By Tariq Butt
ISLAMABAD: The report of the UN fact-finding commission says the then Rawalpindi City Police Officer (CPO), Saud Aziz, had ordered to hose down the scene of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination at the Liaquat Bagh on the order of the chief of the Military Intelligence of the time, Major General Nadeem Ijaz, who was not only a relative of Pervez Musharraf but also a known crony of the former dictator.
The report lays a lot of blame on Saud Aziz on different counts, especially washing of the crime scene and lack of autopsy. He was posted as the CPO Multan immediately after the present government came to power.
The commission attached a great significance to the washing of the crime scene to eliminate the evidence that could have proved tremendously useful in investigations into the assassination.
At one place, the report said, the then Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lieutenant General Nadeem Taj met Benazir Bhutto in the early morning hours of December 27 at the Zardari House Islamabad. It said that directly knowledgeable sources told the commission that they spoke both about the elections as well as threats to her life; versions differ as to how much detail was conveyed about the threats. The commission is satisfied that at the least the ISI chief told Benazir Bhutto that the agency was concerned about a possible terrorist attack against her and urged her to limit her public exposure and to keep a low profile at the campaign event at the Liaquat Bagh later that day.
According to the findings, another source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Saud Aziz was ordered to hose down the scene by the then MI chief.
The report said that an ISI officer, Rawalpindi Detachment Commander Colonel Jehangir Akhtar, was present at the RGH through much of the evening. At one point, ISI deputy chief Major General Nusrat Naeem, contacted senior physician Prof Mussadiq through Colonel Jehangir’s cell phone. When asked about this by the commission, Nusrat Naeem initially denied making any calls to the hospital, but then acknowledged that he had indeed called when pressed further. He asserted that he had made the call, before reporting to his superiors, to hear, directly from Prof Mussadiq that Benazir Bhutto had died.
The commission said sources informed it that Saud Aziz did not act independently in deciding to hose down the crime scene. One source, on condition of anonymity, said the CPO had confided to him that he had received a call from the Army Headquarters instructing him to order the hosing down of the crime scene.
Others, including three police officials, told the commission that Saud Aziz did not act independently and that “everyone knows” who ordered the hosing down. However, they were not willing to state on the record what it is that “everyone knows”. This is one of the many occasions during the commission’s inquiry when individuals, including government officials, expressed fear or hesitation to speak openly, the report said.
It said that on three different occasions, senior Physician Professor Mussadiq of the RGH, where Benazir Bhutto was brought from the Liaquat Bagh, asked Saud Aziz for permission to conduct her autopsy, and the CPO refused each request. On the second request, Saud Aziz is reported to have sarcastically asked the professor whether an FIR had been filed, a matter that the CPO should know, not the professor.
The report said that the then District Coordination Officer of Rawalpindi Irfan Elahi (now a senior Punjab government official), who was also present outside the operating room of the RGH, supported the CPO’s position. The authorities, however, deny that the CPO deliberately refused to allow an autopsy. They insist that they wanted to get permission from Benazir Bhutto’s family. However, the commission said the police’s legal duty to request an autopsy does not require permission from a family member.
It said that because Prof Mussadiq could not obtain police consent to carry out an autopsy, he called in X-ray technician Ghafoor Jadd, who took two X-rays of her skull with a portable X-ray machine. He did this without notifying or seeking Saud Aziz’s consent. Though not present at the time, a radiologist examined the X-rays the next day. Benazir Bhutto’s death certificate was completed and signed by the senior registrar, Dr Aurangzeb, who recorded the cause of death as “To be determined on autopsy”.
The report said that soon after the blast outside the Liaquat Bagh the CPO left the crime scene for the RGH; SSP Yaseen Farooq followed shortly thereafter. The most senior Rawalpindi police official remaining at the crime scene was SP Khurram Shahzad, who continued to take instructions from Saud Aziz by telephone. The management of the crime scene and the collection of evidence by the Rawalpindi police during this time have generated considerable controversy.
