U.K. to Help Pakistan Investigate Bhutto Case

Legislative Elections Delayed to Feb. 18

Pakistanis pay their respects to Benazir Bhutto at Liaqat Bagh Park in Rawalpindi, the site of the former Pakisitani prime minister's final speech and assassination.
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, January 3, 2008; Page A01

KARACHI, Pakistan, Jan. 2 -- A team of Scotland Yard investigators will probe the killing of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced in a nationwide address Wednesday night. Musharraf also defended the postponement of parliamentary elections until Feb. 18, a decision that opposition parties condemned but said they would grudgingly accept.

The admission that the Pakistani government needs outside help in its investigation came amid a domestic and international uproar over the way police officials have handled the case.

Authorities have come under intense criticism for hosing down the crime scene within minutes of last Thursday's gun-and-bomb attack against Bhutto, a former two-term prime minister. Critics have also said the government erred by announcing that, rather than being killed in gunfire, Bhutto died after the force of the bombing caused her head to slam against the lever of her vehicle's sunroof.

It is unclear how much the Scotland Yard investigators, who are expected in Pakistan this weekend, can accomplish given that much of the evidence has been destroyed. The team will be small and will consist only of officers from Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command.

The controversy about exactly how Bhutto died has contributed to deep suspicion over who carried out the attack. Musharraf said Wednesday that he had no doubt Islamic extremists were behind Bhutto's murder. He sought to soothe her enraged supporters -- many of whom blame him and his allies for her death -- by asserting that he and Bhutto had the same goals.

"Benazir Bhutto wanted democracy and wanted to fight against terrorism, and these are exactly my wishes," Musharraf said.

U.S. officials in Washington welcomed Musharraf's plans to bring in the British investigators, but Bhutto's party said it was not satisfied, and it continued to press for a U.N.-led inquiry.

"The regime has lost all credibility," the Pakistan People's Party said in a statement. "Neither a domestic inquiry nor vague foreign involvement when all traces of evidence have been systematically destroyed would lay to rest the lingering doubts and suspicions."

The party pointed to a letter Bhutto wrote Musharraf in October in which she named several people with past or current connections to the government who she said were trying to kill her.

"If it indeed was the job of terrorists, then these terrorists have already been identified in Mohtarma Bhutto's letter," the party said, using an honorific.

Musharraf's acceptance of British investigators came on the same day that the Election Commission of Pakistan said voting scheduled for Tuesday will instead take place Feb. 18.

The delay, the commission said, was unavoidable because of damage sustained in riots last week following Bhutto's death. The rioting was especially severe in Sindh province, Bhutto's home region, where mobs ransacked several Election Commission offices.

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