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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2038

A Bullet, Shrapnel, or a Lever?

By Adnan Gill

Even weeks after Benazir Bhutto's death, there are still a lot of speculations thrown around about what caused her death? Like a bunch of gossiping housewives everyone who matters is busy leaking information to support their version. Ms. Bhutto’s party wants to believe, she died from a bullet wound fired from an exotic weapon with a laser-pointer, so they are releasing information that supports their version. Government of Pakistan is still not sure whether they want to support the ‘lever theory’, ‘shrapnel theory’, or the ‘bullet theory’. So they keep on leaking all sorts of witness accounts and circumstantial evidence. For their part, the Scotland Yard is feeding their media with their own leaks.

At this point, it would be fair to say that only God knows exactly what caused Ms. Bhutto's death? Upon Ms. Bhutto's widower Asif Zardari’s wishes no autopsy was performed, most of the forensic evidence was lost when the crime scene was hosed down a few hours after the December 27 assassination, and no eye-witnesses were interviewed. But according to whatever circumstantial evidence is available to the public -- in the form of eyewitness accounts, photos, and videos -- government's ‘lever theory’ appears to be the least plausible one.

Days after Ms. Bhutto's assassination, the British TV Channel 4 News released a set of pictures and an amateur's video which raised serious doubts about government’s account of what might have caused Ms. Bhutto's death. The pictures showed a clean-shaven male of reasonably young age wearing sunglasses and unbuttoned vest shadowing Ms. Bhutto's vehicle. In the next series of the pictures, the same male suspect could be clearly seen, within the kill-zone (10 feet) of the vehicle, taking aim and shooting at Ms. Bhutto with a handgun. The video clip showed the same person, in quick succession, firing at least three shots, immediately a bomb blast followed.

This video along with another video clip gave other vital clues too. It showed, the suspect shooting from approx. 8 o'clock/250° of Ms. Bhutto's position, and from a lower vantage point. As the suspect fired his handgun, for a split second, Ms. Bhutto's hair and scarf could be seen lifting, and then immediately afterwards her head could be seen dropping to her right and forward direction (to her 1-2 o'clock). Other videos suggested the bomb blast was centered farther away from the shooter, at approx. 7 o'clock of Ms. Bhutto's position; because the singeing of the paint and the shrapnel pattern could be observed on the left and backside of her vehicle.

In another series of pictures released by the Interior Ministry one can see a blood stained lever situated on the rear and right side of the sunroof hatch. According to government's version, this is the liver that penetrated Ms. Bhutto's skull.

It is imperative to note that she fell forward and to her right, and Not backwards and to her right. It is also of equal importance to make a note that the bomb blast doesn't take place till after her head couldn't be seen projecting through the sunroof. Collectively, these observations seriously undermine government’s ‘lever theory’ for the following reasons:

1. Since, the bomb blast took place after Ms. Bhutto's head dropped through the sunroof, therefore the concussion from the shock wave would have first moved her vehicle (in approx. 2 o'clock direction), rather than her head. Resulting whiplash effect should have moved her head to the rear and to her left. Considering, the direction the shock wave traveled, it should have been the rear-left lever that should have mortally wounded Ms. Bhutto and not the rear-right lever.

2. Due to gravity, an object drops at the velocity of 9.8 m/s2. The distance between Ms. Bhutto's head and the lever couldn’t have been more than 2 feet. From that height, if an object of same weight and density, as of Ms. Bhutto's skull, is dropped on a similar lever, it wouldn't even make the slightest penetration; not to talk of a 5 x 3 cm gash as claimed by the government investigators.

3. Even, if Ms. Bhutto's head came in contact with the lever at the velocity of 9.8 m/s2, unless her head was already bleeding, a fraction of a second does not give enough time for the bleeding to start and leave such a high amount of blood on the lever. The odds of enough blood rushing through a layer of hair and scarf in a split-second are next to nil. Government’s version would have been more believable, had they claimed to have found hair, skin, bone, and/or brain tissues/residues on the lever, instead of finding blood. In all likelihood, the bloodstains were left by someone’s blood soaked hand as he/she might have attempted to close the hatch.

Regardless, how one dissects and looks at the circumstantial evidence, the ‘lever theory’ fails to hold the burden of proof. Unless, the government presents new overwhelming evidence to suggest that the collision between Ms. Bhutto's head and the lever delivered the mortal wound, the ‘lever theory’ could be safely ruled out.

Considering the available evidence, the ‘shrapnel theory’ also looks very weak. Pictures and numerous videos clearly show Ms. Bhutto's head was already inside her vehicle before the blast took place. Therefore, (theoretically) her head should have been out of the trajectory of any shrapnel flying at the supersonic speeds.

However, the possibility of fatal gunshot wound cannot be ruled out. The British paper, The Observer, disclosed that the doctors never looked for the entry wound on Ms. Bhutto's neck. It reported, “The doctor [Mohammad Khan] was asked, 'Did you examine the other side of her head?' He said, 'I didn't have time. They all thought there would be an autopsy,' the government official said.” Therefore, the existence of entry wound cannot be ruled out. Typically, trauma caused by a bullet has an entry wound (which almost always has a narrow puncture opening), and an exit wound (which almost always has me - competitively - much larger opening).

Even in the absence of a postmortem report, we know for sure, that at least, there was an exit wound which in all of likelihood resulted from a bullet. Hence, one can safely argue that Ms. Bhutto's death was caused by a bullet wound.

- Asian Tribune -

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