The commission said that senior Pakistani police officials explained to it that in law and practice, the ranking police official at the scene of the crime takes decisions relating to crime scene management. SP Khurram asserted that he made the decision to hose down the scene. Before issuing the order to the rescue and fire services, Khurram called his superior, Saud Aziz, to seek permission, which was granted. Sources, including police officials familiar with the case, questioned the veracity of SP Khurram’s claim that the decision was his initiative.
The report said Saud Aziz’s role in this decision is controversial. Many senior Pakistani police officials have emphasised that hosing down a crime scene is fundamentally inconsistent with Pakistani police practice. While they acknowledge that there is no uniformity of practice in crime scene management in Pakistan, the washing of such a place is considered extraordinary. Indeed, with the exception of some Rawalpindi police officials, nearly all senior Pakistani police officials have criticised the manner in which this crime scene was managed. One senior police official argued that hosing down the crime scene amounted to “criminal negligence”.
According to the commission, several senior police officials who know the CPO were troubled that an officer with his 33 years of experience would allow a major crime scene to be washed away, thereby damaging his reputation.
The report said that some senior Pakistani police officials identified further factors suggesting that the CPO was not acting independently. They point out that, while the deliberate hosing down of a scene is unheard of in police practice, it has occurred on a few occasions, in each case when the military has been the target of such attacks and the crime scene was managed by the military directly.
Even Saud Aziz, the commission said, when asserting to it that there were precedents for hosing down a crime scene, acknowledged that all the incidents which he posited as precedents actually involved a military target. The police officials who point out this pattern saw it as further indication that the military was involved in having the crime scene hosed down.
The report said since the extraordinary nature of the hosing down of the crime scene generated such controversy that Punjab government officials recognised that some response was necessary. A three-member inquiry committee was set up by the chief minister to look into the washing down of the crime scene. The commission requested meetings with these individuals, which the facilitation committee was not able to arrange. No credible reason was provided. However, the committee accepted the Rawalpindi police explanation that the decision to wash the crime scene was formed by the investigating police officer at the scene, SP Khurram, with permission from CPO Saud Aziz, on grounds of public order. The committee had further found that the decision was not made with any mala fide intention and that washing the crime scene did not negatively impact on the conclusion as to the cause of death.
The commission said Benazir Bhutto’s Land Cruiser was initially taken to the City Police Station some time after midnight early on December 28 and then taken to the Police Lines. In the early hours of December 28, Saud Aziz went to see the Police Lines, together with others, including ISI officers, who were the first to conduct a forensic examination of the vehicle. An investigating police officer on the orders of the CPO removed Benazir Bhutto’s shoes and took them to the City Police Station. Sometime thereafter, the shoes were ordered back into the car.
The report said the commission is not convinced that the decision to wash the scene was made by Saud Aziz alone. The attack was too significant and its target too important to Pakistani society to make such a decision solely on his level.
“Sources told the commission that CPO Saud Aziz was constantly talking on his mobile phone while at the hospital. In the commission’s view, he has not adequately explained who called him during that time. Other sources have provided credible information about the intervention of intelligence agencies in the case. Whoever was responsible for this decision, and for whatever reason, acted in a manner that is contrary to the most basic police standards and hampered the proper investigation of the assassination,” the report said.
The report said the lack of a clear cause of death established by an autopsy severely affected the credibility of the government among the general public and has given rise to wide speculation as to the cause of Benazir Bhutto’s death. CPO Saud Aziz again appears in a setting in which he seems to have been able to impede the effective investigation of the crime. Again, it is unlikely that a police officer of his level could make such significant and ultimately destructive decisions on his own and wield such power. He maintains that he did not deny any requests for an autopsy.
Furthermore, it said, the CPO impeded some Joint Investigation Team investigators from conducting on-site probe until two full days after the assassination. The failure of Punjab authorities to otherwise review effectively the gross failures of the senior Rawalpindi police officials and deal with them appropriately constitutes a broader whitewash by Punjab officials.
The commission said the deliberate prevention by the CPO of a post mortem examination of Benazir Bhutto hindered a definitive determination of the cause of her death. It was patently unrealistic for the CPO to expect that Asif Zardari would allow an autopsy on his arrival in Pakistan at the Chaklala Airbase nearly seven hours after his wife’s death and after her remains had been placed in a coffin and brought to the airport. The autopsy should have been carried out at the RGH long before Zardari arrived.
