A Failed Whitewash is Hogwash – and Swill!
The Date: December 27, 2007.
The Country: Pakistan.
The Place: On the road just outside Liaquat Bagh (gardens), named after Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan who was also assassinated here. Originally it was called ‘Company Bagh’ because it belonged to the British East India Company. Now it has been renamed Benazir Bhutto Bagh. Please God it should not be ever renamed again.
The Event: The assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
The Assassins: Unknown.
The Task: A three-man Commission set up by Secretary General of the United Nations to “inquire” into “the facts and circumstances of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto.”
The Client: The Government of Pakistan.
The Fees: US $1.5 million per page.
The Result: Hogwash.
You’ll find the crap in the UN Commission report. So let’s cut to the chase. Our bankrupt treasury paid 1.5 million a page for it, and it stinks. The least they could have done is given it a good smell.
It has to be said at the outset that this is not a forensic report. It is a report written by three ordinary civil servants after chit chatting to some 250 equally ordinary people who would not necessarily have told them everything they know. Barring a forensic report, how can the Commission lay blame on anyone and exonerate others? They have made a big deal out of no autopsy being done which definitely was the doctors’ and the government’s responsibility. Because there was none doesn’t mean that the matter should necessarily end there. The body can always be exhumed for autopsy, as happens often. But if the family and party won’t let that happen out of respect, which in our culture is understandable, then let’s forget the whole dirty business and get on with our lives. As always, we will never know who the real killers are, though what the majority suspects is often the truth.
If the Commission was asked to inquire into the facts of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, how can it duck responsibility by saying that to try and identify the actual murderers – the masterminds and their financiers and, of course, those who actually carried out the dastardly act – wasn’t part of the brief? And they didn’t. They only concentrated on the circumstances they could find, which makes it selective circumstances per force and thus the conclusions highly suspect.
What they did was to fall back on an age-old tradition that we are all familiar with: the ultimate responsibility lies on the man at the top, former President General Pervez Musharraf and his governments of the time, federal, provincial and local. The Commission has overlooked that fact that Musharraf was no longer the chief executive of the country nor the army chief, so the Military Intelligence Chief did not report to him any more. There was another chief executive, the prime minister, albeit a caretaker. So too the Punjab government, the province in with Rawalpindi is.
They make the great revelation that the governments concerned failed to provide Benazir with adequate security. I wonder what ‘adequate security’ is against suicide bombers, but for its part the official security did successfully manage to ensure that there was no attack on her during the rally in Liaquat Bagh. Actually, the failure was not of the government’s security but of a tragic confluence of circumstances that led to Benazir Bhutto breaking with the agreed security protocol, sticking her head out and presenting herself as a sitting duck when her vehicle was outside the gates of Liaquat Bagh and on the road. This was the most critical incident of the entire tragic episode. Having failed to get to her inside Liaquat Bagh, the assassins suddenly saw an opportunity presented to them on a platter and let loose with everything they had.
In yet another giant hobble of the imagination the Commission next blames Ms Bhutto’s own security detail headed by Mr. Rahman Malik, who was well qualified for the job as he is a former deputy director of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). Most of the heavily armed foot soldiers and storm troopers in her immediate vicinity were, her widower Mr. Asif Ali Zardari was to later tell us, “my friends from jail.” Hardened criminals turned protectors, eh?
The kindest comment one can make is that the UN Commission’s report is an attempted whitewash, witting or unwitting, that turned out to be hogwash that has polluted and stunk up our already stinking political atmosphere. They tried to cook for us a palatable dish. Instead, what they have turned out is swill, fit only for pigs. What else should one expect from a mundane diplomat, a former Indonesian attorney general (lawyers by nature are limited people interested only in maintaining the status quo, no matter how iniquitous it might be) and a clapped out Irish policeman?
The net result of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination was:
1. It caused elections to be delayed by five weeks.
2. The Nawaz League got time for electioneering and picked up nearly twice as many seats as the so-called King’s Party won, while winning only about half the votes, such is our illogical system.
3. The People’s Party (PPP) won perhaps some 25 more seats in the National Assembly due to the so-called sympathy vote.
4. Mr. Asif Zardari took control of the party as a de facto regent for his underage son.
5. Mr. Zardari went on to become President of Pakistan.
6. He handpicked his new prime minister instead of someone that Benazir would have picked.
7. Benazir and Zardari’s son, now renamed Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, would still have been a boy enjoying his youth and growing up normally. Now he has been made the new icon of the PPP cult and telescoped into becoming a mature man, youth gone in a hurry. Poor boy. But what else could they do? Without a Bhutto icon the party would dissipate in a jiffy.
