Tue, Dec 07, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Ex-police officers to be arrested over Bhutto assassination

The Guardian, ISLAMABAD

A Pakistani court has ordered the arrest of two senior police officers in connection with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, reviving hopes for a breakthrough in Pakistan’s most pressing political mystery.

An anti-terrorism court ordered the arrest of Rawalpindi’s former police chief, Saud Aziz, and his deputy Khurram Shahzad, who ordered the crime scene to be washed down less than two hours after the killing, destroying critical evidence.

“They were responsible for Bhutto’s security. They ordered the crime scene to be hosed down despite resistance from other officials,” special investigator Chaudhry Zulfiqar said.

A strongly-worded UN report into Bhutto’s death last April said the decision to wash the crime scene did “irreparable damage” to the subsequent investigation.

Investigators speculated that Aziz had been influenced by powerful military intelligence agencies.

Aziz and Khurram, who are now retired from the police, could not be contacted on Sunday. They are due to be formally charged on Dec. 11 along with five men already in custody.

The warrants are the latest twist in a torturously slow police investigation. Three years after Bhutto was killed in a suicide blast as she left an election rally in Rawalpindi on Dec. 27. Pakistanis have little idea of who was behind her death.

Pervez Musharraf, who was president at the time, initially blamed Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, but officials from Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have said that other forces, possibly including elements of Pakistan’s powerful military, played a role in her death.

Bhutto’s widower, Pakistan President Asif Zardari, has vowed to capture her killers, but little progress has been made in an investigation bogged down by controversy, recrimination and conspiracy theories — one popular rumor in Pakistan suggests that Zardari himself was responsible for his wife’s death.

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