Note that the purpose of UN commission was fact-finding not fixing the responsibility.
1) Why Musharraf was given a safe exit when even PPP workers think he was responsible for BB’s murder? Was it due to the fact that Mr. Zardari was one of the beneficiaries or it was due to some pressure?
2) Why the key responsible persons continued to work on their positions without proper accountability during the government of PPP including interior ministry officers, police officers, intelligence agency officers including former DG MI Nadeem Ijaz, former ISI head and Vice Army Chief General Kiyani?
3) Kiyani is now Army Chief and was representing Musharraf during NRO deal. Will he allow further investigation on the role of ISI, MI,Musharraf and Kiyani himself?
4) In Rehman Malik’s car, two other persons were also sitting. These two persons are Babar Awan and Musharraf’s close friend and former Core Commander Mangla Lt. General (R) Tauqir Zia(who was also the Chairman PCB during Musharraf time). Will some probe them for their role and negligence?
5) Why the government of Pakistan delayed UN Commission Report for 15 days (till 15th April 2010)? Even though UN Commission didn’t conduct any new interview after 31st March 2010 as opposite to the government’s claim that the Commission is requested to conduct few interviews. Rehman Malik even yesterday revised the same claim.
6) Will this murder go into the dustbin of Waziristan or some serious investigations will be done to investigate this high-profile murder?
Lets see if millions of dollars invested by a poor nation on this report will be of any use or not?
I hope some serious and independent investigation and trial will be conducted for this murder.
9 ) Commission didn’t find evidence against Asif Zardari’s and any of the family members’ involvement in this murder.
Imran says he got positive response from Taliban–>We support this initiative from Imran Khan and demand the government and urge the people to honestly support it.
At last someone from politicians finally volunteered for the cause of peace in Pakistan. We cannot expect any good from parliamentarians, government, army or agencies to work for the cause of peace because it will not serve their greed and lust for power.
People like Imran Khan , other leaders from PTI and Jamat e Islami,Ulemas who are trusted by tribesmen and other religious and political figures need to make a joint effort for this cause and this should be backed by the trust of Pakistani people and government.
Army and agencies shouldn’t try to deceive the people this time as they have already created a huge mess just for dollars and to serve their imperialist masters.
We support this initiative from Imran Khan and demand the government and urge the people to honestly support it.
We need to get out of this war against humanity and peace, we are already too late and cannot afford more damage.
We oppose the killings of innocent people in army actions, suicide bombings or in any other way.
Imran says he got positive response from Taliban
By Ansar Abbasi
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf chief Imran Khan, who on Wednesday offered his services and even showed the willingness to go to the tribal areas to get the mounting terrorism issue resolved through political dialogue, got encouraging response from the Taliban side. His appeal, however, seems to have fallen on the governmentís deaf ears.
The cricket hero-turned-social worker, Imran Khan, told The News on Thursday that after his Wednesday’s press conference, he was contacted by some important Taliban groups, who posed their full confidence in him for political solution of the problem. Khan said that no one from the government side contacted him though.
Imran Khan on Wednesday volunteered to mediate between the government and the Taliban leadership to bring peace, claiming that the menace of terrorism was bound to grow because of the military operation in South Waziristan and in the absence of a political solution.
In his press conference, he had said that if the government gave him the mandate, he was willing to travel to the tribal areas and elsewhere to negotiate peace. His only pre-condition to mediation between the two sides was that the government would not let the US-pressure to ruin his peace efforts like the past.
While some people believe the government has no political strategy to address the issue and is entirely dependent on the military operation that has allegedly aggravated the problem, Imran has taken a bold step amidst great chances that he would be dubbed pro-Taliban by confused Pakistanis and arrogant foreigners.
Imran Khan got an encouraging reaction from some Taliban leaders. Khan said that he was now even considering convening an all parties conference (APC) on the issue. Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur Rehman Group) are also opposed to the military operation and seek a political solution to the problem by revisiting Pakistanís policy on the US war on terror, formulating an independent foreign policy and bringing an immediate halt to the military operation in the tribal areas, particularly South Waziristan.