8. Mr. Rahman Malik, party in-charge of Benazir’s security, has become in-charge of every Pakistani’s security as interior minister. It is moot whether Benazir would have given him this portfolio, though she was also very close to him. To make him some kind of interloping Zardari crony whom Benazir hated is just plain wrong. She held most of her London party meeting at Malik’s London house.
9. President Musharraf had to eventually resign, which would not have happened had Benazir been alive, despite the UN Commission’s childish assertion that there was no power-sharing deal between her and Musharraf. There was. Such deals are never written down on paper, but how would a mundane diplomat, a limited lawyer and a clapped out policeman know?
To deflect attention from the real killers, some challenged people led by the senator who chaired the committee that gifted us with the anti-democratic 18th Constitutional Amendment and put democracy in retreat, started raising a ruckus that Musharraf should be tried for Benazir’s murder! Benazir loyalist as he claims to be, what he should have done is raised a ruckus and thundered that the government, his government, must seriously and concertedly try to find Benazir’s real assassins and bring them to justice. Her killers must be laughing all the way to the bank! With people like this senator, who needs sleuths?
The People’s Party people are simply pathetic, except the few who are still loyal to Benazir. None of them, not least the members of the grandly named Central Executive Committee, whose verbal diarrhea and bombast had driven most sane people to distraction, has raised a voice that the government – THEIR GOVERNMENT – makes a serious and concerted effort to find the real killers. Some would say, “Humayun, what the hell are you getting at? You expect Brutus to find Caesar’s killers?” But who is Brutus. I don’t know. They are all honourable, honourable people, those who are in her party.
What Logic: The report has raised more questions than it has answered. By the Commission’s logic:
• Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was ‘responsible’ for her brother Murtaza Bhutto’s murder since both the federal and Sindh provincial governments were hers and worse – much worse – he was actually killed by the bullets of her police.
• President Pervez Musharraf was also responsible for three near-successful assassination attempts on him, all in Rawalpindi too. He was saved not by his own security but by the mistakes of the assassins.
• Our first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was responsible for his assassination, since he was head of government.
• President Abraham Lincoln was responsible for his own assassination.
• President John F. Kennedy was responsible for being killed in Dallas in November 1963.
• President Lyndon Baines Johnson was responsible for Robert Kennedy’s assassination.
Haven’t you wondered how many similarities the Benazir case bears with incidents past? There’s whitewash. There is hogwash. There is road wash. There are deflections and diversions. There are the killings of critical witnesses before they could speak or be interrogated.
The First Whitewash: This came after the forced secession of East Pakistan to become Bangladesh in 1971. There was (and continues to be) the general belief bordering on conviction that President Asif Ali Zardari’s father-in-law, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was the prime culprit in this tragedy just so that he could come to power, which, he felt, he could not so long as the majority Bengalis were part of Pakistan. He could have, at the very least, prevented the secession by doing the democratic thing and insisting that President and Chief Martial Law Administrator General Yahya Khan or “Tweedle Khan” The Economist called him – whom the Supreme Court, true to form, dutifully legitimized when he seized power but declared a usurper when he lost it – should listen to the voice of the people, respect the mandate that they had given in the 1970 general elections and call the elected Constituent Assembly to session. To the contrary, not only did he go along with Yahya’s dastardly action (“God has saved Pakistan”), he first paved the way for him to attack his own people by insisting on all sorts of bizarre things like two constitutions, two prime ministers and threatening that whoever went to Dhaka to attend the first Constituent Assembly session should buy a one-way ticket else he would break their legs on return. He could have told Yahya – indeed he should have if he truly were a democrat – “It was now between me, the natural leader of the opposition, and Mujibur Rahman, the natural prime minister, to thrash out a new constitution in the Constituent Assembly. You just call it to session and keep out of it. It is none of your business any longer, Legal Framework Order or no LFO.” Tweedle Khan could have done nothing, except drown himself in his cups.
After the secession of East Pakistan in December 1971 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto achieved his life’s ambition: he took over as the world’s first ever civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator and President of a new and woefully diminished Pakistan. Now he had become even bigger than his mentor and political father, President Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan for, unlike him, he was an ‘elected’ dictator, Hitler-like. The problem is that he too was illegal, for the National Assembly that ‘elected’ him was a rump assembly comprising the minority, the majority having been forced out.
