ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, (AP) -A newly released video of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and an inconclusive medical report raised new doubts Monday about the official explanation of her death and were likely to intensify calls for an independent, international investigation.
The footage, obtained by Britain’s Channel 4 television, showed a man firing a pistol at Bhutto from just feet away as she greeted supporters through the sunroof of her armored vehicle after a rally Thursday. Her hair and shawl then moved upward and she fell into the vehicle just before an explosion — apparently detonated by a second man — rocked the car.
Bhutto’s aides, including one who rushed her to the hospital, said they were certain she was shot. She was buried Friday without an autopsy.
The government, citing a report from doctors at the hospital where she died, said she was not hit by any of the bullets, but was killed when the force of the blast slammed her head into a lever on the vehicle’s sunroof.
However, a copy of the medical report sent to reporters by a prominent lawyer who is a board member of the hospital said the doctors had made no determination about whether she was shot.
It gave the cause of death as “open head injury with depressed skull fracture, leading to cardiopulmonary arrest.”
The report, signed by seven doctors at the hospital, said that when Bhutto was brought in, she had no pulse and was not breathing. Blood trickled from a wound on the right side of her head and whitish material that appeared to be brain matter was visible. Her clothes were soaked with blood. The medical team worked for 41 minutes to try to resuscitate her before declaring her dead.
The report said her head wound was an irregular oval shape measuring about 2 inches by 1.2 inches. No surrounding wounds or blackening were seen.
“No foreign body was felt in the wound. Wound was not further explored,” it said.
The report was released by prominent opposition lawyer Athar Minallah, who is a member of the board that oversees Rawalpindi General Hospital. He said that the doctors had called for an autopsy to definitively determine the cause of death, but that Rawalpindi police chief Saud Aziz refused.
“The wound might appear to be a bullet wound, but without an autopsy no doctor would ever be able to give a conclusive opinion that it was or it wasn’t a bullet wound,” Minallah said. “Without an autopsy there can be no investigation at all.”
However, Aziz denied that he refused to authorize an autopsy.
“I have not told anyone about stopping the post-mortem,” he told The Associated Press. “It is a legal requirement, but again it is dependent upon the legal heirs of the deceased.”
In a news conference Sunday, Bhutto’s widowed husband, Asif Ali Zardari, confirmed that he had refused a request to perform an autopsy, saying he did not trust the government of President Pervez Musharraf to carry out a credible investigation. He also rejected the government’s account about his wife’s death as “lies.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said Bhutto’s family was free to exhume her body for an autopsy if it wished.
The dispute undermined already shaky confidence in Musharraf, a former army chief who seized power here in a 1999 coup. Many of Bhutto’s supporters have demanded a U.N. probe similar to the one investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
“It’s difficult to believe that they are so incompetent that they would handle this whole affair in such a shabby manner so as to create so much doubt,” Minallah said.
Musharraf agreed to consider international support when he spoke by phone Sunday with Gordon Brown, the British prime minister’s office said. But Rashid Qureshi, a spokesman for the Pakistani president, said Monday that Musharraf had made no such promises.
The government has blamed an Islamic militant leader for Bhutto’s killing, an accusation the militant and Bhutto’s party dismissed.
Talat Masood, a former army general and security analyst, said the government was “outright stupid” for coming out with firm conclusions about her death just one day later, saying a more thorough investigation was required.
“They should have waited at least a few days,” he said.