By K.N. Pandita,
Something very unusual for the Government in Islamabad and the top brass at the GHQ has happened in recent days. The government has dispatched a red-corner letter to the Interpol to track down General Pervez Musharraf —- the former Army Chief and President of Pakistan — and hand him over to home authorities. After he was forced to demit office, the General had left his country to take up residence in UK. He knew the dangers of living in Pakistan when shorn of power. Involved in court cases, he was summoned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan for questioning but he has been circumventing court notices since some time. Privately, he often boasts that he is brave enough to return and face the charges.
Why did the government in Islamabad shoot a red-corner letter belatedly? Recently in the Sind legislative assembly, Pakistani Home Minster Rahman Malik disclosed that the Joint Investigation Team handling investigation in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto had submitted its report. Malik did not disclose the details of the report, but the red corner letter was issued only after the report had been received. In other words, Rahman Malik meant to convey that the former General and President was indicted and, therefore, must face prosecution under law.
Before we proceed with the precise theme of this write-up, the question is why the Home Minster chose to speak out in Sind Assembly and at a particular point of time. The Assembly in Sind is the bastion of Sind nationalism and a stronghold of anti-Punjabi domination of the federal government. Bhutto house has made three sacrifices so far and the PPP has always sensitized martyrdom syndrome in general elections. The time chosen for the submission of the report was co-related to general elections scheduled for the end of the current year. Repetition of martyrdom story is bound to strengthen the position of PPP in the province. They will claim to have pursued the finding of the investigation team.
But what the report says about the assassination of Benazir is almost known to everybody. The Home Minister has been occasionally throwing hints in the course of his press conferences about the tragedy. Pakistan government had approached the UN to conduct an impartial enquiry into the assassination. Moreover the British agency called Scotland Yard, too, had conducted investigation into the murder of Benazir and from these sources also information flowed even if in trickles only. These confirm what the Home Minster divulged in the Sind assembly. Therefore some of the tell-tale stories pertaining to assassination of Benazir now stand established.
Baitullah Mahsud, the chief of Pakistani Taliban (PTT) hailing from North Waziristan had ordered the assassination of Benazir. His instructions filtered down to the actual perpetrators of the crime. These criminals were mostly the product of Daru’l-Ulum Haqqaniyeh and Akora Khattak seminary of rabid Deobandis. Maulana Samiu’l-Huqq, the chief of his group namely Jamiatu’l-Ulema-e Islam is also the leading person of recently formed Pakistan Defence Council, a conglomerate of almost all rabid jihadi Islamists of Pakistan. The Council has been recently formed with the tacit support of ISI, and its control is in the hands of the chief of Jamaatu’d- Dawa, Hafiz Saeed. Other fanatical religious groups are its allies.
When Benazir’s blood was spilt on the street, the army commanders ordered its flush cleaning by fire brigade hosepipes. And when investigation committee asked for the presence of the Directors of ISI and Military Intelligence to depose on flushing the blood, both of them refused to comply. Read between the lines, one finds that Musharraf government had made not a single arrangement of providing security to Benazir although she was entitled to highest level of security since she had occupied the post of prime minister twice in the past.
A deal had been struck through the mediation of the United States for power sharing between Musharraf’s and Benazir’s political parties. President Bush of the US and General Musharraf were said to be on the same page at that point of time. However, the position of Musharraf in the run to 2007 parliamentary elections in Pakistan was not reassuring. The anti-Musharraf movement of the legal fraternity of Pakistan and its strictly-enforced boycott were given extraordinary hype by the Pakistani media, and Musharraf’s popularity had begun to nosedive. Americans wanted to strengthen his position, being a trusted ally in war on terror, as they thought. They put forth the five year plan of power-sharing between him and Benazir. Although neither of the two was really happy with the formula yet realizing its utility, they agreed to move ahead. Keeping the ultimate agenda close to his chest Musharraf would not let PPP enjoy strong majority in the parliament and in the process maintain control on her administrative powers. He would insist on Benazir to run the administration in conjunction with his party namely Pakistan Muslim League (Q). On the other side, Benazir felt that obtaining a toehold in the power structure would go a good deal in helping her give direction to events in accordance with his interests.
Musharraf was eager to see Benazir would not return to Pakistan before the general elections. This would have provided him space to doing sound pre-poll maneuvering for his party. Insisting that she was given equal opportunity in the political tug–of-war then going on in Pakistan, Benazir demanded that an amendment be brought in the constitution by virtue of which the condition of a person not entitled to third term election as Prime Minster was withdrawn. Musharraf had found solace behind this clause and when Benazir insisted on constitutional amendment, he offered her the olive branch in the shape of National Reconciliation Ordinance.
As these parleys went on behind the curtain, neither Musharraf nor Benazir was fully reconciled to the formula cobbled in Washington. When, much to the chagrin of Musharraf, Benazir decided to return to Pakistan before the elections commenced, Musharraf raised the bogey of her security. To deter her from returning sooner, Musharraf adopted the ploy saying his administration would not be in a position to give her the security she needed.
Simultaneously, Baitullah Mahsud declared that he would deploy one hundred suicide bombers to obstruct Benazir’s return. The Americans stepped in, and promised her security through Blackwater private guards. Musharraf refused them permission of landing in Pakistan. At this point of time, the Saudis also stepped in but on a different count. They demanded Musharraf allow Mian Nawaz Sharief also to return to Pakistan. In fact this was on the behest of the US who wanted power-sharing process make full round in the beleaguered Pakistan.
Finding that he was being pushed to the wall, Musharraf forged close alliance with the activists of King’s Party, namely Pakistan Muslim League (Q), and consolidated his coterie called Q League. Just before her departure for Pakistan, Benazir had released a list of a number of persons she claimed were planning to take her life.
The tall claim of Home Minster Malik that Musharraf would be called back and tried in a court of law seems hollow. The Army in Pakistan has never tolerated that their acting or retired commanders be harassed in litigation and court cases. Therefore this drama of seek and hide between Musharraf and Gilani government will unfold its bizarre part in due course of time. Benazir’s assassination will haunt many in Pakistan and for very long time.