What is common between Akbar Liaquat, Ejazul Haq, Humayun Akhtar, Fatima Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and Bilawal Bhutto? ‘It’s elementary Dr. Watson’ that’s what Sherlock Holmes would have said. Yes the common factor is that their loved ones were assassinated. And what Sherlock Holmes would have admitted grudgingly that even he couldn’t have reached the real master-minds behind these political murders.
Even the UN Report on BB’s assassination has hinted at this irony of Pakistan. The first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated, his killer was killed to remove the evidence and subsequently the inquiry committee members died in a mysterious plane crash. Till today nobody knows who got him killed. Conjectures are it was the then “establishment.”
The biggest mystery in Pakistan is the death of General Ziaul Haq, his confidant General Akhtar Abdur Rehman, American Ambassador, American Brigadier General and many others in the VVIP plane crash. Whether it was an accident, as the “establishment’ wanted us to believe, or a sabotage to assassinate the entire top brass, one strange fact is that nobody was arrested, sacked or suspended although it wiped out Zia and his colleagues. Pre and post political scenario cover up of the case by the American administration and Zia’s successors, and how everything fell in the slot so quickly raised doubts. An open question for the historian is was the VVIP plane crash a ‘bloody coup.’ Both Ejaz and Humayun remained ministers in different governments, but compromised with the fact that the killers cannot be reached.
Then there was the assassination of Murtaza Bhutto at the fag end of Benazir Bhutto’s government. The police officers who were on duty were all eventually exonerated and posted back. Benazir had to compromise with the same establishment which got her brother killed and Fatima continues to blame her aunt for this murder. The real planners are still unknown.
Lastly, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated as dusk was settling on Islamabad on 27th December 2007. Asif Zardari, Bilawal and the people of Pakistan did not trust the administration for their investigation. The history of other assassinations has shown that the truth never comes out. Not because it is not known at the top, but because everybody is afraid to name the people who order it. So they called for an investigation by the UN Commission hoping that the UN commission would say the truth without fear. Heavy price for this report was paid in terms of money and the criticism from ultra-nationalists. Now when the report is out it is being called as wastage of money by the critics. But if you go through the report it is clear that the commission has implicitly said it all. If some people cannot or do not want to read the report objectively, it’s their problem.
The report says: “The investigation was severely hampered by intelligence agencies and other government officials, which impeded an unfettered search for the truth. More significantly, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) conducted parallel investigations, gathering evidence and detaining suspects. Evidence gathered from such parallel investigations was selectively shared with the police. The Commission believes that the failure of the police to investigate effectively Ms Bhutto’s assassination was deliberate. 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.”
The obvious fact is that the Karachi attack on BB’s procession and her assassination in Islamabad are interconnected. The UN report has looked at it: “The Sindh police investigation of the attack never advanced. A former high level ISI official told the Commission, however, that the ISI conducted its own investigation and near the end of October 2007, captured and detained four suspects
from a militant cell; the whereabouts of these four could not be confirmed by the Commission as of March 2010.” Nobody knows what happened to these alleged culprits.
Report says: “The Director General of the ISI, Major General Nadeem Taj, met with Ms Bhutto in the early morning hours of 27 December at Zardari House in Islamabad. Directly knowledgeable sources told the Commission that they spoke both about the elections and about threats to Ms Bhutto’s life; versions differ as to how much detail was conveyed about the threats. The Commission is satisfied, that at the least, Major General Taj told Ms Bhutto that the ISI was concerned about a possible terrorist attack against her and urged her to limit her public exposure and to keep a low profile at the campaign event at Liaquat National Bagh (Liaquat Bagh) later that day.” Now agencies defence could be that they flagged the danger prior to the event. They wrote an internal memo that her life is danger. A lay-man on the street believes that if they were involved in BB’s assassination why they would fore-warn her.
