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December 23, 2008

Who assassinated Benazir Bhutto?

December 23, 2008

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was attacked from three sides on December 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi. One of the assassins seen in the videos fired at her from the left side but the cause of her death was a wound on the right side of her head. Her vehicle was supposed to turn left towards Gawalmandi from the Liaquat Bagh but police blocked the road from the left side and her vehicle was forced to turn right after the public meeting and she was attacked immediately after taking the right turn.

These facts were revealed in a special investigative episode of Capital Talk on Geo News on Monday night. Hamid Mir conducted the investigations and interviewed all those who were present with Benazir Bhutto in her vehicle at the time of the attack. He also interviewed some key eyewitnesses who were injured in the attack.

Benazir Bhutto also wrote an email to an American journalist, Wolf Blitzer, on October 26, 2007 before her assassination, saying Musharraf should be held responsible if she was killed. Benazir was also aware of the dangers to her life, as the Interior Ministry had already informed her about the threats to her life on December 12, 2007. But in spite of all these threats, she continued her election campaign. She said on December 26, 2007 in a public gathering in Peshawar that life should be spent like a lion, not like a jackal.

The investigative feature of Geo was based on 12 questions: 1) Why did Benazir come out of the sunroof? 2) Why was there no sufficient security on her return from the Liaquat Bagh? 3) Why was her car turned right when it had to go left? 4) Was her death caused by the lever of the vehicle or a bullet? 5) Were the firing and blast triggered by one person? 6) Did more than one person fire at Benazir? 7) Why was her autopsy not done? 8) Who ordered to wash the crime scene immediately? 9) Which direction was she shot from — left or right? 10) Are the accused arrested in her murder case the real killers? 11)

What did the government say in reply to the letter she wrote to General (retd) Musharraf, naming three persons who should be held responsible for her murder? 12) Why her last email to Wolf Blitzer was not made the basis of the investigations into her murder?

Answering the first question as to who asked her to stand out of the sunroof of her vehicle, Naheed Khan, Benazirís political secretary, and Amin Fahim, Chairman PPPP, both of whom were also present in the car, said that no one had asked her to do so. “No one asked her to do so, she just wanted to wave back to the crowd as she was very happy that day,” said Amin Fahim.

While talking about the security measures, Benazirís Protocol Officer Aslam Chaudhry, who was also injured in the blast, revealed that police had left the place quite earlier. An eyewitness Nazir Butt mentioned the weird attitude of the police that day. “A boy was moving around there holding a pistol, but the police simply ignored him,” he said.

Senator Babar Awan and Amin Fahim also talked about Benazirís concern that she had expressed on the stage for the security measures, referring to the adjoining buildings and the trees.

Ibn-e-Rizvi, the organiser of the Liaquat Bagh procession, expressed his astonishment on the change of the route. “Benazir had to turn left as the route was decided by the administration but instead her car turned right, I don’t know who ordered the change of the route,” wondered Ibn-e-Rizvi.

Aslam Chaudhry, while talking about the change of the route, said that the police had blocked the left side, which was the decided route on her return from the Liaquat Bagh. The eyewitnesses contradicted the statement of the then spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, Javed Iqbal Cheema, that Benazir was hit by the lever of her vehicle. An eyewitness, Mohammad Akhtar Saeed, revealed that he saw the person who fired at Benazir.

Raja Riaz and Tariq Saeed, both of whom lost their limbs in the tragedy, claimed that different persons were involved in the blast and firing. It was also established that the firing was not from one side. There were firing from the buildings and plazas surrounding the Liaquat Bagh, claimed Gul Bahadur Khan, another eyewitness. Ibn-e-Rizvi said shots were also fired from a water tank.

On the other hand, Lt-Gen (retd) Hamid Nawaz, former caretaker minister for interior, said that Asif Zardari had not allowed the authorities for conducting the autopsy of Benazirís body. He also refuted the claims of the eyewitnesses about any security lapse that day. “Some 1,300 police personnel were deployed, walk-through gates were installed at the entrance, bulletproof rostrum was provided and the police had cordoned off the area two days prior to the procession,” he said.

Dr Mussadiq Khan’s statement on the issue of Benazirís autopsy differed from that of Hamid Nawaz as the former said that the autopsy is done on the request of police. About washing the crime scene within a few hours of the tragedy, Dr Abdul Rehman who was the Emergency Officer of Rescue 1122, Rawalpindi on December 27, stated it was washed on the orders of SP Rawal Town Khurram Shahzad. When Khurram Shahzad was approached for his response to Dr Abdul Rehman’s statement, he did not own any such orders and so did former CPO Rawalpindi Saud Aziz.

Senator Safdar Abbasi said that Benazir had a wound on the right side, not on the left. “It might have been from the bullet of a silencer gun and Benazir had died before the blast,” said Safdar Abbasi. Dr Mussadiq Khan had also said in a press conference that she had a wound on the right side.

About the arrested accused, Shah Zeb Khan, the lawyer of accused Rasheed Ahmed, said that there were no allegations against Rasheed for Benazirís murder. ìHe was arrested for meeting a person, Bilal, who is said to be involved in the attack,î he maintained.

Naseer Tanoli, the lawyer of Aitzaz Shah, another accused, said that Aitzaz’s statement was made the basis of the case and Rafaqat and Husnain, the other two accused, were arrested on the basis of his statement. Aitzaz is just 19.

During the proceedings, Aitzaz submitted an application for juvenile trial. “Aitzaz Shah is a minor and his application for juvenile trial has already been accepted,” said Naseer Tanoli. Ibn-e-Rizvi refused to have seen any of the accused on December 27.

In reply to a question regarding Benazirís letter, the then joint secretary of interior Mohammad Anwar Khan dismissed Benazirís apprehensions which she had expressed about three persons.

Hamid Mir also contacted those three persons but only one of them agreed to speak while Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, one among the three persons, refused to speak. Lt-Gen (retd) Hameed Gul said that he had served a legal notice against Benazir after being named in the letter and presented himself for investigation. “Why Musharraf is not being interrogated who was also named by Benazir in her last email to Mark Siegel?” He asked.

Wolf Blitzer had once invited in his programme Benazirís long-time friend Mark Siegel after her assassination and he had read out Benazirís email, which stated that Musharraf should be held responsible if she was killed.

BB also announced to end the dialogue process with Musharraf in a press conference in Lahore on November 16, 2007. Furthermore, she also had differences with Musharraf over the issue of deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s restoration.

President Asif Ali Zardari had also once mentioned the 25 letters Benazirís security advisor Rehman Malik wrote to the government of the time about her security. On October 27, Rehman Malik wrote to the then secretary interior Kamal Shah about an impending attack on Benazir.

PPPP Secretary General Raja Pervez Ashraf also wrote a letter on November 22 to the secretary interior, asking for provision of appropriate security to Benazir. A letter written on November 12 by the interior ministry to Rehman Malik informed him about the likely attack on Benazir. Keeping in mind the security threats to her, the Interior Ministry on December 15 assured in a letter that there would be adequate security arrangements for Benazir.

Rehman Malik refused to speak in front of the camera when contacted by Hamid Mir. Hamid Mir concluded that the investigations into the murder would remain incomplete if General Musharraf was not questioned. But it is learnt that the government has given assurance to the head of a friendly country that no action against Musharraf will be taken and that is why the government is depending upon the UN to investigate Benazirís assassination.

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