CAN PPP GOVT. ACT ON UN REPORT ON BENAZIR’S MURDER
by Samuel Baid
Within hours of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) Chairperson Benazir Bhutto’s assassination on December 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi, the President Gen. Parvez Musharraf blamed Tehrik-i-Taliban Chief Baitullah Mehsud for it. Mehsud denied. A couple of weeks later America’s CIA Chief Michael Hayden told the Washington Post that Al-Qaeda associates of Mehsud were responsible for this assassination. After Mr. Asif Zardari took the oath of President he told the New York Times that Taliban had snatched away the mother of his children.
But the people of Sindh blamed the Musharraf Government and Intelligence Agencies for this assassination. The just released report of the United Nations Commission on her assassination confirms the Sindhi charge.
The 65 page report prepared by a three-man UN Commission, was presented to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on April 15. The Commission was headed by Chilean Ambassador to UNO Heraldo Mupoz and included Indonesia’s former Attorney General Marzuki Darusman and veteran of the Irish National Police, Peter Fitzgerald. They visited Pakistan a number of times to question the people in connection with the killing of Ms. Bhutto.
The lead point in the report is that Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s assassination could have been prevented had President Gen. Musharraf provided her necessary security. The report blames, besides Gen. Musharraf’s Government, the ISI and the police who, it says obstructed the investigation work. The team doubted the contention of the Government and the Army that Baitullah Mehsud was behind the assassination. On the contrary its report blamed the ISI of still maintaining relations with terrorist groups like Lashkar-i-Tayyaba. The Commission suggested the present Government start an inquiry into the assassination on the basis of this report.
Information Minister Qamar-ul-zaman Kaira has announced the Government has decided to probe the role of officers mentioned in the report. Eight police officers have been removed from active duties and made Officers on Special Duty (OSD). They included Saud Aziz, who as the Rawalpindi City Police Officer had got the spot of assassination washed within one hour to destroy the evidence. But, surprisingly, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made him the police chief of his Constituency, Multan. Saud Aziz said he got the street washed on orders from ‘above’. This could mean the Army, which controls the police force whenever it rules the country directly or through the façade of a civilian Government.
It is the present Government which immediately after taking over requested the UN Secretary General to hold an inquiry into the assassination of Ms. Bhutto. But the report has plunged the Government into a dilemma: it does not have the spine to take action against those Army and ISI officer whose role in the assassination of Ms. Bhutto are mentioned in the report. Also, on the other hand, the Government has to satisfy the PPP workers and sympathizers who have been insisting an action against their leader’s killers. The promotion of Saud Aziz as the Police Chief of Multan has puzzled them. Now that the 18th Constitutional Amendment has transferred all executive powers from the President to the Prime Minister, it is unlikely that Mr. Gilani will do anything to needle the Army and the ISI. He is intelligent enough to know that the 18th amendment does not at all guarantee against the recapture of political power by the Army. The Army does not bother what is written in the Constitution. For example, Article 6, which describes abrogation or subversion of the Constitution as high treason, has never bothered the Generals. It is noteworthy that whenever they subverted the Constitution, they never touched this Article – because it posed no threat to them.
As mentioned above the common PPP worker, especially in Sindh, believes that the Army killed her. The first serious attempt to kill her was made on the night of October 18, 2007 when she was leading a massive procession to Quaid-e-Azam’s Mazar after landing in Karachi from Dubai. Before the suicide bomber blew himself 10 feet from Ms. Bhutto the street lights had been mysteriously switched off. The procession moved on in complete darkness. Ms. Bhutto escaped the attack, but about 150 of her followers died. Some of the injured are still in hospital.
Ms. Bhutto alleged that the then ISI Chief Nadim Taj had organized this attack. To prove her allegation she demanded that British and American Intelligence men should conduct an inquiry into the attack on her. Gen. Musharraf once rejected this demand. But that Ms. Bhutto was correct was proved by the UN Commission’s report which has named Nadim Taj besides Gen. Musharraf.
The unsuccessful attempt on Ms. Bhutto’s life on October 18, 2007 and her assassination on December 27 that year brought out a glaring example of duplicity in the character of Pakistan’s Establishment. From the UN Commission’s report one infers that Gen. Musharraf facilitated Benazir’s return to Pakistan from self-exile by promulgating the now defunct National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) to kill her in the country something he did not want very closely used to create a public impression that Benazir had been brought back to strengthen Gen. Musharraf’s position as the President and thus nobody would suspect him.
After the assassination of Ms. Bhutto, Gen. Musharraf tried to hoodwink the Pakistani public and the public at large by inviting the Scotland Yard to do the investigations. That he had invited a foreign investigation agency should prove that he had nothing to hide. But the Scotland Yard was told not to speak to those men in his Cabinet about whom Ms. Bhutto had written to him before returning to Pakistan that they posed threat to her life. The independence of the Scotland Yard was clipped by telling it to work only under a Pakistani investigation team.
The Human Rights watch of the United States asked the Scotland Yard not to lose its credibility by working under such conditions. The PPP wrote to the UNO requesting it to conduct the inquiry and let the Scotland Yard work under it. Gen. Musharraff’s Government would not accept this demand. He claimed Pakistani investigation agencies were good enough to conduct an inquiry into Ms. Bhutto’s death. He also claimed that she herself was responsible for her death.
The Pakistan Army is suspected to be responsible for almost all political murders and national shame and tragedies in the past 60 years. But the reports of no investigation has ever been made public – e.g. the murder of the first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, the 1965 war, the loss of East Pakistan in 1971 and the invasion of and humiliating retreat from Kargil in 1999. There was no investigation into the death of Madr-i-Milal (Mother of the Nation) in 1965 because the Army said she died of a heart attack. But those who prepared her body for burial, said they saw signs of violence on it. That means the Mother of the Nation was murdered. The report of Ms. Bhutto’s assassination is the first one to be made public in the history of Pakistan. But in the light of Pakistan’s peculiar situation it is unlikely that the present Government can dare take on the Army – some empty postures, notwithstanding.
Thus, in the final analysis the UN Commission Report will not be any better then the past reports which were not made public.