However, to deflect attention from his culpability in the break up of Pakistan he formed a Commission headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan at the time, Hamoodur Rahman, to inquire into the circumstances that led to secession of East Pakistan in December 1971. Some years passed in deliberation and endless interviews, during which people’s attention got successfully diverted elsewhere, like to the wanton nationalization that broke the back of industry and re-empowered the feudal robber baron and tribal warlord that Bhutto really represented behind the progressive rhetoric, the muzzling of the press and the wholesale arrest of editors, journalists and opponents real and imaginary and a concentration camp called Dalai hidden in the mountains where the recalcitrant were sent to be corrected Gestapo-style, to name just three instances out of numerous. Needless to say, at the end of it Mr. Bhutto came out in the Commission’s report lily white clean, innocent as a newborn baby. It was a shameless whitewash that found everyone guilty except, of course, Mr. Bhutto, who was one of three prime culprits.
The Second Whitewash: The UN Commission charged to investigate the assassination of Benazir Bhutto has finally delivered exactly what was wanted – deflect attention from the real killers of Benazir Bhutto to the obvious and the irrelevant. They told us what we already knew, including many conspiracy theories, except one – many people believe, including many in the Bhutto family led by Benazir’s uncle Mumtaz Bhutto, that her husband, now our president, Asif Ali Zardari was also implicated. The UN Commission’s report is a waste of time, a copout, for it tells us the obvious traditional place where the buck stops – the governments of the day, but makes us no wiser about who really killed Benazir Bhutto. And rather than clear the public’s suspicion of Zardari, it actually reinforces it because people regard the report as a whitewash commissioned by him just for this purpose.
Zardari would do himself a favour if he was to seriously try and find his wife’s killers and be seen by the public to be doing so seriously. That is the only way that this “damned spot” will out. He did say once – I think it was at her first death anniversary – that “I know who her killers are.” Then get on with it man. This “democracy is the best revenge” codswallop is wearing thin.
The Third Whitewash: That was of former Nawaz Sharif, who ousted himself by trying to illegally oust Musharraf, hijacked his plane or “abducted” him as one High Court judge put it, and was ready to deliver our army chief into Indian hands by asking the pilot to go to Ahmedabad. Saudi Arabia, backed by President Clinton, got Musharraf to grant Sharif a pardon on the promise that they would keep him in their country for 10 years, that he would not indulge in politics and not to return to Pakistan for the period. He stood whitewashed. None of the promises were kept.
Sharif first lived in Suroor Palace in Jeddah and then, breaking with the deal and promise to Musharraf, shifted to London’s Mayfair district in his a flat-to-die-for, one of four. Who says Pakistan is a poor country? I bet no former or current Indian prime minister has a flat as posh as this even in India, leave alone on London’s prime real estate. At least the little flat that Musharraf has purchased in W2 is with his own money, earned from his international best-selling autobiography translated into 30 languages and his lectures.
The Fourth Whitewash: If, as the UN Commission asserts, there was no power-sharing deal between Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf, why did he pass the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) that withdrew all the cases against her, her husband and other members of her family, their cronies and hangers on and some other lucky ones who came within the Ordinance’s ambit? Because he wanted have a party with her? Get real.
Why on earth would Musharraf do all this without a quid pro quo? It doesn’t make sense. The quid pro quo in the American perception was that since that both were liberals in the western mould, they would form a formidable team to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, she for her domestic popularity and international draw, he for his experience in fighting terrorism and the international network of heads of state and government that he had built up. Plus, they thought, she would be able to keep what they thought was Musharraf’s double game in check – running with the Taliban and hunting with the Americans. The West would, then, be more willing to support America’s war on Afghanistan.
The truth is that on-again, off-again negotiations with Benazir Bhutto were going on for years, with Tariq Aziz, General Kiyani and Brigadier Niaz from his side and Rahman Malik and others from hers. When they finally reached conclusion Musharraf acted by proclaiming the NRO to whitewash her.
One of the things that helped Musharraf to pass the NRO was the persistent and perennial clamour by people – all peanuts really – homegrown intellectuals, drawing room chatterers, the media and civil society – that “democracy will not be complete without the return of the two ‘great’ leaders of the two great ‘national’ parties to lead them into elections.” Today they conveniently forget their mindless role. They are as culpable as anyone else for this satanic law, as I called it at the time.
