Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A cover-up of epic proportions

Editorial -- The Express Tribune

May 05, 2010


Some things in our country never seem to change. Certain sections of the establishment have, for decades, been accustomed to getting away with all kinds of misdeeds. The tradition continues without check. According to reports in two national newspapers, the three-member committee formed by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to probe the death of Benazir Bhutto has held the police responsible for hosing down the murder site — the one action that most effectively thwarted further investigation in the case.
The finding by the committee means that former chief of Military Intelligence Maj-Gen Nadeem Ijaz has been let off the hook. It is not insignificant that the role of the city police officer (CPO) of Rawalpindi at the time, Saud Aziz, in the hosing down of the crime scene had been mentioned in great detail in the UN Commission’s report on Bhutto’s assassination. As a result of the probe’s findings, it came to light that the police officer had, according to sources (whom the Commission said had spoken to it), been directed by Major-General Ijaz, to ensure that the crime scene was hosed down.
But the prime minister’s committee, headed by the cabinet secretary and including a two-star general, has held that this was not the case and that there was no outside influence on the decision to wash the crime scene. So what do we have before ourselves, if not the stench of a massive cover-up? Surely, the three gentlemen who sat on the committee would know that experience and history would both suggest that a police official could not have in his right mind taken such a decision all on his own, especially when the scene was where a political leader of the stature of Benazir Bhutto had just been assassinated.
And since CPO Aziz has not used insanity in his defence, the only conclusion that we can come up with is that things are at work which prevent the real power behind the decision to hose down the crime scene from being exposed. The result: a scapegoat, a man who has now taken the fall, it seems, for a general. In all of this, we would like to ask the committee on what grounds has the assertion made in the UN Commission’s report been set aside?
Why wasn’t any effort made to probe the matter in reference to the ‘sources’ mentioned in the UN report, who told the Commission that CPO Aziz had in fact been directed by a higher military authority to do what he now claims he did on his own. Given the important nature of the issue at hand, perhaps we should quote a few sentences from the UN report directly: “Sources informed the Commission that CPO Saud Aziz did not act independently in deciding to hose down the crime scene.
One source, speaking on the basis of anonymity, stated that CPO Saud Aziz had confided in him that he had received a call from Army Headquarters instructing him to order the hosing down of the crime
scene. Another source, also speaking on the basis of anonymity, said that the CPO was ordered to hose down the scene by Major-General Ijaz, then Director-General of MI. Others, including three police officials, told the Commission that CPO Saud Aziz did not act independently and that ’everyone knows’ who ordered the hosing down.”

Did the committee examine in any detail the background to the actual day of the assassination, as in the threats received by the former prime minister and the level of security provided to her? Doing so would have perhaps given a context to the immediate hosing down of the crime scene because that one act destroyed most of the evidence which would have been required to carry out a thorough investigation.

Also, what about the circumstantial evidence regarding the autopsy which should have been carried out under the law but which the doctor in charge was ordered not to — by someone, according to the UN Commission report, on the doctor’s mobile phone. There are many questions and very few answers.

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