Justice or vendetta

By K.N. Pandita,

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has declared former President Pervez Musharraf a proclaimed offender or fugitive for failing to cooperate with investigators probing the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto. The court has been hearing the case of Benazir Bhutto’s murder in 2008 by jihadis. The trial of five suspects, including a would-be suicide bomber, suspected of involvement in Bhutto’s killing has been held up for several months due to Musharraf’s refusal to cooperate with the investigators. Owing to non-existence of extradition treaty between Pakistan and UK, the latter could not help Pakistan in implementing the warrant against Pervez Musharraf who has been living in UK since 2009 and aspired to float a political party and fight election in Pakistan. 

As a military ruler after the coup of 1998, Pervez Musharraf had made himself the President of Pakistan. As there was growing demand among the people and political parities in Pakistan for a democratic rule, and the US was interested in Pakistan returning to democracy, a deal was reportedly struck between him, PPP chief Benazir and the Americans. Under the deal, all cases against Benazir and her husband hitherto framed by the military rule of Musharraf were to be withdrawn, Benazir was to return to Pakistan and elections to the Pakistani Parliament were to be held.  The US wanted that some semblance of a democratic dispensation worked in Pakistan so that its war on terror in Afghanistan or Af-Pak region would come to a victorious end. But, according to the allegations that indirectly implicate Musharraf, it is gleaned that he was not too happy with the deal as it was almost imposed on him. As such, he was visualizing his ouster in the forthcoming elections as Benazir, the chief of PPP, was bound to win with a landslide victory. At the same time, the jihadis in Pakistan, too, viewed this political development as a setback to their plans and programmes. They too were not happy with the formulation. Thus conditions were developing in Pakistan under which a civil strife was imminent. After all Pakistani jihadis and fundamentalists never looked eye to eye with Benazir and her party’s progressive ideology. The third element, namely the Pakistan Army, sill under the influence of Musharraf, was essentially never happy with the idea of return of Benazir to political power. Thus we find that on the ground many threats and warnings for Benazir were fairly visible. Many observers did apprehend danger to the person of Benazir but thinking that the deal had the patronage of Washington, nothing would go wrong. It is now admitted by the American circles also that they had some miscalculations or were given false assurances. The entire story remains shrouded in mystery. But when the inevitable happened, President Musharraf was quick to state that all necessary security arrangements of protecting the life of Benazir were in place and there was no loophole anywhere. He even went to the extent of saying that she should not have stuck her head out of the bullet proof car window. Thus he absolved himself and his government of all responsibility for the assassination of the would-be Prime Minister of Pakistan. This was the thinking in almost all moderate circles in Pakistan and they never trusted the word of Musharraf. The PPP was never convinced that the attack was carried out on any organization’s own behest though informed circles said that TTP led by late Baitullah Mehsud was responsible for the attack and assassination. It is also said that an impartial inquiry was never conducted into the assassination and the story was gradually swept under carpet.

But now that PPP is in power, a case of assassination has been brought to a special court of law and former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was summoned to depose before the court as prosecution process went on. He avoided to respond to the court summon and is now declared an offender. His physical absence from Pakistan does not obstruct the law of the land take its normal course. Now the point is whether this episode involving the former Army Chief and President of Pakistan is an exercise in bringing justice to the victims or is it only a vendetta? Political vendetta is not uncommon in the history of the sub-continent, democracy or any other form of government, and only the future course of events will provide an answer to this question. End.

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