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Scotland Yard squad begins probe in Pak

Armed commandos enforce a security cordon as Scotland Yard detectives make their first inspection of the Liaqat Bath public park where Bhutto was murdered.

world Updated: Jan 06, 2008 03:24 IST

British anti-terrorism police on Saturday started examining evidence in the assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, officials said.

Armed commandos enforced a security cordon as Scotland Yard detectives made their first inspection of the Liaqat Bath public park where Bhutto was murdered as she left a campaign rally on December 27.

The arrival of the five-man British squad on Friday has only deepened the conspiracy theories swirling around the gun and suicide attack on Bhutto, which sparked violent unrest across Pakistan and set vital elections back six weeks.

“The Scotland Yard team is examining the venue where she addressed a rally and the site where she was attacked,” a Rawalpindi police official said.

Pakistan’s interior ministry has blamed the attack on an alleged Al-Qaeda militant and says Bhutto died from an accidental head wound sustained as she ducked for cover as a gunman opened fire on her motorcade.

But party aides who were by her side at the time say she died from a gunshot to the head. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, refused to allow an autopsy before she was buried, saying “we know how she died.”

Bhutto’s party faithful insist the authorities know more than they are saying about the murder of the head of Pakistan’s most powerful political dynasty, and the most potent critic of the military-led government.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) officials said the Scotland Yard mission, here at the invitation of President Pervez Musharraf, is a meaningless attempt to lend credibility to a deeply flawed official version of events.

“Musharraf has himself said the Scotland Yard team would not be allowed to question those we have suspected. So he has already circumscribed their role,” PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

“We have respect for Scotland Yard but this is inadequate.”

Musharraf bristled on Thursday when asked whether the Britons would be allowed to question politicians and an intelligence chief whom Bhutto had previously accused of plotting to kill her.

The first female leader of a Muslim nation had survived an earlier suicide bombing on the day she returned to Pakistan from self-imposed exile in October, and had publicly accused powerful officials of planning her murder.

Bhutto’s party has complained that the crime scene from the December 27 attack was washed shortly after her murder, destroying vital evidence — a move Musharraf acknowledged later “should not have been done.”