Police officer told to leave venue before attack on Bhutto: Report

By Awais Saleem, IANS,

Islamabad: Nearly three years after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a senior police officer, who was incharge of the security of the former premier, has said he was asked to leave the venue of Bhutto’s election rally before the attack.

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Ashfaq Anwar, a superintendent of police (SP), has become an approver against the then city police officer in Rawalpindi, the city in Punjab province where Bhutto was allegedly killed in an attack in December, 2007.

Anwar, who was assigned the task to head the security at Liaqat Bagh where the public rally was to be held, has submitted a statement before magistrate Farrukh Nadeem Malik in Islamabad a few days ago, Express TV reported.

In the statement, Anwar has said that “he was responsible for the security of Benazir’s squad but city police officer (CPO) Saud Aziz ordered him to leave the premises and go to Koral Chowk (almost one km away) with his personnel on duty”.

“From there on, I was asked to go and check the security of public rally in Sadiqabad city that was scheduled to be addressed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif,” he stated. “SSP operations Yasin Farooq ignored the vital elements while checking the security,” he alleged in his statement.

On the issue that who ordered the evidences from the blast site to be washed away immediately after the attack, Anwar said that “rescue officials did that on the clear instructions of SP Khurram Ishtiaq and CPO Saud Aziz”. “Similarly, SHO Kashif Riaz did not allow post-mortem of any body,” he pointed out.

According to an inquiry report, additional inspector general of police Abdul Majeed Chaudhury and Khusro Pervaiz, the then home secretary Punjab, have been cleared of any charge and their names have also been excluded from the exit control list (ECL).

The Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) is supposed to present the detailed challans of all the accused in the court Oct 30. The probe is being carried out by a joint investigation team that was constituted on the directions of the Punjab government more than a year ago.

Bhutto was assassinated Dec 27, 2007 after addressing an election rally in the northern Pakistani city of Rawalpindi. A teenaged shooter was seen aiming for her head in the CCTV footage before a powerful suicide blast killed at least 24 people participating in the rally.

The interior ministry at that time had accused Taliban of plotting to kill Bhutto while the doctors had said that “her head banged against the lever of the sunroof which caused her death”.

The actual cause of her death is still being debated among the quarters concerned while close associate Naheed Khan, who was also with her in the jeep at that time, stressed that “she was killed by the gunshot because when she fell down, I saw a wound in her skull and the blood pouring out”.

A fact-finding commission of the UN also held “security lapse responsible for her death”.

(Awais Saleem can be contacted at [email protected])