THE SPINE MAY 15, 2010
Benazir Bhutto was murdered (along with 24 of her nameless countrymen) two-and-a-half years ago. Edward Jay Epstein has discovered that there was actually no proper—and barely an improper—investigation of the slaying. Her crooked and shiftless husband succeeded Musharraf as president, not that she wasn’t crooked herself. But shiftless she was not.
Anybody is likely to be assassinated in Pakistan. But this assassination is of greater interest than most.
The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto
By Edward Jay Epstein
On 27 December 2007, Benazir Bhutto was killed by a suicide bomber in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi. 24 other people were also killed in the explosion. Bhutto had just returned from a nine year exile as part of a deal arranged by the United States through which she would run in a nationwide elected to replace the faltering military dictatorship of General Pervez Musharraf. After speaking at a rally at Liaquat Bagh park, Bhutto departed at 5 pm in a white armored Land Cruiser. As the convoy made a right turn on the main highway, Bhutto was waving to her supporters through the roof hatch in her car. Then gunman standing a few feet behind her car fired three shots and detonated a bomb. The video footage shows that only 1.6 seconds elapsed between the time of the first shot to the detonation of the explosives. Bhutto, with a gaping head wound, died in the hospital less than an hour later. Her doctors, finding no bullet wounds, postulated that she died from a head injury in the explosion, Since authorities did not permit an autopsy to be conducted, even though it is required by law, the cause of her death was never conclusively determined.
The crime scene investigation was also inexplicably limited by authorities. Only one bullet casing was recovered which was traced by DNA on it to the partial skull of the body of the presumed suicide bomber. The skull fragment, which was found on the roof of a building, was determined to have come from a boy no more than sixteen years old. Since the crime scene itself was hosed down within an hour of the shooting, other potential clues, including DNA evidence, were washed away. (The lone bullet casing was found lodged in a sewerage drain.) Similarly, Bhutto’s Land Rover had been scrubbed clean hours after the blast. The extraordinary cleansing of the crime scene before all the evidence could be recovered had been ordered by police authorities According to the UN Commission that investigated the assassination, “Hosing down the crime scene so soon after the blast goes beyond mere incompetence,” and raises the issue of “whether this amounts to criminal responsibility.” In any case, it made it all but impossible to determine if the bomber had any accomplices.
Despite the lack of forensic evidence, General Musharraf ordered a press conference the very next day to announce that Bhutto’s assassination had been organized by Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban insurgency in Pakistan, and by Al-Qaida. The government spokesman said that Pakistan ISI intelligence service had intercepted a message in which Mehsud congratulated a subordinate on the Bhutto assassination. Fugitive warrants were then issued for Mehsud (who was killed in 2009 by a CIA drone attack) and his subordinates. Meanwhile, the UN investigators obtained a transcript of the intercepted message, but it contained nu mention of either Mehsud or the Bhutto assassination. Instead, it contained a conversation in which someone called “Emir Sahib,” asked another unknown person merely “who were they?” After he was told 3 names, he said “The three did it?” When UN investigators attempted to pursue the matter, the ISI claimed it had been able to identify “Emir Sahib” as Mehsud through a “ voice signature,” and that from the context of the conversation, its analysts assumed that the “it” likely referred to the Bhutto assassination. the ISI refused to divulge either the date of the interception, the means by which it was obtained, or how it was verified. So the UN Commission was unable to authenticate it.
Soon after the December 28th press conference, the authorities in Pakistan closed down their investigation. According to the UN Commission report, they “ essentially ceased investigating the possibility of other perpetrators, particularly those who may have been involved in planning or directing the assassination by funding or otherwise enabling the assassination” and “even ended its efforts to identify the suicide bomber.” So the question of who killed Bhutto remains unresolved?