Saturday, April 17, 2010

The people need to know the truth

Editorial -- Express Tribune -- April 18

Benazir Bhutto’s death was not the result of a few, frenzied militants acting on their own. There seems to be a very real conspiracy behind the blast that killed her. There was evil afoot at every stage. It was aimed at ensuring the country’s most significant political leader would not return alive from her last outing at Liaquat Bagh. By denying Ms Bhutto adequate security, by failing to direct provincial authorities to ensure it was offered to her, former president Pervez Musahrraf at the very least connived and conspired in this. In many ways he is responsible for the fact that she is not amongst us today.

In his comments on the report which he made a day after its release, President Asif Ali Zardari spoke of being vindicated; of the PPP’s apprehensions regarding the murder being upheld. Some of what the report says certainly answers questions about why the government led by Benazir’s party has struggled to make headway in the investigation. It would appear that quarters that wield far more influence than governments made up of civilians may be involved at some level. The knowledge that we are helpless against them is disquieting. It is a reminder of the kind of state we live in and the limitations that in so many ways bind and tie the hands of democratic governments.

The UN report has drawn up some telling conclusions as to the henchmen who executed the plan. The city police officer (presumably for Rawalpindi, which is where the tragedy occurred), Saud Aziz, quite evidently played a prominent role in ensuring that the whole truth could never come out. Indeed, he acted in a way precisely diametrical to that expected of a key investigator, working to conceal key facts rather than to uncover them. The report says he ensured doctors did not carry out a post-mortem – and issued the order (which was hotly-contested at that time by the media as well) to hose down the crime scene. This effectively destroyed any hope that investigators or forensics would have of retrieving any meaningful evidence from the spot of the assassination. There is more evidence that points to a plan worked out at the highest levels; of the involvement of elements too powerful to touch. Rather shockingly the report suggests Mr Aziz’s orders regarding the scene of the crime came from military headquarters and the man who at the time headed military intelligence.

The trail that led up to the assassination becomes clearer. Why would such persons concern themselves with any kind of cover up if they were not somehow a party to what came before. We are all aware of just how intricately orchestrated the murder was, with multiple elements apparently in place to ensure she had no chance of survival. The fact that Ms Bhutto escaped unhurt from a previous attempt to kill her in Karachi may have made those out to get her still more determined. We know too that planning and implementation at this level is something that only a limited number of persons or organizations are capable of. This information in itself exonerates those at whom fingers have been pointed, including Asif Ali Zardari himself. Indeed the UN quite plainly states he or other members of the PPP were not involved, even if there was a failure by them too to provide their leader adequate security. The role of the intelligence agencies, in directing suspicion a certain way and in churning out and then circulating dubious stories about phone calls from Dubai fits in with the broader picture drawn up in the shocking report.

Following its release, Mr Zardari has again emphasized that his party does not seek revenge. While that may be a decision that he is making also in his capacity as Ms Bhutto’s husband, the fact is that the people of Pakistan deserve to know better. They deserve to know the truth – and it really is up to this government and parliament (with the 18th amendment passed now and its supremacy ensured) to ensure that they do.

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