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Pakistan distancing itself from Bhutto murder probe

The Dawn newspaper reported that the Pakistani Govt seems to be distancing itself from the probe, saying it was for Scotland Yard to deliver the last word on this.

world Updated: Jan 24, 2008 15:12 IST

The Pakistani government seems to be distancing itself from the probe into former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's assassination, saying it was for Scotland Yard to deliver the last word on this.

"Despite limited evidence, short investigation time and a mandate to determine only the cause of Bhutto's death, given to the Scotland Yard team, the government is reported to be trying to put the responsibility of complete investigation of the case on the British team," the Dawn newspaper reported on Thursday.

"Now the government is giving an impression that the foreign experts who have returned to the UK with whatever evidences were available can investigate the case from all angles to unveil the persons involved in Ms Bhutto's murder. However, the earlier stance of the government was that the British experts could only determine the cause of her death," it added.

It also quoted interior ministry spokesperson Brig (retd) Javed Iqbal Cheema as saying that the Scotland Yard team that is returning here on Sunday "will be free to investigate the case".

According to the working arrangements previously agreed to between Pakistan and Britain, Scotland Yard could only assist local investigators to "know the cause of death". This now seems to have changed.

Asked whether the British experts have been asked to submit their report before the Feb 18 general elections, Cheema said: "The British investigators were not confined to only determining the cause of Ms. Bhutto's death and it depends on them to also investigate the case and unveil the persons involved in the assassination."

"However, analysts were of the view that due to lack of solid evidence, the Scotland Yard team would come up with no conclusion as it would have to rely on what the local investigators would tell them," Dawn noted.

The analysts also pointed out that the local police had not cordoned off the assassination site but instead had washed it immediately after Bhutto's murder, thus resulting in the loss of all possible evidence that could have been gathered.

Another difficulty foreign detectives have been facing is that Bhutto's autopsy has not been conducted.

"The government had made an offer to her family to exhume her body for autopsy but the family seems to be reluctant," Dawn said.

Eight Scotland Yard detectives have been probing the case and five of them, after collecting evidence, had left Pakistan in the second week of this month while the other three flew back on Jan 16.

Four members of the Scotland Yard team will return to Pakistan on Sunday.

The team is likely to interrogate 15-year-old Aitzaz Shah, one of the two suspects allegedly connected with the assassination plot. He is being held in a high security lock-up here.

Shah and his militant "handler" Sher Zaman were arrested from Dera Ismail Khan in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) last week.