Investigators from Scotland Yard today arrived in Pakistan to assist the investigation into the assassination of the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
The five investigators arrived at Islamabad airport but declined to speak to reporters. President Pervez Musharraf has asked for help from the British police amid accusations of lax government security when Bhutto was killed in a suicide attack in Rawalpindi on December 27.
Her supporters suspect the Pakistani intelligence services of complicity in her murder. Musharraf yesterday strongly rejected any suggestion that security agencies were behind the assassination and said Bhutto had ignored warnings about threats from militants. The government has blamed al-Qaida for the attack on the opposition leader, who had vowed face down militants.
Even the cause of Bhutto’s death is disputed, with the government claiming she was killed when the force of the bomb blast smashed her head into the sunroof, fracturing her skull. Her supporters say she was shot. No autopsy was performed at the request of her husband, who said it was clear she had been killed by a bullet.
Video footage of the attack showed a clean-shaven young man wearing sunglasses firing a pistol at Bhutto as she stood through the sunroof. Another man photographed in the crowd with a white shawl over his head shortly before the attack was believed to be the suicide bomber, a television station said.
The government yesterday published photographs of the two men taken from video footage, and the severed head of the suspected bomber, and offered a reward of 10 million rupees (£83,000) for information leading to their identification.
Musharraf has conceded shortcomings in Pakistan’s handling of the case, including hosing down the site of the bomb hours after the attack instead of conducting a detailed forensic examination. But he has dismissed suggestions there was a plan to conceal evidence.
Bhutto’s party has demanded a UN investigation into her murder and said it would not cooperate with the British team.
Hours after arriving home after eight years of self-imposed exile in October, Bhutto narrowly escaped a suicide bomb attack on her motorcade procession in the city of Karachi that killed about 140 people.
Her assassination last month sparked an outbreak of unrest that has left nearly 60 people dead and caused extensive damage in the province of Sindh, Bhutto’s base of support.
The government has postponed parliamentary elections, scheduled for next week, to February 18. Musharraf said Pakistan needed political reconciliation to fight terrorism, and he hoped the elections would haul the country out of the crisis.
“This is the greatest threat Pakistan has and we have to have political reconciliation to fight it together,” he said.