OVER 200 demonstrators gathered opposite the Pakistan Embassy in London on Sunday to demand a United Nations-led inquiry into the assassination of Pakistan People’s Party leader Benazir Bhutto.
Bhutto’s murder has caused a massive uprising across Pakistan, whilst elections that she was due to contest on January 8 have been put back to February 18.
Ibrar Mir, of the People’s Youth Organisation, said: ‘It’s a demonstration regarding what the PPP is thinking that the actual hidden hands should be revealed to the public and any inquiry should be held through the UN.’
He said that although Britain had sent a team from Scotland Yard to investigate the killing, the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband ‘has clearly said that this is done by Al-Qaeda’.
He added: ‘If the Foreign Secretary is saying that this is done by Al-Qaeda before New Scotland Yard has left for Pakistan, then there is very limited chance New Scotland Yard will find any different conclusion.
‘Yet Al-Qaeda have already denied this and expressed condolence over the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.’
He continued: ‘Pakistan security will be leading the inquiry, but Scotland Yard will be assisting them.
‘So what PPP is asking is it should be conducted by the UN and that the UN should be leading the inquiry, rather than assisting Pakistan security, which we don’t believe in.’
He also said that: ‘Most of the evidence has been destroyed. They have washed the scene, half an hour after the body was taken from the scene, so that you can’t find any forensic evidence now.’
He went on to say: ‘Day by day the situation is getting worse and it is getting out of the government’s hands, especially in the province of Sind.
‘The elections were due to go ahead tomorrow.
‘Since Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, they are now on February 18.
‘PPP will contest the elections but their supporters are being arrested by the police who are making false cases against them.’
Bobby Malik said: ‘It’s a united demonstration and we are all here to show our solidarity with the late Benazir Bhutto and with the people of Pakistan.’
He described Benazir Bhutto as ‘a great leader who has given her life for the people of Pakistan, for democracy and for the great cause.’
He added: ‘We are here to show our respect for her and to let the whole world know that we are all together on this matter.
‘The People’s Party is in good hands now, this young chap (Benazir Bhutto’s son), has been well educated by his mother and the politics runs in the family.’
Regarding the elections now scheduled for February, he said that, if there was any attempt to rig them, ‘we all will know if anything goes wrong’.
Samina Butt, president of the PPP East London women’s section, said: ‘The authorities are not revealing anything.
‘That’s why we want an inquiry.
‘The first statement of doctors and everybody present at the hospital was that a bullet was the cause of Benazir Bhutto’s death.
‘It is such a serious assassination of one of our country’s leaders, one of the most loved figures of our country, who had a good relationship with the rest of the world.
‘She was such a fresh breath of air and was bringing a freshness and a moderate view into Pakistan politics and she was basically highlighting that we can’t get freedom unless we get democracy, which means freedom of speech, freedom of movement and freedom of the Supreme Court to deliver their judgements without fear.
‘We don’t want a suppressed Pakistan, we want freedom of speech, freedom of movement and therefore we will fight to the end for democracy.
‘This was the vision of our leadership, and before Benazir Bhutto that was the vision of her father, who was a great leader.’
Unfortunately, she said, Benazir Bhutto’s father was hanged by the military regime.
‘And today, when his brave daughter followed his brave footsteps to bring democracy and freedom for her people’, sadly once again the regime of the generals and the colonels was believed to have ‘viciously assassinated her’.
She added: ‘We still believe that we do have enough strength given to us by her leadership that can carry her vision and mission and keep it alive.’
Asif Sheikh said Benazir Bhutto told ‘the truth’ to the people of Pakistan.
‘A lot of people don’t want to hear the truth, but she spoke truth at all times,’ he said.
‘A lot of people are scared because of the military power behind Musharraf and that lives will be at stake if they come forward.
‘And it’s a fact she would have won the elections, although they were trying to rig them so that Musharraf would have won, no matter what.
‘And they are trying to blame Al-Qaeda now, but Al-Qaeda never denies it if they kill someone. How can they say it is them who assassinated Benazir Bhutto.’
Several speakers addressed the rally, with one saying that the economy in Pakistan ‘is completely under the ground’.
He said that people across the country were suffering fuel and food shortages and power cuts.
‘There is a civil war in Pakistan today, in Balochistan,’ he said, adding: ‘The judiciary has been completely shattered.’
He said there were ‘shackles’ on freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and the right of association and on people ‘who speak out for democracy’ or against imperialism.
He added that the ‘oppressed peoples’ in Pakistan were also shackled, as were the workers in the factories and the peasants toiling on the land.
‘My country is in shackles and anyone who dares to speak up for democracy, what is their fate – they are slaughtered, they are murdered.’
But he added that ‘the destiny of the country’ could be changed.
Another speaker said of the British team going to Pakistan to investigate: ‘Scotland Yard will do nothing, it has no power there.
‘Scotland Yard’s team of investigators should be withdrawn, should be brought back here.’
Another said: ‘Today is the beginning of the demonstrations. There will be bigger demonstrations.
‘There will be lots of people fighting for democracy.’
Taimur Rahman said: ‘There are massive queues outside all petrol stations across the cities of Pakistan and there is about 48 per cent inflation and six hours of power cuts daily.
‘Flour mills are not opening and therefore there is a shortage of flour.’
And another demonstrator told News Line: ‘I spoke to one mill owner in Pakistan yesterday and he said there are trucks and trucks of wheat that can’t be milled, and he was afraid the people might start attacking the mill, as they are helpless and angry.’
Taimur Rahman added: ‘There is enormous hunger spreading across Pakistan.
‘The economy is completely finished. There is no business at all. People are not going to markets.
‘There is so much insecurity that the economy is coming to a complete standstill.
‘People are actually saying that the country is a write-off.’
Tariq Mahmood said he had just returned from a visit to Pakistan and added: ‘Petrol prices have gone up by 12 rupees.
‘Tankers have been stopped and certain people have managed to get some petrol, but otherwise people can’t get it.’
He continued: ‘The average common individual can’t get anything.
‘There is no flour, petrol and there is the issue of electricity.’
He said that in Kashmir there was only ‘three to four hours electricity a day’.
‘All businesses have been affected by this,’ he added.
‘People are at a loss, there is no flour, no diesel, the whole situation is catastrophic.’
He believed there was an effort being made to ‘try and put the issue of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination to one side’.
There was also ‘the whole question of Scotland Yard intervening in the investigation’, he added.
He said that Benazir Bhutto’s security adviser had asked for special security to be provided to protect her, before her assassination.
He went on: ‘Now that she has passed away, they have invited Scotland Yard, but there is no evidence. The evidence has been taken away.
‘How will the real perpetrators who killed her be found, when in reality Musharraf allowed Benazir Bhutto to return (to Pakistan) and then this is what they do to her.’
He said that ‘everyone in Pakistan except the pro-Musharraf lobby’ believed that the hand of the military was behind her assassination.
He said: ‘I went to the birthplace of Benazir Bhutto where she is resting now and there were demonstrations and rallies and people are just saddened and asking why has she been killed.
‘People are demanding proper democracy be restored.’
He said that in Pakistan there was ‘this whole concept of a military junta dictating who or what party comes into power’.
He said: ‘People want democracy and they want prosperity and they want the proper perpetrators of this crime, this assassination, to be found.’