What more can be said about Benazir’s death? The statement that she died by hitting her head on the sunroof of her car is preposterous.
Yesterday, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported that Benazir died from a severe wound to her left temple, from which brain matter was oozing.
The American television network, ABC, showed video (now posted on its website — see sidebar on this page here) of Benazir’s last moments in which, as the anchor explains, three gunshots are clearly audible.
(ABC says the video was shown at the press conference given by Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior — in which the preposterous hitting-her-head-on-the-sunroof theory was advanced.)
Angry Arab wrote today that “The brilliant Interior Minister of Pakistan said that Bhutto died from hitting her head against the car roof, but in the same press conference it was said that Al-Qa`idah killed her. So are we being told that somebody from al-Qa`idah pushed her head against the car, now that the death is thus explained?” See his 29 December post here.
An anonymous Pakistani journalist wrote in The Guardian’s Comment is Free today that: “I spoke with some of the house owners [in Rawalpindi] about the incident. ‘Political rallies are apt to happen around these parts, and the police always ask us if they can depute officers from our roof to survey the situation. They didn’t this time. When I asked them about it prior to BB’s arrival, they told me to stay inside and bolt my gate‘, one resident told me. The former chief of the ISI Hamid Gul spoke on a segment on Dawn News TV, where he asked, rhetorically, why the scene of the assassination washed out and cleaned up before forensics were allowed to assess it. Even within the supposedly monolithic intelligence agency there are ongoing questions and dissent being voiced. Where does that leave us? Pakistan’s Interior Ministry held a press conference on Friday night, stating the official government line about the assassination. They said Benazir was killed after smashing her head on her car’s sunroof while trying to duck, and that no bullet or shrapnel was found inside her. This statement was delivered by spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema, who was dripping with sweat when journalists at the press conference began needling his statements. Cheema boasted that the government had intercepted a telephone conversation between tribal leader Baitullah Masood and an Al Qaeda militant, in which Masood congratulated him on the killing. Journalists were skeptical. If the conversation could so easily be intercepted afterwards, why couldn’t they have been intercepted earlier? And to what extent does Pakistan’s intelligence agency maintain links with Taliban and Baitullah Masood? Both of these questions were posed, to which Cheema robustly recited that we should trust our military intelligence agencies upon which the rest of the world depends. ‘Rest of the world’, in this case, must mean America. And it’s very convenient for this government to blame the assassination on Islamic terrorists. When local governments were faced with student agitation about the state of emergency, or striking farmers organising in Okara, local police were quick to charge activists with terrorism. There is a pattern of this administration trying to invoke terrorism whenever its legitimacy is challenged locally or abroad”.
Comment from SharifL: “…All political assassinations in Pakistan remain inexplicable since the truth about them has never been investigated or investigated but not made public. Most of the conservative Muslims, and I include AlQuida and taliban in this group, consider it a hideous act to kill women. Subjugate them, treat them differently is acceptable, in fact not uncommon, but not killing. Sherry Rehman, a leader of PPP, and a woman, has countered the Government claim that BB died of bomb blast. Sherry says she was sitting next to Bb and saw two bullets hitting her neck and head. If this is true then it shows that the protection given to Benazir was not sufficient. My question is this: You see a guy, or may be more than one, take out a gun, aim at Bb and shoot. Any nobody from the security was able to stop it and for them it is easier to deny this, since this might show that either the agencies were involved or the protection was not there. I do not want to start the blame game, but the fact is when I saw the street where it took place, being washed and blood cleared a few hours after the ac, i knew the investigation will not get anywhere”. The article and the comment on it from SharifL are posted here.
THe McClatchy newspaper group is reporting that “In Pakistan, the shifting government explanations and Bhutto’s burial without autopsy aroused suspicion. Babar Awan, a senior official of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, said of the sunroof theory: ‘That is a false claim’. He said he’d seen her body after the attack and there were at least two bullet marks, one in the neck and one on the top of the head: ‘It was a targeted, planned killing. The firing was from more than one side’. Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister, Mohammadmian Soomro, told the Cabinet that Bhutto’s husband had insisted on no autopsy. But according to a leading lawyer, Athar Minallah, 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. Is the state not interested in reaching the perpetrators of this heinous crime or there was a cover-up?’ Minallah said. The scene of the attack also was watered down with a high-pressure hose within an hour, washing away evidence”. This McClatchy report is published here.
Another McClatchy story reported that: “The election rally had been long and lackluster, but on viewing the crowd gathered at the gates of Liaquat Bagh park, Bhutto turned to her deputy, Amin Fahim, and said she wanted to wave, Fahim recounted. The sunroof was opened and she stood up. Three to five shots were fired at her, witnesses said. She was hit in the neck and slumped back in the vehicle. Blood poured from her head, and she never regained consciousness. Moments after the shooting, there was a huge explosion to the left of the vehicle. Witnesses said that Bhutto’s bodyguards pounced on the assassin, who then blew himself up, shredding those around him. Ambulance crews collected pieces of flesh from the scene. The road turned red with pools of blood. I was standing near the rally stage, about 30 to 40 yards away from the scene of the shooting. There was pandemonium. On hearing the shots, I started running toward the scene. Then came the explosion … The assassination occurred in this garrison city housing the headquarters of the Pakistan army, an institution that has always seemed opposed to Bhutto. A couple of miles away across Rawalpindi, a previous military regime had executed her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s first democratically elected prime minister, in 1979, when she was 26. Police officers had frisked the 3,000 to 4,000 people attending Thursday’s rally when they entered the park, but as the speakers from Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party droned on, the police abandoned many of their posts. As she drove out through the gate, her main protection appeared to be her own bodyguards, who wore their usual white T-shirts inscribed: ‘Willing to die for Benazir’.” This report is published here.
But — suppose that the assassin (who could hardly be an assassin if Benazir died by hitting her head on the a lever in the sunroof of the car, he would merely then be an assailant) did not blow himself up — suppose he was blown up, as a cover-up?
A story in Counterpunch noted that “She had been addressing an election rally in Liaquat Bagh. This is a popular space named after the country’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, who was killed by an assassin in 1953. The killer, Said Akbar, was immediately shot dead on the orders of a police officer involved in the plot“. This account is posted here.
The Associated Press reported today that “Bhutto’s spokeswoman Sherry Rehman, who was in the vehicle with her boss, disputed the government’s version. ‘To hear that Ms. Bhutto fell from an impact from a bump on a sunroof is absolutely rubbish. It is dangerous nonsense, because it implies there was no assassination attempt’, she told the BBC. ‘There was a clear bullet wound at the back of the neck. It went in one direction and came out another’, she said. ‘My entire car is coated with her blood, my clothes, everybody — so she did not concuss her head against the sun roof’. The government said it was forming two inquiries into Bhutto’s death, one to be carried out by a high court judge and another by security forces”. This AP report can be seen here.