Nirupama Subramanian

PPP ready to cooperate but wants wider investigation under U.N. auspices

ISLAMABAD: Detectives from Britain’s Scotland Yard began their investigation into the assassination of the former Pakistan Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, with a visit to Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh, the site of the December 27 gun and bomb attack that killed her.

The five-man team made a detailed examination of the site and took a number of photographs. Earlier, the Interior Ministry gave them a briefing about the investigation so far.

Caretaker Interior Minister Lt. General (retd.) Hamid Nawaz said the government would extend “maximum cooperation” to the British detectives and give them all available evidence, including videos and photographs.

He told Dawn News television that the government would not try to influence the investigation.

The detectives were also expected to meet the doctors who tried to revive Benazir at the Rawalpindi General Hospital. The report by the doctors spoke of only one wound on the right side of her head, contradicting amateur video footage showing her being shot from the left side, and also testimony by those who saw her body that she had a bullet wound on her left neck.

Third assignment

This was reportedly the third time that Scotland Yard detectives had been called in by Pakistan to investigate a high-profile killing.

The first was in 1951, after the assassination of the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, at the same venue as Benazir. Khan was shot dead during a meeting in the park, which was then renamed after him, while Benazir fell to an assassin just outside its gates as she left after the rally.

But the British detective called in at that time left soon afterwards, and his report on the killing was not made public.

The second time Scotland Yard came in was to investigate the gunning down of Benazir’s brother Mir Murtaza in 1996 outside his Karachi home.

She was the Prime Minister then, but dismissed three months later by President Farooq Leghari.

The British investigators left shortly thereafter without completing their assignment.

The Pakistan People’s Party had said it would cooperate with Scotland Yard, but maintained that what it wanted was not a police inquiry but a wider investigation by an international commission under the auspices of the United Nations to uncover the “political conspiracy” behind the killing.

Writing in Saturday’s Washington Post, Benazir’s husband Asif Ali Zardari said people responsible for her killing “within and outside government” must be held accountable.

“I call on the United Nations to commence a thorough investigation of the circumstances, facts and cover-up of my wife’s murder, modelled on the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al Hariri,” he wrote.

But a report in the same newspaper said that kind of investigation was unlikely. UN lawyers had advised Secretary General Ban-ki-Moon that he could act only on a request by the Pakistani government or the Security Council.

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