Nirupama Subramanian

‘But we do not reject the whole Scotland Yard report’

Scotland Yard was working with limitations on their terms of reference

‘Critical evidence destroyed at blast site’

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) said on Friday that the Scotland Yard report on the cause of Benazir Bhutto’s death had increased its determination to press for an international investigation into the killing, and that it may even hire international private investigators to carry out its own probe.

“The PPP has said that she died of a bullet injury but we do not reject the whole [Scotland Yard] report until we see it fully,” the party’s central information secretary Sherry Rehman said.

The Scotland Yard report, an executive summary of which was released by the Pakistan government and the British High Commission here, said Benazir was killed after hitting her head on the lip of the car’s escape hatch from the force of the bomb blast during the December 27 attack on her in Rawalpindi.

Ms. Rehman said while the PPP had provided full co-operation to the Scotland Yard detectives, “we have always maintained that they are working with limitations on their terms of reference in Pakistan.”

The terms of reference extended only as far as ascertaining the cause and circumstances of Benazir’s death. The Scotland Yard in its report said the “the wider investigation to establish culpability has remained entirely a matter for the Pakistani authorities.”

The PPP spokesperson said that critical evidence had been destroyed with the hosing down of the blast site, and the British detectives were limited to working under the aegis of the local police.

“The PPP will continue its pursuit of an international investigation under the auspices of the United Nations as we are seeking more than the cause of death itself. We are seeking a larger probe into the hidden hands that organised, financed, sponsored and perpetrated this event. The party may also seek the services of private international investigators to assist us in this probe,” Ms. Rehman said.

The Scotland Yard report said an examination of the vehicle, and a detailed analysis of the media footage provided supporting evidence to the pathologist’s conclusion that the cause of Benazir’s death was an impact wound from the force of the bomb blast.

Analysing footage

Benazir’s car was fitted with B6 grade armour, and what has been “misleadingly” referred to as a sun-roof was in fact the escape hatch of the vehicle. This is where she was standing and waving to her supporters when the attack took place.

Analysing the video footage, the report says Benazir’s head did not completely disappear from view until 0.6 seconds before the blast.

“She can be seen moving forward and to the right as she ducked down into the vehicle. Whilst her exact head position at the time of the detonation can never be ascertained, the overwhelming conclusion must be that she did not succeed in getting her head entirely below the lip of the escape hatch when the explosion occurred,” the report says.

According to the report, she was thrown against the lip of the escape hatch by the force generated by the velocity – 6,000 to 9,000 mts. per second -- at which the high explosives typically used in such bombings detonate.

“…considering the explosive quantities and distances involved, such an explosion would generate significantly more force than would be necessary to provoke the consequences as occurred in this case,” the report said.

Bullet injury ruled out

Additional Inspector-General of Punjab Abdul Lateef who released the executive summary of the report to the press, said shots had been fired too from a .30 bore pistol, but the Scotland Yard report said this was not the cause of her head injury. A bullet injury to her lower trunk was also ruled out as this part of her body was protected by the armoured car.

But the British Home office pathologist who participated in the investigation has said that in the absence of a post mortem or a CT Scan, he would not conclusively rule out a bullet wound to either Benazir’s neck or her upper trunk. At the same time, he said even if a bullet had hit her, it was irrelevant, as it was the head injury that had caused her death.

Meanwhile, in what is being described by the government as a significant breakthrough in the investigation of the case, two suspects were arrested from Rawalpindi on Thursday. Mr. Lateef said the men, named Hasnain and Rafaqat, were “facilitators” to the December 27 suicide bomber.

The arrests followed those of two others last month, including a 15-year-old named Aitezaz, who reportedly told the police that he was a back-up suicide bomber during the December 27 attack. His suspected handler, identified as Sher Zaman, was also arrested with him.