Islamabad, Dec 30: Video footage of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's public rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi by a Pakistani private TV channel has exposed fatal security flaws that led to her assassination.
The controversy deepened last night when Dawn News TV aired chilling images of an armed assassin taking a shot at her as she acknowledged the cheers of jubilant party activists from the sunroof of her bullet-proof vehicle. The government has insisted that Bhutto died when her head slammed against her vehicle by the blast from a bomb. But the Pakistan People's Party has held that she died from bullet wounds.
Shot by an amateur photographer, the images telecast by Dawn News TV made it abundantly clear that there was no security cordon around Bhutto's vehicle.
They showed a young clean-shaven man, wearing a waistcoat and dark glasses, inch inconspicuously towards the slow-moving vehicle of Bhutto. Standing closely behind was a man believed to be the suicide bomber with a piece of cloth draped around his face. The first image catched the duo looking straight into the camera.
Another image showed the sharpshooter open fire on the unsuspecting political leader with remarkable aplomb. He was just a couple of metres away from his target. One of the party activists clinging to the vehicle seem to have spotted the assassin, whose upraised hand carried a gun.
The third image showed activists around the vehicle ducking their heads in reflex, suggesting that the gun had been fired. Unfazed, the assassin was still in their midst.
Crucially, Bhutto had disappeared from the sunroof. And, equally crucially, the suicide bomber was yet to blow himself up.
The unsettling images raise significant questions about the quality of security arrangements made for the former prime minister who narrowly escaped a suicide attack on her homecoming procession on October 18.
The fact that an armed assassin managed to get just a couple of metres away from Ms Bhutto clearly give the lie to the government claim that she had received a VIP security cover.
Also, the new images seem to lend credence to the assertion made by a close aide to Bhutto who insisted that the opposition leader was shot in the head and neck.
Sherry Rehman, a PPP spokesperson, said, '' Bhutto had a bullet wound at the back of her head on the left side. It came out the other (side). That was a very large wound, and she bled profusely through that.'' However, the government stuck to its version, saying Bhutto's party was welcome to disinter her body to check.