How Did Benazir Bhutto Die?

In the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, Pakistan's government faces the challenge of trying to maintain its credibility among growing questions about what exactly killed Bhutto and why there was no forensic investigation in accordance with Pakistani law.

Footage released to the media of the moments before the attack fueled confusion. The video shows a man dressed in Western-style clothes, wearing sunglasses and holding a gun at almost point-blank range at Bhutto, standing and waving at the crowd through the car's sunroof. Standing behind the alleged gunman is a man dressed in ethnic clothing.

Gunshots can be heard on the video, followed by Bhutto apparently ducking or falling over. Moments later, an explosion occurs. The two men in the image are alleged to be the gunman and a suicide bomber.

The video adds credence to the initial claim that Bhutto was shot twice. The government later stated that the gunman missed Bhutto, and that she died from a skull fracture that occurred when the force from the bomb and her efforts to duck out of the way caused her to smash her head against the car's sunroof.

Athar Minallah who is on the management board of Rawalpindi General Hospital where Bhutto was taken after the attack, appeared angry as he blamed the government for what he called "criminal negligence" in the investigation into Bhutto's death.

He insisted that contrary to Pakistani law, Bhutto's body was not inspected by a forensic pathologist. He also claimed that the police chief at the hospital did not allow an autopsy to take place. The autopsy did not happen, he said, because "the executive is unaccountable in this country."

There has been widespread speculation that Bhutto's body may be exhumed. Minallah, though, was confident that this would never happen. "There will be rioting all over the country if Benazir Bhutto's body is exhumed," he declared.

Sen. Ehsan Iqbal, a member of a rival opposition party led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, agreed that legally there should have been an autopsy. He said he supports Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party's call for an independent investigation into Bhutto's death, and that if there is an independent forensic investigation that Bhutto's body may be exhumed, adding that "the government has already tampered with major clues."

In a press conference Sunday night, Bhutto's husband admitted that he had refused the government's attempt to conduct an autopsy. He did not address the legal ramifications of his decision.

Also roiling suspicions about the government's trustworthiness is Pakistan's election commission's expected decision on whether elections will take place as planned Jan. 8. Different sources have predicted delays of weeks and even months.

Observers believes Bhutto's party would benefit from an enormous sympathy vote, and President Pervez Musharraf would be badly hurt if the election were held next week as scheduled.

Pakistan People's Party spokesperson Sherry Iqbal said that the "government is trying to run away from the election."

There has been no official statement from Musharraf so far, but his spokesperson Rashid Qureshi says there will likely be a statement from the president after the election commission makes its decision.

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