More than one weapon used in Tasser`s assassination: Report

More than one weapon may have been used in the assassination of Pakistan`s Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer last month and the politician may have been attacked again while being driven to hospital, a media report said.

Last Updated: Feb 23, 2011, 17:05 PM IST

Islamabad: More than one weapon may have
been used in the assassination of Pakistan`s Punjab Governor
Salmaan Taseer last month and the politician may have been
attacked again while being driven to hospital, a media report
said on Wednesday.

Taseer, an outspoken leader of the ruling Pakistan
People`s Party, was shot at in a market in Islamabad on
January 4 by police guard Mumtaz Qadri, who said he was
angered by the Governor`s opposition to the controversial
blasphemy law.

Qadri surrendered after gunning down Taseer and
handed over his assault rifle to his colleagues.

However, the nature of many of the wounds and the size
of the exit wounds on Taseer’s body were consistent with an
attack with a smaller weapon, rather than an assault rifle,
Pakistan Today newspaper reported.

The daily highlighted several other inconsistencies in
the investigation into Taseer’s murder.

According to an autopsy report, there were 29 bullet
wounds on Taseer?s body and 27 bullets were recovered from it.
Pakistan Today quoted experts as saying said the body
of a victim shot 29 times at close range with an assault rifle
would have been "completely mangled".

While, Superintendents of Police Khurram Rashid, who
is part of the investigating team, insisted that Taseer?s body
was mangled, the daily said photos obtained from the murder
site and from the operation theatre told a different story ?-
Taseer’s "back and front torso, while wounded, were fairly
intact."

Video footage gathered from the murder site by news
channels showed empty cartridges from two weapons - a
Tula-Tokarev-30 pistol and an assault rifle.

The pistol cartridges are smaller in size and look
"distinctively different" from assault rifle cartridges,
several security experts said.

When Qadri was arrested, he surrendered an assault
rifle and was not carrying a pistol.

Photos of the murder site, available with Pakistan
Today, also indicated a discrepancy in the number of injuries
that Taseer sustained at Kohsar Market and those that showed
up later in an autopsy report.

"This difference is absolutely inexplicable," an
unnamed senior Punjab Police official was quoted as saying.
This has given rise to speculation that the Governor
might have been attacked again while being driven to hospital
in a police van after Qadri shot him.

Investigators are yet to determine whether Qadri acted
alone or was part of a wider conspiracy.

Police have accused two radical clerics from
Rawalpindi of inciting Taseer to act against Taseer.

Qadri was also drummed out of the Special Branch
several years ago after he was declared a "security risk"
because of his extremist leanings.

Reports have said that Qadri had informed his
colleagues about his intention to kill Taseer for opposing the
blasphemy law.

Referring to speculation that more than one weapon was
used in the assassination, an unnamed police official told
Pakistan Today: "The investigation team should have checked
the weapons of the other personnel on Taseer’s security
detail, as well as anyone else who accompanied him to the
hospital." The investigation team should have also verified that
the personnel in the security detail had returned all the
ammunition that had been issued to them, the daily said.

Smaller weapons, like a pistol, are generally issued
to "upper subordinates" like a thaanedar (SHO) and officials
should have checked if officers of this rank were anywhere
near Taseer on the day he was killed.

The fact that nothing of this sort was done, despite
an obvious doubt that is raised by the nature of the wounds on
the Governor’s body, is shocking.

The thoroughness of police investigations also depends
on how closely the victim’s family follows up on the case.
"In this instance, Taseer`s family did not seem too
concerned, and the police simply wrapped the case up as soon
as they could," the report said.

Key pieces of evidence have either been overlooked or
gone missing.

While the investigation team insisted otherwise,
prosecution and defence lawyers verified that a chemical
examination has not been conducted to determine whether the
weapon surrendered by Qadri was the one used to shoot Taseer.

"A chemical examination was essential, especially in a
case as high profile as this... Even if the investigation team
has what is said to be the murder weapon, it is essential to
establish legally, via a chemical examination, that the weapon
was indeed the one- or that it was the only one - from
which the bullets that killed the victim came from," the
senior Punjab Police official said.

There was also a inconsistency in the number of
bullets reportedly fired by Qadri and the number of bullets
that hit Taseer and a building and a car.

Qadri filled the magazine of his assault rifle with 30
bullets and emptied the magazine in 3.5 seconds, police
officials said. However, more than 30 bullets were fired.
While there were 29 bullet wounds on the Taseer’s
body, three more hit a car and the wall of a restaurant.

Police officials were unable to explain this inconsistency.

CCTV footage from two shops in Kohsar Market, where
Taseer was killed, has reportedly gone missing, sources told
Pakistan Today.

On the evening of January 4, officials claiming to be
from the Federal Investigation Agency visited the two outlets
and confiscated CCTV tapes.

They left after threatening employees with "dire
consequences" if they told anyone about the tapes.

The footage never reached the team that is
investigating the murder and the second person with whom
Taseer was having lunch is yet to be identified.

The "botched investigation and missing evidence" might
allow Taseer?s assassin to get away with only around 14 years
of imprisonment, with or without a fine, the report said.

Qadri`s lawyer Malik Waheed Anjum, president of the
Rawalpindi Bar Association, said he had confessed to killing
Taseer but had pleaded not guilty to murder.

This technicality that would allow the defence to
bring in Section 302 C of the Pakistan Penal Code, rather than
sections 302 A or 302 B, Anjum said.

The latter results in death sentences while Section
302 C carries a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison
and most offenders are freed within 12 to 14 years.

"We are not contesting the fact that Qadri was
involved in killing Taseer. We are, instead, handling the case
on the basis of the quantum of the sentence... We will argue
that Qadri was faced with mitigating circumstances.

"He had no previous relationship with the victim, he
had no personal enmity with Taseer and he had nothing to gain
from killing him," Anjum said.

"As such, the crime was committed on the spur of a
moment. This comes under Section 302 C of the PPC, and we
expect him to get somewhere around 10 to 14 years in prison.
We have also made preparations to appeal his sentence in the
high court, as per Section 410 of the Criminal Procedure
Code."

PTI