Further down the commission explains the term ‘establishment’ euphemistically used in Pakistan. “General Musharraf also had the full support of what is known in Pakistan as the “Establishment”, the de facto power structure that has as its permanent core the military high command and intelligence agencies, in particular, the powerful, military-run the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as well as Military Intelligence (MI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The capability of the Establishment to exercise power in Pakistan is based in a large part on the central role played by the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies in the country’s political life, with the military ruling the country directly for 32 of its 62 years as an independent state.”
The commission has noted that: “Several persons interviewed who have first-hand knowledge of the situation told the Commission that General Musharraf was furious when Ms. Bhutto made her announcement (to come back) and, according to one source, believed that her action represented “a total breach of the agreement”. Other informed sources said that Ms. Bhutto seemed equally stunned by General Musharraf’s reaction.”
Now let’s see what the commission finding was about the Mercedes-Benz car which had driven PPP “official Mr. Farhatullah Babar in the front passenger seat and, in the rear passenger seat from left to right, two PPP officials Mr. Babar Awan and Mr. Rehman Malik and General (Retd.) Tauqir Zia” to Liaquat Bagh and back.
The whole discussion has been neatly distracted to why Rehman Malik, Babar Awan and Farhatullah Babar left Liaquat Bagh in the Mercedes-Benz “so quickly that it was nowhere to be seen when the blast occurred.” Everybody knew that there was danger to life after the warnings by the top intelligence officials, so when BB was killed others ran for their life is not surprising. They couldn’t have saved her in any case. The conflicting statements of the occupants of this car could be because of the macho tradition of our people. Maybe Malik and his colleagues do not want to admit that they chickened out. Rehman Malik according to his fellow travelers muttered “it would be a miracle if we get out safely today.” Isn’t this self-explanatory?
The UN commission report has proved amply that first the security provided to BB on that evening was inadequate. Among all persons who died or were injured there was no policeman that shows that they were nowhere close to her. Subsequently, a number of actions taken by the Musharraf government officials’ show that they were trying to cover-up which confirms the suspicion that it was a conspiracy and not just Taliban’s attempt to kill a liberal leader. Consider the following cover-up actions that have been highlighted in the report:
ü The hosing of the crime scene which destroyed evidence.
ü BB’s ‘dupatta’ an important piece of evidence goes missing.
ü On three different occasions, Professor Mussadiq asked CPO Saud Aziz for permission to conduct an autopsy on Ms. Bhutto, and the CPO refused each request.
ü DCO Elahi’s instructions to the doctors to give their report to him keeping no hard and soft copy.
ü SP Khurram asserted that the PPP supporters could have become disruptive. Therefore, the police needed to wash away the blood from the scene as a public order measure. But according to the commission no one familiar with the case agreed with his claim.
ü CPO Saud Aziz’s role in this decision is controversial. Many senior Pakistani police officials have emphasized that hosing down a crime scene is fundamentally inconsistent with Pakistani police practice.
ü Why Saud Aziz has agreed to become a fall guy now when the report says “he had confided in him (UN unnamed source) that he had received a call from Army Headquarters instructing him to order the hosing down of the crime scene.”
ü The decision to hold the press conference was made by General Musharraf in which Brig. Cheema briefed the media about the cause of death and interception of Baitullah Masud’s call. The tape of the call was never shared with the media to confirm whether the voice on the other side was of Baitullah or not.
ü Saud Aziz the report says dilly-dallied for two days to take the JIT team to the crime scene.
There are many such issues which emerge from the reading of the report. These issues couldn’t have been raised officially by any other investigation team in the country because of our typical power structure. To conclude one has to keep in mind that it is not important who ran away from the crime scene, whether BB died of bullet wounds or was hit by the sun-roof latch, the fact remains that she was assassinated. And that Musharraf government first did not provide her the required security in spite of the fact it was known that there was danger to her life and his officials tried to cover up.
But having said that and given the past history of assassinations in Pakistan there is hardly any chance of real culprits to be brought to the book. Like other kith and kin of assassinated leaders of Pakistan, Asif Zardari knows this. So he has compromised to sleep with the enemies as long they would tolerate him. And Pakistani tragedy drama continues. (firstname.lastname@example.org)