Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday constituted a three-member committee to pinpoint responsibility for hosing down of the crime scene after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Dec 27, 2007.

Cabinet Secretary Abdul Rauf Chaudhry will head the body. Other members will be the Deputy Chief of General Staff, Maj-Gen Sajjad Ghani, and Additional Chief Secretary (Home) for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Fayyaz Tooru.

The committee has been tasked with finding out whether the then director-general of Military Intelligence (MI), Maj-Gen Nadeem Ijaz, ordered police officials to hose down the crime scene.

The committee has been asked to submit a report to the prime minister within seven working days.

Informed sources told Dawn that soon after the release of the UN Commission’s report on Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, senior army officials had asked the prime minister to form a high-level committee to dig out the truth behind the erasure of potential evidence.

“As the naming of a senior military official in the report was something embarrassing for the top army command, it sought formation of a body to determine if the former DG MI had a role in the episode or not,” they said.

It will be a rare case of probe into the possible role of a senior military officer in a crime. Maj-Gen Nadeem Ijaz is currently serving as Logistics Area Commander in Gujranwala and before being superseded was the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 26th Mechanised Division at Bahawalpur.
The UN fact finding mission’s report had revealed that the then Military Intelligence (MI) chief, Maj-Gen Nadeem Ijaz, a relative of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, had ordered police to wash the scene of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi. The commission attached great significance to the washing of the crime scene as it could have proved useful in investigations into the assassination.

The report, citing unnamed sources, said that the then Rawalpindi city police officer (CPO), Saud Aziz, did not act independently in hosing down the assassination site. It said one source had claimed that CPO Saud Aziz confided in him that he had received a call from Army headquarters instructing him to order the hosing down of the crime scene, but quoted another source as saying that he was ordered by the then director general of Military Intelligence, Maj-Gen Nadeem Ijaz Ahmed, to take the controversial decision.

The report said others, including three police officers, told the commission that Saud Aziz did not act independently and that “everyone knows” who ordered the action. However, they were not willing to state on record what is the meaning of “everyone knows”.
The commission said it was one of the many occasions during the inquiry when individuals, including government officials, expressed fear or hesitation to speak openly.

The report cited some senior police officers as pointing out that while the deliberate hosing down of a scene is unheard of in police practice, it had occurred on a few occasions. In each case the military had been the target of such attacks and the crime scene was managed by it.

The unusual action of hosing down of the crime scene of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination has been shrouded in mystery from the very outset. A three-member committee of inquiry was set up by the Punjab chief minister to delve into the circumstances leading to the washing down of the crime site. It concluded its work within two days on Feb 15, 2008. The committee acknowledged that a crime scene should in principle be preserved at least till a search and thorough forensic examination was carried out. Yet it gave a clean chit to the Rawalpindi police by accepting its plea that it had been done as a crowd control and public order measure.

Interestingly, the UN Commission did not get a chance to meet the committee comprising three senior officers of the Punjab government, in spite of a request.

The commission, however, said it was difficult to credit the committee’s work, saying that the narrow scope of terms of reference cast doubt on the committee’s independence.

It stressed that the objective of the crime scene management was the collection and preservation of evidence to help solve the crime.