(AFP) – Jan 4, 2008
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AFP) — A team of British anti-terrorism police flew into Pakistan on Friday to help investigate the killing of Benazir Bhutto, a move rejected by the opposition leader's party as "meaningless."
The specialists from Scotland Yard arrived amid raging controversy over the assassination of the former premier, which sparked a wave of bloody unrest across Pakistan and forced the postponement of elections.
President Pervez Musharraf said he had invited the British squad because he was unhappy with his country's handling of the probe, including the possible washing away of evidence after the gun and suicide attack.
"The team has arrived," British High Commission (embassy) spokesman Aidan Liddle told AFP. "They are here to offer assistance to the Pakistani inquiry and do whatever they can."
Around six suited men believed to be the British team were ushered out of the airport at Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, and into a white minibus before shutting the curtains and speeding off without talking to reporters.
The team is due to meet Pakistani investigators, examine evidence and visit the crime scene, security officials said.
Musharraf said on Thursday that he hoped the Scotland Yard team would help dispel "conspiracy theories" about Bhutto's death at an election rally on December 27, which the government has blamed on Al-Qaeda.
The anger of Bhutto's followers was still raw at the family mausoleum in the rural southern village of Ghari Khuda Baksh, where Bhutto is buried alongside her father, former premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged in 1979.
"I prayed to Allah to punish the killers and put them in hell," mourner Allah Buksh Bhutto told AFP after Friday prayers at the graveside attended by thousands of people.
Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) said it believed the British investigators would fail to shed any light on the murder.
"This Scotland Yard team... what will it do here? It will work under the patronage of the government. It is going to be a meaningless exercise," said Farooq Naik, a lawyer and Bhutto's top aide.
The party has ridiculed the government account of her death, which said the shooter had missed her and that she died fracturing her skull by smashing her head against her car's sunroof.
Many Bhutto supporters have blamed the president for her death -- at the very least for failing to provide sufficient security after she only narrowly survived Pakistan's worst terror attack in October, which left scores dead.
Naik said the party would not cooperate with any investigation other than one held under the auspices of the United Nations, such as the UN-led probe into the assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005.
The party has highlighted reports, acknowledged for the first time by Musharraf on Thursday, that the crime scene had been quickly hosed down after her murder, possibly destroying evidence.
But Musharraf denied that he or Pakistan's powerful intelligence agencies had either mounted a cover-up or been involved in the killing.
He reacted angrily when asked if the Britons would be allowed to question key politicians and an intelligence chief Bhutto had accused of plotting to kill her, saying they would not be allowed to go on a "wild goose chase."
Musharraf is struggling to keep a lid on a wave of deadly unrest sparked by Bhutto's death as the country prepares for general elections which have now been delayed by nearly six weeks to February 18.
The PPP, the country's largest party, has alleged the delay is an attempt to give Musharraf's allies time to fix the result. He denied the polls would be tainted.
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