Scotland Yard team expected in Pakistan

A team of police from Britain’s Scotland Yard is expected to arrive in Pakistan on Friday to help probe the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto as the controversy over her death rages on.

The squad of detectives from an elite anti-terrorism team is due a day after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf admitted he was ”not fully satisfied” with his own country’s handling of the investigation.

”They are arriving here today [Friday] to help Pakistani investigators with their probe into the assassination of Bhutto,” Interior Ministry spokesperson Brigadier Javed Cheema said.

For the first time since Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide-bomb attack that his government blamed on al-Qaeda, Musharraf acknowledged reports the crime scene had been quickly hosed down after her murder, possibly destroying evidence.

He said on Thursday that he hoped his decision to invite foreign help would help dispel ”conspiracy theories” about Bhutto’s death at an election rally on December 27.

Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has ridiculed the government account of her death, which said the shooter had missed her and that she died fracturing her skull by smashing her head against her car’s sunroof.

Many Bhutto supporters have blamed the president for her death — at the very least for failing to provide adequate security after she survived Pakistan’s worst-ever terror attack in October, which left scores dead.

But Musharraf denied that he or the Pakistani establishment were involved in the killing, and rejected suggestions that the country’s powerful intelligence agencies had mounted a cover-up.

”I am sure that they did not do it with an intention of hiding some secrets or that the intelligence agencies instructed them to hide secrets,” he said when asked to explain the swift clearing of the site after Bhutto’s death.

He reacted angrily when asked if the Yard team would be allowed to question key politicians and an intelligence chief Bhutto accused of involvement in the October 12 attack on her homecoming parade in Karachi.

Musharraf indicated that the team would not be given permission.

The imminent arrival of the Yard team, described by British Foreign Minister David Miliband as ”technical experts”, has been greeted with scepticism by the Pakistani media.

”There is no doubt that the Yard can do nothing to help. In fact, one wonders if any power on earth can assist Pakistan in escaping the quagmire of difficulties it finds itself in,” said an editorial in the News.

”It is yet unclear how much assistance the world’s premier criminal investigative agency can offer in this regard,” added the English-language daily.

Musharraf is struggling to keep a lid on a wave of deadly unrest sparked by Bhutto’s death as the country prepares for elections delayed by nearly six weeks to February 18.

The PPP, the country’s largest party, has alleged the delay is an attempt to give Musharraf’s allies time to fix the result. Musharraf on Thursday denied that the poll would be tainted.

Pakistan’s opposition parties demanded better security on Thursday for the lengthy election campaign. — AFP



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