LAHORE: Four years on, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has been unable to record statements of those considered crucial in the Benazir Bhutto assassination probe, while it has also been revealed that former president Pervez Musharraf’s regime was aware of the assassination plan, sources have said.
The Scotland Yard report states that one suicide bomber was involved in the assassination, while the FIA report says two suicide bombers identified as Saeed and Bilal were part of the attack. DNA reports have confirmed the FIA’s stance.
Sources also revealed that when former capital city police officer (CCPO) Rawalpindi Saud Aziz was arrested, he had sent a message to the Presidency that if legal heirs pardoned him, he would reveal the real conspirators behind the incident. After a go-ahead had been given by the Presidency, Saud Aziz backed out from his commitment three days later.
President Asif Ali Zardari had also asked the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to reach the ‘logical end’ and ‘real facts’ regarding the assassination, and summon anyone they required. Zardari had also said that he was available himself, sources said.
Planning the assassination
The attack had been planned in Akora Khattak by former students of Madrassa Darul Uloom Haqqania and one of the prime suspects in the case has revealed to investigators that Bhutto had been targeted due to her stance over the Lal Masjid Operation.
An Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) official confirms in the report that he had recorded a telephonic conversation in which Baitullah Mehsud had issued instructions to some of the arrested terrorists to assassinate Bhutto. However, the ISI had refused to appear before the court, saying that the CD regarding the telephonic conversation had been prepared by the Intelligence Bureau (IB).
Darul Uloom Haqqania
The report revealed that in May 2010, a special FIA team had visited Darul Uloom Haqqania in Akora Khattak.
In-charge of the seminary confirmed that accused Abdullah alias Sadam, Nadir alias Qari Ismael, Rashid Ahmed alias Rahim Tarabi and Fiaz Muhammad alias Kiskat were former students of that madrassa.
According to phone records, Saeed alias Bilal, Akramullah and Qari Ismael reached Rawalpindi on December 26, 2007, at about 9pm.
They were picked up by accused Rafaqat and Hassnain and taken to Rafaqat’s house in Quaid-e-Azam Colony at 12am.
The next day, the terrorists visited Liaquat Bagh, and the planned route of Benazir Bhutto’s convoy. They then went to Hassnain’s house in Shah Jayyona Colony and obtained suicide jackets and weapons, JIT report further revealed.
The FIA had recorded the statement of Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema, the then Director General (DG) of the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC), who conducted a press conference 24 hours after the incident. The statements of then DG ISI Lt. General Nadeem Taj, his staff officer and then DG Military Intelligence (MI) Nadeem Ijaz statements were not recorded.
Brigadier Cheema in his statement before the JIT categorically held former president Pervez Musharraf responsible for his premature press conference on the investigation of the case and stated that under his (former president) orders and clear cut instructions, he (Cheema) held the press conference on December 28, 2007, on the investigation of the case in Rawalpindi without consulting the Punjab Government, while the Punjab government had yet to notify the JIT on December 31, 2007. “It shows that as president, he was the single source of authority in the country,” states the report.
The meeting at the President’s Camp Office in Rawalpindi was also confirmed by former DG IB Ejaz Shah in his statement to the JIT. The report states that the former president ordered the hasty press conference with the motive to influence the police investigation. It says the then prime minister, Punjab chief minister and the provincial police had not been consulted.
It is also evident from this pre-investigation press conference that former president Pervez Musharraf had prior knowledge of the assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto by accused Baitullah Mehsud and withheld this vital information of a conspiracy.
The role of former president Pervez Musharraf
The report contains “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” that Musharraf would be the main beneficiary from the removal of Bhutto and her party’s failure during the elections without her leadership.
It says that Musharraf’s government had ordered VVIP security to two former prime ministers – Shaukat Aziz and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain – but had deliberately denied the same to Bhutto despite repeated requests.
Thus an insecure environment was intentionally created to ensure elimination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto by terrorists. This security lapse by then president Pervez Musharraf is totally inexcusable particularly after the twin suicide attacks on Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in Karachi on October 18, 2007.
In this background, JIT has examined and evaluated all the relevant evidence. On the basis of available evidence, JIT is of the firm opinion that already established security breach and destruction of evidence on the day of assassination by then CPO accused Saud Aziz and SP accused Khurram Shahzad is not accidental criminal negligence but apparently is part of a wider conspiracy to eliminate Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto from the political scene before the elections.
It was found that Saud Aziz in September 2007 posted as regional police officer (RPO) Gujranwala of five districts manipulated under clandestine circumstances his posting to a junior assignment of CPO Rawalpindi, which itself is indicative of his mense rea and about his involvement in the conspiracy of assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Even after assassination in spite of his criminal security failure, accused Saud Aziz was kept posted in Rawalpindi till April 2008 in order to cover-up his own misdeeds and to mislead and impede investigations. The conduct of then CPO Rawalpindi and then president after the assassination is also suspicious and suggests a deliberate cover up on their part. For instance, neither any departmental nor any judicial inquiry was ordered by any government nor any police officer was awarded even a minor punishment by the then CPO or the governments. This is uniquely strange because police officers in routine are severely punished for ordinary failures and lapses under Police Order, 2002, Police Act, and E & D Rules, 1973. It is clearly evident that conspirators had assurances and support of the then president.
The report states that the public gathering scheduled for December 17 had been cancelled as a result of the report of an intelligence agency that had revealed three terrorists had entered Islamabad to assassinate Bhutto, but the interior secretary had not paid any special attention to the report and had forwarded it to the heads of the police and other law enforcement agencies as per routine.
During the course of investigation, it has been gathered that there was a broad based conspiracy to assassinate Benazir Bhutto during her election campaign. The actual terrorist attack was carried out by terrorists based in Waziristan, whereas, former president Musharraf and two police officers have aided and abetted the terrorists through their series of criminal acts attributed to them and narrated above.
JIT has found that CPO Syed Saud Aziz deliberately avoided to conduct the post mortem in an attempt to obstruct and impede investigation. In this regard statement of Prosecution Witness Professor Dr Mussadaq has been recorded U/s 164 Cr.Pc. CPO Saud Aziz in his statement before JIT tried to shift this legal responsibility but JIT finds his explanation as implausible and untenable.
Both Police officers Saud Aziz and Khurram Shahzad were asked certain material questions to unearth the conspiracy concerning deliberate breach of security ,non-conducting of postmortem and destruction of evidence by washing of crime scene in haste but both accused did not co-operate with JIT and purposely with held the material information/facts.
The report further revealed that the federal government had failed to provide high level security despite Benazir’s repeated requests and material that indicated her life was under threat from al Qaeda and the Taliban.
According to the text of the JIT report obtained by The Express Tribune, the attack was planned in Akora Khatak by former students of Madrassa Darul Uloom Haqqania.
The JIT report alleges that Inspector Kashif Riaz who was the then station house officer (SHO) of City Police Station Rawalpindi, “intentionally” did not complete the autopsies of 24 people who were killed in the incident along with Bhutto.
The team further alleges that Superintendent of Police (SP) Ashfaq Ahmed who had been deputed at Liaquat Bagh on security duty that day went on a highway patrol instead along with other police personnel and later tampered with the case records.
The FIA team has also alleged that Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Khuram Ishtiaq attempted to destroy the circumstantial evidence when he ordered police to hose down the crime scene.