Scotland Yard Says Head Injury Killed Benazir Bhutto

The team from Scotland Yard investigating the assassination of Benazir Bhutto released their final report today. Its two major conclusions: head trauma caused by the bomb blast killed Benazir Bhutto and the suicide bomber and the gunman were the same person.

The report states:

“Ms Bhutto’s only apparent injury was a major trauma to the right side of the head. The UK experts all exclude this injury being an entry or exit wound as a result of gunshot.”

“…the UK Home Office pathologist…is unable categorically to exclude the possibility of there being a gunshot wound to the upper trunk or neck. However…the available evidence suggests that there was no gunshot injury….Dr Cary excludes the possibility of a bullet to the neck or upper trunk as being a relevant factor in the actual cause of death, when set against the nature and extent of her head injury.”

Dr. Nathaniel Cary, the UK Home Office pathologist, is quoted as stating:

“the only tenable cause for the rapidly fatal head injury in this case is that it occurred as the result of impact due to the effects of the bomb-blast.”

“in my opinion Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto died as a result of a severe head injury sustained as a consequence of the bomb-blast and due to head impact somewhere in the escape hatch of the vehicle.”

“All the available evidence points toward the person who fired shots and the person who detonated the explosives being one and the same person.”

The report’s conclusions are unlikely to satisfy a considerable number of Pakistanis, and in particular, People’s Party leaders and supporters who strongly believe an assassin’s blow took Bhutto’s life.

Rehman Malik, Benazir Bhutto’s security chief, stated on GEO TV that Scotland Yard had a “limited mandate” and did not produce “a conclusive report.” He seemed unprepared to deal with the report’s technical aspects, admitting that he did not read it in full, though he argued among the remaining questions is that of who financed the plot. Sherry Rehman, a senior PPP spokesperson, also did not read the entire report but maintained the party’s position that Bhutto died from an assassin’s blow.

If the People’s Party continues in its rejection of the report’s findings, it will find difficulty gaining international and institutional credence if it cannot rebut them on a technical basis. Its call for a Hariri-like UN investigation has gone ignored and there is little will among the major global powers to concede to one.  Should the People’s Party come to power after the coming elections, it can perhaps obtain a rival third-party report.  Otherwise, Bhutto’s assassination will remain a passively contested issue.

The Scotland Yard report can be seen as a victory for the Musharraf government, which has contended that head trauma associated with the blast, not an assassin’s blow, killed Bhutto. It will, however, not temper the skepticism of most Pakistanis toward the claims made by Musharraf and Britain, one of his Western benefactors.

[Full text of report]

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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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