Scotland Yard Brought in For Bhutto Murder Probe But With Limited Scope


By Tariq Butt

ISLAMABAD: The government move to invite foreign detectives to get to the bottom of a high profile political assassination (of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto) came a bit too late, though outsiders’ close collaboration with Pakistan in netting terrorists exists since the 9/11 episode.

In the words of an official, the scope of success in the probe that a small team of Scotland Yard sleuths will conduct is limited in view of the evaporation of most of the vital evidence, which was usually available immediately after the occurrence of the crime.

A senior police officer told this correspondent that the British investigators’ probe would be mainly limited to close sophisticated dissection and scrutiny of video tapes, which captured the terrorist action to some extent. They would be using special gadgets for the purpose, he said.

“When the crime scene has been washed away and there is no autopsy of the assassinated leader, not much has been left for the British police to investigate,” the officer said. The government was prepared to carry out Benazir Bhutto’s post-mortem, but her spouse, Asif Zardari, had refused the permission.

However, the officer said that of utmost interest for the foreign detectives would be a session with the panel of doctors that treated Benazir Bhutto at the Rawalpindi General Hospital where she was brought from the Liaquat Bagh attack.

He said the investigation would be considered incomplete if the Scotland Yard did not have a meeting with Zardari whose briefing could be useful for them. Asif Zardari and his Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have expressed no-confidence in the involvement of the British police and instead demanded investigation by a United Nations panel.

The last important political murder of Pakistan that the Scotland Yard probed was the 1951 assassination of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan which took place at the same venue then known as the Company Bagh; however, its report never saw the light of the day.

The officer said the British investigators would meet a number of senior officials, including Superintendent of Police Maj (retd) Imtiaz, who was deputed for Benazir’s security on her demand, and several Rawalpindi policemen, who were on duty at the time of the tragedy.

One of the apparent objectives of inviting the Scotland Yard is to assuage the public ire, particularly the PPP, and signaling the government’s intention of holding a just probe leading to the arrest of killers.

President Pervez Musharraf has declared that those named in a letter written to him by the slain PPP chairperson (which was made public by the PPP later) following the terrorist attack on her welcome reception in Karachi on Oct 18 would not be allowed to be questioned by the Scotland Yard.

Her naming of the senior most leader of the PML-Q had ignited an intense war of words between the Chaudhrys of Gujrat and her. The other day Musharraf said the question that he had “blood on his hands” was “below my dignity”, but he wanted to give a public answer in any case.

“I am not a feudal, and I am not a tribal. I have been brought up in a very educated and civilized family with beliefs and values, which believes in character. My family by any imagination is not a family, which believes in killing people, assassinating, intriguing. That is all that I want to say.”

Scotland Yard is globally known for its professional excellence. Of interest may be the fact that its name was derived from its headquarters’ original location on Great Scotland Yard, a street off Whitehall in London.

The exact origins of this name are unknown, though popular explanations include: that it had once been the site of a diplomatic mission owned by the kings of Scotland prior to the Union of England and Scotland; that the street was owned by a man called Scott during the Middle Ages; or that stagecoaches bound to Scotland once departed from the street.

This piece appeared in The News (Pakistan).