Pakistan News Service

Sunday Apr 21, 2024, Shawwal 12, 1445 Hijri

Musharraf's Indictment and the Related Questions

26 August, 2013

By Saeed Qureshi

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On August 20, an anti terrorist court (ATC) indicted Former Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf in Benazir Bhutto's murder case on three charges namely "murder, conspiracy to murder and facilitation of murder". Along with Musharraf Six others individuals, including four suspected militants and two senior police officials have also been indicted. The next hearing date is set for 27 August. This impromptu indictment is likely to open a Pandora box of hidden aspects and revelation of more names involved in this crime of the century.

It can be inferred that these were the same elements behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi who had conspired to target her mammoth procession in Karachi on 18 October 2007; the day when she arrived in Pakistan after her 8 years exile in Dubai and London. In that horrendous attack she miraculously survived but about 160 people died and hundreds sustained injuries.

In a letter written to Pervez Musharraf on October 16, (two days before her return to Pakistan) she expressed deep concern about her safety, urging the government to provide her foolproof security. In that letter she named four persons who could pose threat to her life. These were Chaudhry Pervez Ilahi then chief minister Punjab, Hamid Gul former director of ISI, Ijaz Shah the DG of Intelligence Bureau and Waseem Afzal a former Deputy Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

According to a recorded statement of American Journalist Mark Siegel, a close friend and the speech writer of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, before a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), Musharraf had threatened Benazir with "dire consequences" if she returned home before the 2008 elections. He further told the team that "Musharraf knew of the assassination plot and had personally ordered the destruction of evidence in the case".

According to Siegel, Benazir had sent him an email on Oct 26, 2007, in which she had expressed fears about her insecurity. She informed him that if something happened to her, Musharraf would be responsible for that in addition to the individuals mentioned in her Oct 16 letter written to the former president.

Siegel had further stated that Benazir had received a telephone call from Pervez Musharraf on Sept 25, 2007, in his presence in Washington in the office of US Congressman Tom Lantos. She termed the call as "threatening and full of abusive language" with Musharraf telling her that," her security would only be guaranteed if she returned after the elections".

A United Nations investigation, which published its findings in 2010, stated that "a senior unnamed army officer had ordered one of on the duty police officers, a former Rawalpindi police chief, Saud Aziz, to hose down the scene in the hours after Ms. Bhutto's assassination. The car in which Ms. Bhutto died was also cleaned out, destroying its evidential value".

The report concluded that the security measures provided to Bhutto by the government were "fatally insufficient and ineffective," Heraldo Muñoz, a Chilean diplomat who led the United Nations investigation asserted in an article that "The police deliberately botched the investigation into Bhutto's assassination".

While in due course, this elephantine case gathers momentum, the court and the prosecution could unleash a flurry of questions and explore its various covert and overt contours. The court may summon the four persons that Ms Bhutto mentioned in her letter to be posing a threat to her life.

It could also be probed why her spouse Asif Ali Zardari did not allow a post mortem of her dead body. The court could also question the then Law minister Babar Awan and interior minister Rehman Malik as to why instead of rushing their critically injured party chairperson to the hospital, they preferred to flee from the scene.

Another issue that could be deliberated upon by the court and the prosecution is that during its five years in power, why the PPP did not show any interest whatsoever, in hunting down the assassins and unearthing the conspiracy of an eminent political figure of their own party?

It could also be interrogated that why the president of Pakistan, who was also the spouse of the deceased leader acknowledged knowing the identity of the assassins but refrained from catching them or revealing their names?

The court could ask who the young man was, shooting with a revolver in his hand as visible in the photograph. The court also can probe why contradictory and multifarious causes of her death were rolled out by various spokespersons of the governments.

The objection could also come up for interrogation that what was the rationale behind giving a limited mandate to the United Nations investigation team binding it only to find out the external elements involved in the murder of Benazir?

The prosecution could raise a point that why only one page out of 35 pages of late Benazir's will was shown and the not the whole will? It would look mysterious to the court that the revealed page was about the appointment of her spouse as the chairman of the party. The court on her volition or requested by the prosecution could order presentation of the full text of late Benazir Bhutto's will. The court may order to determine if the whole will was written by Benazir or it was a forged document.

There is another sticking point that could be broached during the court proceedings that why the potential witnesses of the fatal attack on Benazir's life were eliminated mysteriously, including one Shahinshah who is stated to be also the body guard of the late leader.

One can only speculate that these queries may give a new direction and dimension to the while case and some other perpetrators or abettors of this sinister murder could be discovered. Even if Musharraf is exonerated in this case somehow; his travail would not come to end because of the pending treason case and the murder of Baloch leader Akbar Bugti.

The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat.

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