Although, Maulana Fazlur Rehman is not appearing in the media these days, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Professor Munawar Hasan has become vocal in his opposition to the military operation. Interestingly, the PML-N is also not supportive of the present military operation but it lacks the guts to public its demand a political solution to terrorism. However, the party is not making its views public amid reports that it does not want to irritate Washington that is today quite pleased with the party and its top leadership.
In this situation, Imran Khanís daring initiative to do what others are shy to do, is expected to bring pressure on all other pro-dialogue parties, including the PML-N, the JI and the JUI(F) to sit together and chalk out a strategy where the government could be pressurised to save its innocents, whether in the tribal areas or in settled areas of Pakistan from being killed.
Recent attack in the Parade Lane mosque Rawalpindi which is one of the most secured areas of the country taking lives of dozens of people and then the drone attack by USA forces in our northern part of country taking lives of 50 people are calling for a serious revision of our foreign and security policies especially with respect to this American lead war against humanity and peace or so called war against terror.
Whether innocent people are dying in drone attacks, military operations or suicide bombings the historical fact is they don’t add to the cause of peace but result in more terrorist activities which lead to more military operations and so this vicious cycle of death and fear is going on and on with no real directions.
We don’t see any real measures for peace except for lies and false claims by our government and security institutions that are not willing to come out of this weapon-blood-dollar game because of their personal greed and foreign self-imposed pressure.
Another thing which our government does is to gather ‘Ulemas’ and religious scholars to give joint statements or ‘Fatwas’ against the suicide bombings and to declare these acts against the teachings of Islam which is true and factual but it has not proved worthy enough to stop these attacks and the prime reason is that this is not a matter of religion or personal faith.
Resistance in Afghanistan is surely backed by religious and nationalist sentiments as their land is occupied by foreign imperialist powers but in case of Pakistan it is due to our imperialist sponsored security and foreign policy backed by our unjust and cruel actions against our own people that we are seeing one of the most terrible times of our history where life seems to have no value.
The main contributor to this mess was surely Musharraf and his ruling junta of that time which for their lust for power, greed of wealth and so called international stature put Pakistan into a great mess that nation is finding itself into an apparent hopeless condition.
The Musharraf government’s submissive policies in front of America and allies, giving permission to foreign security agencies to operate in Pakistan, illegal abduction and selling of Pakistanis and others without any legal procedure and protecting the basic human rights, extra judicial killings to please foreign powers, merciless bombings of civilian areas in the name of hunting down few terrorists, creating sectarian and ethnic tension among masses to extend his rule and this baseless war, giving no respect to country laws and creating a sense of deprivation of rights and alienation among the people living in tribal areas and Baluchistan all have summed up to this mess.
Current elected government and military establishment are no different in their overall strategy and policies except for few cosmetic changes which are mainly made to run this war effectively. Our role has become a client state and our army is fighting like a deadly mercenary force killing its own people. If someone criticizes the war or protests against the violation of national sovereignty then he or she becomes eligible for the titles of extremist, fundamentalist, Taliban supporter or even traitor.
Media machinery is also being utilized by establishment to gather support for this and they are especially targeting the youth by promoting propaganda specialists and so called think tanks to spread war hysteria in the name of patriotism and nationalism and also glorifying the security institutions and their role in country affairs.
This seems to be a never ending game due to our self destructive policies which has gone worse with the involvement of foreign player’s contribution and even for that I say we have provided them the ground to play evil.
We seriously need to think our way out of this war if we want to survive as a nation and exist on the map as an independent state of this world for this we need to think and act as an honest, just and freedom loving nation putting everyone on board. We need to bring everyone on table with sincerity not in the hypocritical manner our security agencies did previously and these talks also need to include those people we are killing in Waziristan, Sawat, Bajaur and elsewhere.
We also need to compensate the losses of the victims of military actions and provide justice to the people who suffered by the actions of our governments and military by putting the responsible figures of this mess like Musharraf in front of the system of justice as without it all confidence building measures will be considered as words of mouth.
May Allah show us the right path and give peace to the innocent souls of people who lost their lives in this war.