ISLAMABAD: A fact finding committee on Benazir Bhutto’s murder quizzed four police officials on Tuesday to determine who ordered the hosing down of her murder site.
The venue was washed immediately after the attack in 2007, destroying critical forensic evidence. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani last week constituted a three-member committee to find out whether the then Military Intelligence (MI) Chief Nadeem Ijaz directed the police to wash away the murder scene a few hours after Bhutto was killed in a bullet-and-bomb attack. The body was set up in pursuance of a decision by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to constitute criminal cases against all those individuals and institutions mentioned in an inquiry report by a UN Commission.
Officials said the committee interviewed those police officers who were either directly or indirectly involved in the hosing down of the crime scene. Headed by Secretary Cabinet Division Abdul Rauf Chaudhry, the committee comprises two civilian and one military official. The other members are Maj Gen Sajjad Ghani, the vice chief of general staff and Fayyaz Tooru, the additional chief secretary (Home) Peshawar. Then City Police Chief Saud Aziz was the prominent among those interrogated by the committee in Tuesday’s meeting. It was not clear where the meeting took place. The UN report had stated that it was upon Aziz’s order that the murder site was washed.
Aziz had reportedly told UN interrogators that he was ordered by Nadeem Ijaz, the then MI director-general, to wash away the belongings of Bhutto and her slain security guards. The committee also quizzed former Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) (Operations) Yasin Farooq. Then Superintendent Police (Rawal Town) Khurram Shahzad and then Additional Superintendent Police (Civil Lines) Ashfaq Anwar were also among those who recorded their statements before the committee. Rauf was twice contacted by The Express Tribune but he declined to share any details of the interviews. “Everything is secret.
The facts will come to the surface when we submit our report to the premier,” he briefly said on both the occasions. He neither confirmed nor denied the meeting with the police officials. Officials, however, said the committee will interrogate Nadeem Ijaz on Wednesday to know his side of the story. The former MI chief was issued a notice to appear before the committee. Ijaz, still serving in the military, is a close relative of former president Pervez Musharraf, who the PPP wants to take to a law court for being involved in the murder.
Only a day after the PPP’s decision of moving against Musharraf and others mentioned in the UN inquiry, a media report suggested that the government wants to initiate a criminal case against Nadeem Ijaz and former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Ijaz Shah. But the same day military Chief Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani met with President Asif Ali Zardari and premier Gilani. Though no details of the meeting emerged, experts believe the powerful military would never allow anybody to embarrass any of its attached agencies.
In the meanwhile, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has said that the criminal investigation report on Bhutto’s assassination will be submitted to the prime minister next month. While talking to journalists at PTV headquarters in Islamabad, Kaira added that anyone identified in this report as being involved in the former premier’s death will be brought to justice. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ZIA M KHAN