Bhutto Assassination News

Here’s a roundup of news on the assassination death of Benazir Bhutto.

McClatchy: As deadly protests continued to rage on Pakistan’s streets, the country’s Interior Ministry said that Bhutto — buried Friday without an autopsy — had died after she was thrown against the lever of her car’s sunroof, fracturing her skull.

Initially, the government had said that flying shrapnel killed Bhutto, 54, after a shooting and suicide bombing as she left a political rally in the city of Rawalpindi.

The Australian: Ms Bhutto, 54, began her day meeting party leaders to plan the campaign for parliamentary elections, scheduled for January 8 but now thrown into doubt. Backed by the US, she had hoped to win a third term as prime minister, restoring democratic rule after President Pervez Musharraf’s resignation as army chief last month.

After talking tactics with senior aides, she met Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the end of his two-day visit to Pakistan. Ms Bhutto told Mr Karzai that if elected again, she would work with him to fight the Taliban and al-Qa’ida militants who are sheltering in northwestern Pakistan and who have repeatedly threatened to kill her.

Muhammed Salman, a senior member of the PPP, said he was standing a few dozen metres from her vehicle when he heard the blast.

“When I turned around there were lots of people lying dead in the roads,” he said. “I thought our vehicle had left safely and that she would be safe. Then I got back to the hotel and realised what had happened.”

Other witnesses gave conflicting accounts as shocked bystanders and emergency workers carried the dead and injured from the blast site. In the confusion, party officials originally said that Ms Bhutto had escaped unhurt. But within minutes they announced she had been wounded and was in surgery, and half an hour later a PPP official, Rehman Malik, broke the news of her death.

Huffington Post has slides of skull x-rays purported to be from Ms Bhutto.

The Raw Story: More alarming, however, to Bhutto supporters was the fact no autopsy was conducted prior to burial. The official line — according to Pakistan’s interim prime minister Mohammadmian Soomro — was that Bhutto’s husband had insisted no autopsy be performed.

But according to veteran lawyer Athar Minallah who spoke to McClatchy Newspapers Friday, “an autopsy is mandatory under Pakistan’s criminal law in a case of this nature.”

“It is absurd, because without autopsy it is not possible to investigate,” Minallah told McClatchy’s Saeed Shah and Warren Strobel in a little publicized piece. “Is the state not interested in reaching the perpetrators of this heinous crime or there was a cover-up?”

Autopsies are generally not conducted in Islam unless ordered by a court, because the religion calls for burial as quickly as possible. It’s unclear whether Bhutto’s circumstances would have warranted an exception.

According to the reporters, “the scene of the attack also was watered down with a high-pressure hose within an hour, washing away evidence.”

Excite News: The disputes were sure to further enflame the violence and have led to calls for an international, independent investigation into the attack.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that an international probe was vital because there was “no reason to trust the Pakistani government,” while others called for a U.N. investigation.

Cheema dismissed the suggestion.

“This is not an ordinary criminal matter in which we require assistance of the international community. I think we are capable of handling it,” he said. An independent judicial investigation should be completed within seven days of the appointment of its presiding judge, he said….

The government blamed the attack on Baitullah Mehsud, head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban, a newly formed coalition of Islamic militants along the Afghan border believed to be linked to al-Qaida and committed to waging holy war against the government.

But a spokesman for Mehsud, Maulana Mohammed Umer, dismissed the allegations as “government propaganda.”

“We strongly deny it. Baitullah Mehsud is not involved in the killing of Benazir Bhutto,” he said in a telephone call he made to The Associated Press from the tribal region of South Waziristan. “The fact is that we are only against America, and we don’t consider political leaders of Pakistan our enemy.”

Bhutto’s aides said they, too, doubted Mehsud was involved and accused the government of a cover-up.

“The story that al-Qaida or Baitullah Mehsud did it appears to us to be a planted story, an incorrect story, because they want to divert the attention,” said Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for Bhutto’s party.

And finally, this interesting bit…

Authorities initially said Bhutto died from bullet wounds. A surgeon who treated her later said the impact from shrapnel on her skull killed her.

But Cheema said Friday that Bhutto was killed when the shockwaves from the bomb smashed her head into the sunroof as she tried to duck back inside the vehicle.

Bhutto’s spokeswoman Sherry Rehman, who was in the vehicle that rushed her boss to the hospital, disputed that.

“She was bleeding profusely, as she had received a bullet wound in her neck. My car was full of blood. Three doctors at the hospital told us that she had received bullet wounds. I was among the people who gave her a final bath. We saw a bullet wound in the back of her neck,” she said. “What the government is saying is actually dangerous and nonsensical. They are pouring salt on our wounds. There are no findings, they are just lying.”

Cheema stood by the government’s version of events, and said Bhutto’s party was free to exhume her body for an autopsy.

What a disgusting and transparent spectacle. Will there be justice for Benazir Bhutto?

16 thoughts on “Bhutto Assassination News

  1. I’m doubtful that any forensic evidence would be of any use in catching the people who masterminded Bhutto’s murder – if anyone even did mastermind it.

    The specific cause of death is probably immaterial to the case. Her attackers used firearms and explosives. Some part of that killed her. Her attackers are dead and can’t be interrogated. 😦

    To me it seems a truly sick political dog & pony show at this point.

  2. “I’m doubtful that any forensic evidence would be of any use in catching the people who masterminded Bhutto’s murder…”

    wow… never seen CSI? How about the three different “official” versions of the cause of death?

