- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bowing to international calls for a transparent investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf today asked Britain’s Scotland Yard to assist in the probe.

Mr. Musharraf also announced that parliamentary elections, previously scheduled for Jan. 8, have been postponed to Feb. 18.

“We decided to request a team from Scotland Yard to come,” Mr. Musharraf said in a nationally televised address.

Mrs. Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was not satisfied and insisted that Mr. Musharraf allow a U.N. investigation similar to the probe into the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Following the failed Oct. 18 assassination attempt against Mrs. Bhutto in Karachi, the PPP had asked for an investigation by Scotland Yard and the FBI.

The tragedy is of such a magnitude, we want a U.N. probe,” PPP spokesman Sherry Rehman told The Washington Times.

She said Scotland Yard “could be a part” of the U.N. investigation.

Ms. Rehman traveled in the vehicle that transported the profusely bleeding Mrs. Bhutto to the hospital after she was attacked in Rawalpindi on Dec. 27.

“She was hemorrhaging from a very serious head wound,” Ms. Rehman said in a phone interview from Pakistan, dismissing government claims that Mrs. Bhutto suffered a fatal injury after banging her head on the sunroof of her armored vehicle.

The Pakistani Interior Ministry has since backtracked on that claim, opting to await the results of a forensic investigation.

The government has changed its version of events three times and later, in an effort to end conspiracy theories, offered to exhume Mrs. Bhutto’s body for investigators.

Ms. Rehman said she did not see any reason for exhumation. “It seems to me a threat to desecrate the body. There was clearly one serious wound to the body. Everyone has seen the bullet [being] fired on Pakistani and international channels,” she said, adding that there was “incontrovertible evidence” that Mrs. Bhutto had been felled by an assassin’s bullet followed by a suicide bombing.

Citing violence that broke out following Mrs. Bhutto’s assassination, Pakistan’s election commission said it would be impossible to hold a free and fair vote as planned on Jan. 8.

“The destruction that has happened and the transport system completely destroyed and the law and order situation because of these reasons, the postponement is absolutely necessary and the decision by the election commission is absolutely proper and right,” Mr. Musharraf told the nation in a televised address last night.

Dismissing this explanation as a “flimsy excuse,” Ms. Rehman said the delay was “unconstitutional and politically unacceptable.” Noting that the PPP was the “affected party,” she said it had demanded consistently that the elections be held on time. She contended that the decision to delay the elections was a ploy by the Musharraf government to delay its downfall.

Xenia Dormandy, a former director for South Asia at the National Security Council and currently director of the Project on India and the Subcontinent at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, agreed that Mrs. Bhutto’s assassination had put Mr. Musharraf’s future in jeopardy.

“He is being widely blamed for the assassination attack by PPP cadre, either directly or for complicity in not providing her sufficient security, Ms. Dormandy said.

In Mrs. Bhutto’s Sindh province, the PPP spokeswoman said more than 200,000 workers had been locked up on trumped-up charges.

“Not only is there a crackdown on the PPP, we are being harassed and intimidated and held responsible for a delay in elections, and we have said we do not want any delay,” Ms. Rehman said.

The party of Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister, also criticized the decision to postpone the elections but said it would participate.

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