection of any evidence. That will have, per force, to be done locally even if the UN team were here. Delay in securing it has already caused many footprints to be wiped out, many a blood-stained hand to be washed of stain.

President Zardari has always maintained that he will not go for some foot-soldier or subaltern. He wants the top conspirator(s). This must have been the foremost concern with him. He must surely have been advised by his highly competent legal advisers, the law minister and the attorney general included, that inaction will degrade or destroy vital evidence. That surely could not have been intended. Have those, who investigate, endeavoured to assist him in his pursuit or has his task been made more difficult? But of course if he himself knows better that is another matter.

The blood of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto demands that the killers be found. Her president, her prime minister and her ministers are in office. Her party is in power. If the president knows who the killers are, as he has claimed, he should expose them. It is not a matter of revenge. Democracy may be a revenge of sorts, from the autocratic usurper of power. It is no revenge against killers and assassins. This is a matter of the law and the pursuit of truth, not of revenge.

Let us not wait for the UN and allow even the remaining evidence also to degrade and disappear. Let not the UN become an alibi.

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