    Don’t you think it’s odd that several witnesses claim that the police stationed at the rally that had been checking people as they entered, left some 30 minutes before Bhutto was to leave…right through the crowd?

  3. “The specific cause of death is probably immaterial to the case. Her attackers used firearms and explosives.”

    Bullet fragments can be traced to manufacturers and so can the explosive residues as well as the detinator parts and even the casing materials.

    You see, that’s called an “investigation” and that is usually what happens when you want to find out what “really” happened.

  4. I am surprized ZZ that with all this info on the Bhutto case, you left out my little offering about Rice setting up Bhutto’s return and then not helping to provide security like they do in many countries for many different diplomats.

  5. willyman,

    The specific or forensic cause of death is fairly unimportant in this case because we know who specifically killed her and how it was done. Which of the lethal forces actually caused Bhutto’s death don’t matter.

    Since the scene was littered with evidence, the investigation can still move forward, with a focus on who was behind it rather than did bullet, shrapnel or radical impact trauma end Bhutto’s life.

    If I’ve been told the truth, Bhutto’s stop was unplanned. That implies that either her security force was in contact with the attackers or that this was actually a random attack that just happened to get lucky. Either option will make the investigation harder.

  6. “Which of the lethal forces actually caused Bhutto’s death don’t matter.”
    – wrong – forensic experts can tell alot about materials after they are blown up. Was it military grade explosives? Where did they get the ball-bearings? How about the bullets? Where were they from? All of this goes a long way to determining who killed Bhutto and who planned it. Because they are the ones you want… since the triggermen are dead.

    “Since the scene was littered with evidence, the investigation can still move forward…”
    – wrong – (you would think this would be the case, huh. But in fact, they police came in and hosed down the street for a few hours right afterward… Google it.)

    “If I’ve been told the truth, Bhutto’s stop was unplanned.”
    – wrong – At the location, Police had been set up around the perimeter checking people as they came in. They had been there for awhile. That doesn’t happen when someone stops at a Quik-E-Mart to get a hotdog.

    “That implies that either her security force was in contact with the attackers…”
    – RIGHT – Bhutto herself included the Head of Pakistan’s security forces on a short list of people she didn’t trust and thought may have been behind her last attempted assassination. Witnesses say that they were pulled off the location 30 minutes before the attack. They stopped checking people. That fits with the hosing off evidence from the street facts as well.

  7. I agree with you, willy. The actual cause of death does matter. Was she actually hit by the bullets? If so, then she was the likely target of those bullets, and that modus operandi does not match the typical al Qaeda suicide-bombing. In fact, two bullets to the head is a tactic I normally associate with professional assassins or military special ops-type forces.

    And her security walked off the job right before the assassination, leaving one to wonder who ordered them to do that.

    I also agree that while we should all assume that someone is innocent until proven guilty, Musharref is the prime suspect in this murder, and he should be prevented from using his office to cover up the details of his involvement with this incident. (This includes the reduction in security that he allowed her and any orders he gave to her security detail.) Musharref is the prime suspect and his denials have zero credibility. And screw this nonsense of treating him like he’s a legitimate head of state, when he overthrew a democratically-elected government to take over the country. He should be treated like the criminal he is.

    “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” (*)

    Sound familiar? Why are we making a distinction in the case of Musharref? He has admitted that he is helping to harbor bin Laden, who Bush claims is responsible for the 9/11 attacks. (The FBI doesn’t think there’s enough evidence to link UBL to the attacks, which is why there is no mention of them on their Most Wanted list.) But Bush has made it clear that UBL is the bad guy here, so why is he letting Musharref harbor him?

    (*)– George W. Bush, 9/20/01

  8. “…when he overthrew a democratically-elected government to take over the country.”

    Twice! He took over in the first place in a coup.

  9. “But Bush has made it clear that UBL is the bad guy here, so why is he letting Musharref harbor him?”

    Did you see the video where Bhutto says OBL is dead? She says it in passing like it was common knowledge and David Frost doesn’t even follow up on the statement.

    As if, in certain circles, this is just “yesterdays news”.

  10. willyloman,

    Almost all of the armed groups in the Pakistani region get the equipment from the same producers – though through differing suppliers one hopes. Because of that the evidence would be highly inconclusive.

    Assuming the accuracy of the reports on the security force’s behavior, it’s fairly obvious that they were in collusion with the attacker. The “sweeping” of the site further points in that direction. This is not that much of a surprise since the ISI and other groups within the government were “compromised” a long time ago.

  11. “This is not that much of a surprise since the ISI and other groups within the government were “compromised” a long time ago.”

    See? Now we are getting someplace. However, tracing the registration of the firearm used or even the origin of the detinator may go along way in bringing that “compromised” system to a crashing halt. That is, after all, the purpose of an investigation and the hopeful outcome of the pursuit of “justice”. Of course, these may be pipe dreams in Pakistan right now.

    But certainly calling for an investigation is neither a waste of time nor it is pointless. Bhutto may not have been perfect, but she deserves at least an attempt at justice to be made on her behalf. As do we all.

  12. I never said calling for an investigation is a waste of time – quite the contrary in fact. I’d like the focus to be on who ordered it though, not what specific thing killed Bhutto. I think the “Cause Of Death” debacle is a well laid smokescreen designed to distract from the real issue.

    I think that I have failed to communicate effectively. Sorry if there’s been confusion engendered by me.

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