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-- Questions that remain unanswered -- ASSASSINATION of Benazir Bhutto

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04/18/2010 09:26 PM
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-- Questions that remain unanswered -- ASSASSINATION of Benazir Bhutto
Questions that remain unanswered

Monday, April 19, 2010
Ameer Bhutto

The writer is vice-chairman of Sindh National Front and a former MPA from Ratodero. He has degrees from the University of Buckingham and Cambridge University.

Twenty-eight months after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, including an unexplained 15-day delay requested by the Zardari government, and a reported cost approaching a hundred million dollars, we finally have the report of the United Nations Inquiry Commission (UNIC) on the tragic incident, and all the report amounts to is a big fat nothing. It answers no questions, identifies no culprits and unearths no motives. It is a redundant reiteration of the doubts and suspicions that have haunted the nation since that fateful day in December 2007.

This should surprise no one. How could the UNIC be expected to uncover the truth when there was no post-mortem report for them to examine, since no post-mortem was allowed, the scene of the crime was hosed down within hours of the attack to eliminate all traces of evidence, Musharraf, whose government the UNIC holds responsible for alarming lapses in security arrangements, was not available for questioning. And the Pakistani authorities, according to the UNIC, created obstacles for them in the conduct of the inquiry and did not allow them access to various key sources of information.

Under such constraints, and given the rather restricted frame of reference they operated within, they could do no better than to produce such a futile document. It was a waste of time and money.

But was that the objective? To waste time? Procrastination and delay is this government’s established modus operandi on all fronts.

The restoration of the suspended judges and termination of Governor’s Rule in Punjab was delayed as much as possible, until the long march forced the government’s hand. The judges’ appointment issue was dragged on until an obvious contempt of court loomed over the government. The Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Reform dragged its feet for months until the NRO verdict was announced and the government needed to distract attention and have something positive to show. This government never does anything until action becomes absolutely unavoidable.

Despite the public chest-thumping and tear-shedding, why let almost 28 fruitless months lapse, only for us to be led into a foreseeable cul-de-sac, when a criminal inquiry at home could have been carried out quickly and cheaply, under a judicial commission aided by a team of high-ranking law enforcement and intelligence officers? But the troubling thing about such inquiries is that once the bloodhounds are let lose, there is no controlling where they might go and what they might find.

The government has a lot of explaining to do on this count. Will it now follow the UNIC recommendations and conduct a proper criminal investigation? Will we witness further dilatory tactics? It has even been reported in the press that the government tried to delay making the UNIC report public, but its efforts were foiled by the UN, which felt the report was too important to keep secret.

Even before Benazir Bhutto had been laid to rest, voices were raised about a UN inquiry. The new People’s Party leaders even rushed to write a letter to the UN secretary general asking for such an inquiry, not knowing that the UN deals not with private persons but with recognised states and international organisations. The United Nations is a forum for the resolution of conflict between nations and promotion of world peace. It is not a police station. It is not the UN’s responsibility to carry out murder investigations, for which it is ill-equipped anyway.

If the Zardari government was so anxious to carry out investigations into the Mumbai bombing incident, its reluctance to investigate a murder on Pakistani soil and its preference to lob the ball into the UN’s court defy justification. This is all the more puzzling since Zardari is on record as having declared, in a speech in Naodero, that he already knew the identity of the killers. Would it not have been much simpler, quicker and cheaper to hand over their names to local investigating authorities?

According to the UNIC, the government failed to make adequate arrangements for Benazir Bhutto’s security. This is obvious, but the UNIC also points out that the security arrangements made by her own party were inadequate. Should her party not have been more vigilant than the government could be expected to be?

Interior Minister Rehman Malik reportedly tried to convince the UNIC that he was not in charge of Benazir Bhutto’s security arrangements, but it refused to accept his denials, pointing to a body of evidence that suggested otherwise. Rehman Malik’s denial and the UNIC’s rejection of it are crucial. Much can be read between the lines in this. He happened to be one of the occupants of the backup vehicle following Benazir Bhutto’s vehicle. This backup vehicle, instead of transporting the bleeding Benazir Bhutto to hospital, inexplicably bolted from the scene. Despite its questioning of Rehman Malik, it is surprising that the UNIC failed to explain even this irregular conduct. A man who failed to provide security to one woman is now responsible for the security of the nation.

The UNIC views Benazir Bhutto’s murder against the background of the deteriorating relationship between her and Gen Musharraf after her return to Pakistan. American journalist Ron Suskind wrote in his book that Musharraf had warned Benazir Bhutto that her security would depend upon her collaboration with him. What needs explaining is this: if Benazir Bhutto became unacceptable to Musharraf and his puppet masters, what made the new People’s Party leadership acceptable to them? If the goose was not good enough, what made the gander palatable?

If Musharraf is indeed the prime suspect, then more questions emerge. When Zardari had himself expressed suspicions regarding Musharraf immediately after Benazir Bhutto’s murder, why was Musharraf allowed safe passage by this government after his resignation? Why did he enjoy VIP treatment and full presidential protocol even after he resigned? Why has this government remained reluctant to prosecute him, if not for Benazir Bhutto’s murder, then for crimes against the nation, including the demolition of democracy and massive corruption? Everyone is now clamouring for filing a murder case against Musharraf. But what is the use of closing the door after the horse has bolted? Why did they let him get away?

The widely held view is that Musharraf quit office only after a deal had been worked out under the sponsorship of a foreign power that gave him safe passage and immunity from prosecution. Deals seem to be the pivotal cog in this murder mystery. Deals to bury the transgressions of the past. Deals to turn adversaries into allies to fulfill the mission and mandate of sponsoring foreign powers. Deals to give safe passage with immunity from prosecution. Deals to transfer power to the new chosen ones, wreathed in smiles.

These deals may have cost Benazir Bhutto her life. This once proud and sovereign state has become a pawn in the hands of foreign powers that have their own vested interests in this region, now more so than ever before, and some of our politicians are their willing instruments as long as the gora sahibs maintain them in power.

Why has a criminal investigation not been launched in Pakistan? Why was a post-mortem not allowed? Why was the scene of the crime washed away to destroy evidence? Why was there a lapse of security? Who benefited the most from the murder? These and other questions that the UNIC left unanswered in its report need to be answered soon if the truth is to emerge. There is more to this murder conspiracy than meets the eye. All the slain leaders of this land, from Liaquat Ali Khan to Mir Murtaza Bhutto, and now Benazir Bhutto, lie in their final resting places with the truth interred with them. But regardless of what any inquiries or reports might say, the people know better

[link to www.thenews.com.pk]