By K.N. Pandita
Never before has Pakistan’s perfidious governance been as unabashedly exposed as by the report of the UN Committee on Inquiry into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
When the President of a sovereign country does not trust his law and justice enforcing establishment, and seeks international to conduct impartial inquiry into the assassination of his wife on December 27, 2007, it loudly speaks of sordid state of affairs in that country. The assassination of Benazir took place just two weeks before parliamentary elections scheduled for January 8, 2008 would commence. International community is aghast at the unraveling of inside story of this heinous crime in which Pakistani Army, Intelligence establishment and administrative machinery are implicated.
The US and UK – brokered deal leading to National Reconciliation Ordinance taking effect from October 2007 was purported to usher in liberal, secular and democratic government in Pakistan to support the American “war on terror”. The couple living in exile had been cleared of charges against them to facilitate Benazir’s return and resumption of her political activities. How immature and over-ambitious Benazir proved; she fell in the trap of a high level anticipated conspiracy.
The 70-page report of UN Inquiry Commission into the assassination of Benazir in Rawalpindi garrison city on 27 December 2007 submitted in July last, has been deliberately underplayed by Pakistani media under pressure from the Army and Intelligence establishments. Some excerpts randomly taken from the official report give an insight into the perfidy in which various elements were involved in one way or the other. It says,” The failure of the police to investigate effectively Ms Bhutto’s assassination was deliberate. No official response that Pak authorities should investigate Al-Qaeda connections in assassination plot was received.” Furthermore the report says, “Current officials, less than helpful, investigation was severely hampered by intelligence agencies, and government officials impeded search for the truth.” Mr. Horaldo Munoz, Chairperson of Bhutto Commission of Inquiry and Chile’s permanent representative at the UN said,” These officials, in part fearing intelligence agencies’ involvement, were unsure of how vigorously they ought to pursue actions which they knew as professionals they should have taken.”
One among eight police officials removed by Pak authorities is one Saud Aziz who had ordered the scene of murder to be hosed down and who says the report, “destroyed invaluable evidence of assassination.” The report adds that Aziz was acting under the directions of the then head of Military Intelligence Agency Maj. Gen. Nadim Ijaz Ahmad, a close contact of the military ruler General Parvez Musharraf. The report establishes Nadim Ijaz as the most controversial character in the entire episode. He is now Log Area Commander of Gujranwala.
Another person who the UN Commission report portrays as dubious is Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj, the then Director General of ISI, and now Corps Commander of Gujranwala. The report levels accusations against military and intelligence establishments that “they facilitated security loopholes or covered up evidence.”
After she got immunity from various charges, Benazir had been lambasting Islamic extremism and asked people to stand against it. She spoke against Al Qaeda and supported Musharraf’s crackdown in July 2007 on Lal Masjid. This was a turning point in the sequence of events. Osama bin Laden assigned Abu Obeidah Misri the position of amir-e-khuruj (meaning Commander for Revolt). As Benazir strongly came into the gaze of media, Osama asked Misri to take her out. A special cell in Rawalpindi was tasked to undertake the plot. Among the members of the cell were Aitzaz Shah, Hasnain Gul, Rifaqat, Sher Zaman and Abdur Rasheed. All of them were subsequently arrested and interrogated. Their close association with Jalalu’d-Din Haqqani terrorist network was established. Al Qaeda shura (Council) decided that there was religious justification for eliminating Benazir and Baitullah Mahsud (now dead) provided the bombers.
The UN Commission report concludes: “Security forces did not prevent the attack, and to cover it up they washed off all evidence from the site of murder. Soon after the murder, Pakistani official spokesman came out with an intercept of a tape between Baitullah Mahsud and the militants inferring attack was carried out on instructions of Baitullah. Everybody pointed a finger at him.
These insights reveal the deep mindset of Pakistani Army, Intelligence establishment and pro-Army administrative segment. The simplest inference is that democracy, liberalism and secularism in Pakistan, that the Anglo-American bloc hopes will take roots under their behest in that country is a myth and negation of Pakistan’s six decades of history.
The fallout of the UN report as described above is the widening of the gap between the ruling political group and the Pakistani Army and Intelligence establishment. PPP has already stated that in the light of the report it will bring Musharraf to book. But Musharraf has still many takers in Pakistan Army. He is even contemplating his political party to gain a toehold in Pakistan’s power structure. Where this triangular contest will lead the Islamic Republic of Pakistan will be of much interest to political observers and commentators.
(The write is the former Director of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).