Senator A. Rehman Malik (Sitara-e-Shujaat, Nishan-e-Imtiaz)
Fourteen years have passed and PPP workers are still waiting for justice in the Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto assassination case.
As a nation, we were so unfortunate that we lost such a visionary, heroic and charismatic international leader. The tragic incident of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s assassination took place during the caretaker government when General Musharraf was President.
The initial investigation was carried out by the then hierarchy and it was very surprising that the crime scenes were washed away immediately after the crimes both in Karsaz Karachi and Liaquat Bagh Rawalpindi whereas the washing of crimes is never done in such cases especially in murder cases and that in the case of Former Prime Minister of the country.
Instead of keeping the evidence safe, they were ordered to clear, which raises several questions. All these aspects and various suspicions were taken seriously so that investigations could be carried out to uncover the facts and reach the real culprits.
The Liaqat Bagh attack was not the first while many life attacks were made that included first in 1993 when Osama bin Laden had pumped a lot of finance to religious parties in Pakistan, second in the same year when Abdul Shakoor, Yousaf Ramzi, Capt. Abdul Hakim @ Majid, Munir Ibrahim, and Abdul Shakoor planned to assassinate Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto during her election campaign at Nishtar Park, Karachi through shooting for which weapons were provided by Khalid Al-Sheikh (mastermind of 9/11 incident) through Abdul Shakoor.
In another attempt, on 12th December 2007, one of the terrorists was able to touch the vehicle of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto after a PPP gathering at Pabbi and the same terrorist group kept on chasing Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto and conspired and planned assassination attempt on her at Arbab Niaz Stadium, Peshawar after public meeting on 26th December 2007.
The case of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto assassination was transferred from Punjab police to FIA under the orders of the then Federal Government. A high-powered JIT was constituted for further investigation of the case.
The Team (JIT) of FIA led by Mr. Tariq Khosa, included Mr. Khalid Qureshi, the then Director CTW/FIA as lead investigator, Mr. Bin Amin, the then IGP Islamabad, Mr. Azad Khan, Mr. Sajjad Haider, and Mr. Ghulam Asghar Jatoi. The outcome of the investigation by the JIT is fully reflected in the report. This report dispels the false impression engineered by some with their ulterior motives that the PPP leadership during its tenure had been unable to investigate the case to its logical conclusion which stands negated as below.
The summary of the investigation will further shed the light on the investigation and trial and also how Ch Zulfiqar Ali, the special prosecutor of this case was assassinated. It remained a mystery in the minds of investigators as to how the only US drone hit in Khyber Agency to kill Obaid ur Rehman alias Chattan who was the main handler of Bibi’s murder plan.
Despite all difficulties, a hidden force was acting odd to stop the investigation, the courageous police and FIA officers managed to arrest many and were able to piece the evidence together and bring the accused to justice.
The accused were found guilty and the competent court convicted them and the matter is pending in court. The investigation process was very transparent and both the Parliament and the Sindh Assembly were kept informed. It has been recently found that one suicide bomber, Ikramullah, who slipped away from the scene and after spending a long time with Bait Ullah Mehsud moved to Afghanistan.
The incumbent chief of TTP Mufti Noor Wali has confirmed his presence in Qandahar and it is confirmed that two life attempts have been made last year but he escaped. It is also a mystery about which odd forces want to kill him as even a day before to appear in an interview with BBC London, he was attacked in Afghanistan resultantly the interview could not take place.
I had written a letter to then-Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on January 30, 2018 demanding that a request be made to Afghan president to deport Ikramullah, a surviving suicide bomber, and Abu Mansoor Asim Mufti Noor Wali, the author of ‘Inqilab Mehsud South Waziristan: From British Raj to American Imperialism’. I had stated “Interrogation Ikramullah’s and Abu Mansoor Asim Mufti Noor Wali will further unearth the facts of the conspiracy behind assassination of Benazir Bhutto,” I had also requested that Interpol be also requested to issue red notices against Ikramullah and Abu Mansoor Asim Mufti Noor Wali enabling Pakistan to request for the deportation of these two TTP leaders.”
Sadly, no progress was reported despite of the second reminder to expedite Ikramullah deportation. I had also written to the government of Afghanistan for their deportation but no response.
Later on May 17, 2018, in another letter to then Minister of Interior, while taking notice of the release of five terrorists of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who were declared guilty of murdering Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, by Joint Investigation Team (JIT) of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), I as Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior had demanded to immediacy place the names of Abdul Rashid, Aitzaz Shah, Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul and Sher Zaman on the Exit Control List (ECL) to avoid them fleeing from the country.
The salient features of the said investigations are as under:
The crime scene was washed away by the then administration within one hour and twenty minutes of the incident, which had a negative effect on the collection of forensic evidence of the incident.
The washing away of the crime scene of any such incident was nothing but to hamper the investigation of the case. This act of the then administration was, therefore, clearly against the law. Senior police officers who were found involved in tampering with the police official log register were prosecuted and convicted.
