It was the responsibility of Rehman Malik, who was then in charge of Benazir Bhutto’s security and now is the country’s interior minister, to prevent the former prime minister from looking out of her vehicle, said a senior police official who has been arrested for her 2007 assassination.
Former Rawalpindi city police chief Saud Aziz, in his first statement since his arrest that was read out by his lawyer Wednesday, said Malik was in-charge of Bhutto’s security was in close contact with police and it was his responsibility to stop her from standing up and looking out.
The daily Dawn quoted a source close to Aziz as saying that the police official would soon expose more people on whose directives he and other top police officers were working at the time.
Bhutto was assassinated Dec 27, 2007, as she was leaving the Liaquat Bagh in a motorcade after addressing an election rally in Rawalpindi, Islamabad’s twin city and Pakistan’s old capital in northern punjab. 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 accused the Taliban of plotting to kill Bhutto while the doctors said “her head banged against the lever of the sunroof of her vehicle (in which she was standing) which caused her death”.
Punjab police chief Tariq Saleem Dogar said that Aziz had told him after the terror attack that he had collected all evidence and that the venue of the attack had been hosed down as emotional people had started smearing their faces with blood spilled there.
Speaking in Lahore, Dogar said Aziz had also told him through a fax that relatives of Bhutto were not allowing police to get autopsy conducted.
He said that forensic experts had collected over 35 pieces of evidence, including shells of bullets and then guns used in the attack, and later arrested five suspects.
The official squarely blamed the poor security arrangements made by the Pakistan Peoples’ Party for the lapse and said Malik should have stopped Bhutto from standing up and using the sunroof of her bullet-proof vehicle to look out and waive at the people.
The media report said that nobody who was near Bhutto at the time of the attack has been made a witness in the case, including her close aide Naheed Khan, Senator Safdar Abbasi and Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who were in her vehicle.
It has been observed that Bhutto had no security when she left Liaquat Bagh after addressing her last public meeting and even her party’s substitute vehicle in which her security adviser Malik was sitting was not in the back-up position.
Rehman Malik, according to the party arrangement, was the overall security in-charge but he had left the venue a few minutes before the attack, the Dawn reported.
Advocate Malik Waheed Anjum, who is representing Aziz, said that the in-charge of the official security had told Malik that Bhutto should not come out of her vehicle while departing from Liaquat Bagh as Nawaz Sharif’s rally had been attacked in the city.
“Had the security measures planned by police been followed by Ms Bhutto, she could have survived the suicide attack,” Anjum was quoted as saying.
He said doctors confirmed that Bhutto died because of a head injury caused by the sunroof hatch of her vehicle when the bomber blew himself up.