Anyway, back to the deal. Benazir needed a whitewash similar to the one given to Nawaz Sharif. The NRO was the rabbit that Musharraf pulled out of a hat. It turned out to be a monster that ate them both.
The Fourth Whitewash: Why would the Commission go out on a limb and assert that there was no power-sharing deal between Benazir and Musharraf? It is yet another a crude attempt to whitewash Benazir by implying that this ‘great democrat’ would never enter into a deal with a ‘great dictator’? If Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State at the time had agreed to meet the UN Commissioners, she could have told them about the deal. She was a great proponent of the Benazir-Musharraf power-sharing doctrine but doesn’t want to tell the Commissioners about it now, for people would then say that she and the US pushed Benazir to her death, which is probably why she refused to meet them.
The same goes for Prince Muqrin, the head of Saudi intelligence. The Saudis didn’t really like Benazir and had invested in her rival Nawaz Sharif (a bad investment they are realizing only now). Because they knew about the deal they broke their own deal with Musharraf and insisted that Sharif also return to Pakistan, on the pretext that equity demanded that he be given a chance too to have another go at grabbing power. Since when have we Muslims started worrying about equity and fairness? This is news to me. They also asserted that Musharraf had promised them that Benazir would not return. This is something that Musharraf had certainly been saying, that neither Benazir nor Nawaz would not return before the 2008 elections, but it is not in the deal document that they signed with Nawaz Sharif, his father, his brother Shahbaz etc.
Again, there was no separate written agreement between the Saudis and Musharraf that we know of. It is because of the power-sharing deal and Benazir’s return that they forcibly sent Sharif back to Pakistan. But would Prince Muqrin like to tell the comical UN Commissioners all this?
The First Deflection: For Zardari’s serfs and cronies to say that former President Musharraf is ‘responsible’ for Benazir’s murder is to hark back to the Benazir-Zardari tactic of deflection when they said that President Farooq Leghari was responsible for Murtaza Bhutto’s murder. All sorts of ridiculous theories were floated as to why Leghari would want to kill Murtaza. None made sense.
The Second Deflection: Similarly, it doesn’t make sense for Musharraf to have Benazir out of the way. Nor does it make sense for the Americans to do so for the same reasons, unless you take her “reneging on her promises to the Americans” theory seriously and not as typical political rhetoric to undo the damage already done to her by making all sorts of promises to the US, like allowing the IAEA to interrogate Dr. A. Q. Khan under certain conditions, and to garner people’s support before the elections. Unless, of course, you credit the Americans with greater chess-player like deviousness than I do, for I don’t think that they are as intelligent as that considering how all their foreign-cum-defense policy initiatives and adventures have come a cropper, as recently as in Afghanistan and Iraq where they have painted themselves into a corner.
Musharraf did the NRO deal with Benazir precisely because he was led to imagine that it would give his presidency longevity if he shared power with her, as the Americans and British wanted. Her assassination not only got her out of the way, it also got Musharraf out of the way. After Benazir, Musharraf was the biggest loser. And it caused the American plan to scupper.
Neither Musharraf nor the Americans benefitted from Benazir’s assassination. Instead of whistling in the wind, why do they not look for the real murderers, even starting with the simplistic Agatha Christie type of logic that he who benefits from a crime must be the criminal.
The Two Hose-Downs: The place of the crime was hosed down in Benazir’s case, which certainly is downright fishy and stinks of criminal neglect, for it obliterated much evidence before it could be collected. So was the road on which Murtaza Bhutto was ruthlessly gunned down by his sister’s police, shot not once but repeatedly for he would not die easily, right at the doorstep of his father and grandfather’s house, which is equally suspicious for it obliterated much evidence too. It cannot be said that this is Standard Operating Procedure because it causes a snarl up of traffic or because the authorities want to save the poor relatives of the victims from seeing the blood and gore of their loved ones. Since when did the authorities develop a heart? These incidents were beyond stupidity and no amount of explanation will wash them away.
It is being alleged that the orders for the second hose down came from the Military Intelligence Chief, Major General Nadeem Ijaz, and he reported directly to the army chief, General Pervez Musharraf. Wrong. Benazir was killed on December 27, 2007. Musharraf retired from the army on November 28, 2007, a full month earlier. General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani was now army chief. I’m not implying that General Kiyani told Major General Nadeem Ijaz to do so. I’m not even taking the Nadeem Ijaz thing as gospel truth. We only have assertions.