The JIT also investigated the washing away of the crime scene and found the involvement of officials. The JIT interviewed and interrogated several people in this regard and the list is in the JIT report.
The JIT was able to identify the conspirators, instigators, abbetors, handlers and executors and brought them to justice.
Many miscreants involved in the murder were mysteriously killed at various check posts and full details of such accuseds are part of the JIT report.
The UN investigators also found that the then government did not provide adequate security for the former prime minister, according to the Blue Book.
Investigators found that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had been on the hit list since 1993, which was set up during the investigation.
Yousuf Ramzi had made two life attempts on Benazir Bhutto in Karachi.The security escort responsible for the safe journey of the motorcade of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto from residence to Liaqat Bagh and back was removed and shifted to another place before Mohtarma had finished her public address. The responsibility was fixed wherein the then CCPO Rawalpindi was responsible for removing the security escort to another place of duty.
The contingency plan in case of an emergency was not followed and the damaged vehicle of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was diverted to a hospital further away from the incident scene and the ambulance and paramedical staff were not detailed in the security plan.
The then CCPO of Rawalpindi police did not allow the doctors to carry out the post-mortem of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and gave false statements in this connection.
The then Federal Government had invited a team of Scotland Yard police of UK with a very limited scope of investigation. They were only tasked to find out the cause of death. Although the team concluded that Mohtarma was not hit by any bullet which caused her death, but this conclusion was not in absolute terms.
The confessions of the following accused persons were substantiated with independent forensic evidence to prove their criminal act in the court of law including the DNA of the joggers used by the terrorist/suicide bomber, recovered from the house of one of the accused persons.
Aitezaz Shah had knowledge of the conspiracy besides having identified the voice of Baitullah Mehsud. Sher Zaman also had knowledge of the conspiracy. Hasnain Gul was in contact with conspirators in Madrassa Haqqania, i.e. Qari Ismail, Ibad-ur-Rehman, and Nasrullah. He received the handler, Nasrullah, and the suicide bomber at Pir Wadahi Bus Stand and lodged them at the house of Rafaqat Hussain, co-accused. He also conducted reconnaissance in November 2007 and kept the suicide jacket at his home. Muhammad Rafaqat, along with Hasnain Gul picked the suicide bomber and his handler from the Bus Stand and kept them at his house overnight. He also took Nasrullah to Liaqat Bagh and Rashid Ahmed Turabi had knowledge of the conspiracy. He also identified Abdullah alias Saddam, Qari Ismail, Nasrullah, and suicide bomber Bilal.
It may be mentioned here that the PPP leadership was of the firm view that the assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had international dimensions with a wider conspiracy plan. The PPP Government, therefore, requested the UN Secretary General to constitute an Inquiry Commission to investigate the case in order to unearth the conspiracy. The Inquiry Commission submitted its Report in May 2010 wherein it primarily held the then Federal Government responsible for not providing Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed adequate and proper security. It also discredited the findings of the committee appointed by the then Punjab Government with regard to washing of the crime scene. On the basis of the findings of the Inquiry Commission, the Federal Government decided to transfer the case to FIA for further investigation and constituted a high-powered JIT as mentioned above.
The investigation carried out by the JIT had led to the facts that:
The conspiracy was hatched at Room No 96 of Madrassa Haqqania, Akora Khattak by the former student of the said Madrassa. One Ibad-ur-Rehman, a former student of Madrassa Haqqania had brought the suicide bomber to the Madrassa from then TTP chief Baitullah Mahsud and stayed in Room No. 96 overnight.
The JIT collected the original admission record with photographs, addresses and parentage from the Madrassa of those students who conspired and then executed the conspiracy.
Accused Nasrullah, who had brought suicide bombers in Rawalpindi on December 26, 2007 and Ibad-ur-Rehman, the planner and ex-students of the Madrassa were later on found to have been killed in separate operations by the LEAs.
The JIT did their best job and brought facts to the light as all those involved in the assassination of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto were identified, chased, arrested, prosecuted, and convicted under the law. Unfortunately, a two-member Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court comprising Justice Mirza Waqas and Justice Sardar Serfraz granted bail to Abdul Rashid, Aitzaz Shah, Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul, and Sher Zaman on their appeal whose roles are well explained above.Since the case is still pending in the court of law, therefore, I refrain from shedding light on some of the most crucial aspects of the case but in the meantime, we hope that we will get justice.
Conclusion — Anti Shaheed Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto’s groups had decided to eliminate as part of their agenda and finally it was carried out under the direction of Baitullah Mehsud which has been fully established by the JIT. I would like to reiterate my request to the Government of Pakistan to request the Government of Afghanistan to extradite Ikramullah to Pakistan and also take the matter to Interpol for issuing his red warrant.
The writer is Former Interior Minister of Pakistan, author of five books, Chairman Institute of Research & Reforms (IRR) Islamabad/ Global Eye. He can be reached at: [email protected], Twitter @Senrehmanmalik