But the Commission was not concerned with these matters. All I can say is this: now we don’t need a UN Commission to investigate Murtaza Bhutto’s murder, for exactly the same arguments will apply to that as the UN has made in Benazir Bhutto murder case. Just change the names around.
Painting a Bull’s Eye: The most important incident of the entire murderous episode that led to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto was that she broke with security protocol and stuck her head out of a homemade hatch or sunroof made in her armour-plated Toyota Land Cruiser SUV. Toyota said later that it never makes hatches on vehicles of this type.
Did the UN Commission explore the following?
• Why did her people take the armour-plated vehicle to a local mechanic to cut a sunroof out of it, thus seriously compromising its security efficacy? Just so that she needed to be seen by the public? What were her own high falutin’ security people doing, allowing this to happen?
• Why did all those who were in the vehicle with her allow her to stand up and stick her head out and present herself as a target? Did she have a death wish considering that she had been warned repeatedly by Pakistani, Saudi and UAE intelligence? In fact, one of them even dutifully opened the hatch for her. This is what happens when you have brainwashed slaves, not thinking party people.
• Worse, why did the security people and those inside her vehicle allow her to do this outside the area of the public rally known as Liaquat Bagh? There was enough security in the Bagh to prevent her assassins from attacking, despite the fact that they were looking for opportunities. Were her people so scared of her that they didn’t have the guts to prevent her from doing so? In their defense they might say that they couldn’t stop her out of respect. To knowingly allow a person you ‘respect’ to obviously go to her death by making herself vulnerable is showing no respect at all. It is the height of criminal negligence, callousness and stupidity, the last being the most pronounced and rampant quality in the party, apart from hypocrisy, though they still cannot match Nawaz Sharif and Co. in this respect.
• To compound this madness – for there is no other word for it – her driver stopped the vehicle instead of keeping it moving. Why? What were those inside the vehicle thinking? Had their common sense gone on leave? Her party members allowed her to proceed to her death and did nothing about it. Stupid. There is no other word for it, for even a mentally challenged person would have seen the danger. Musharraf was not in the vehicle with her, was he? Nor were any of the official security personnel that they could be accused to endangering her. There were her and her husband’s most trusted people only. I am not for a moment suggesting that all or any of them were complicit in her murder. All I’m showing you is how a tragedy unfolds once “those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad” – or stupid, much the same thing.
• Bur regardless of what I feel or say, did the Commission verify whether perhaps all or some of those inside the vehicle were not complicit in her murder?
• Benazir Bhutto was receiving telephone calls and receiving and sending SMS messages, and not just on her own two mobile phones, one a Blackberry. Did the UN Commission ask to see the records of the phones of everyone in her vehicle? They could easily have got them from the phone companies even if they didn’t get the phones.
• Did they ask for the records of her husband and daughters’ mobile phones in Dubai?
• It bears endless repetition: If Benazir Bhutto had not stood up and stuck her head out in a stationary vehicle outside the area of the public rally she would be alive today, even if her assassins had attacked nevertheless, which they probably would not have, seeing no opportunity. But when she presented herself as a stationary target, they let loose with everything they had.
The question is: Who painted this bull’s eye on her forehead?
The Great Escape
Why did her security chief Mr. Rahman Malik, accompanied by Mr. Babar Awan, now law minister, Mr. Zulfiqar Mirza, now home minister Sindh and retired Lt. General Tauqir Zia leave ahead of her in a Mercedes and proceed to Zardari House or whatever its called in Islamabad? Was this also not the height of callousness? Ruthlessness perhaps? They say that they wanted to be at the house first to receive her. They also say that they heard the bomb blast not 50 yards away from the gate but were told that Benazir was fine, so they proceeded to Islamabad. If the Mercedes was Benazir’s backup vehicle, it should never have left, and the four gentlemen concerned should have gone in some other car. It should have followed her in case something happened and she needed another vehicle, as apparently happened in Karachi. Instead it sped away, turning right instead of left, thus also misleading some of the official security vehicles. Why? No ordinary people were sitting in the Mercedes. Some of them later became ministers, all because of Benazir. Are they also criminally stupid? Or – horror of horrors – did they know what was going to happen and not wish to be around? It stinks. It simply does, to the high heavens. Clear it, please, once and for all, if not for your own sakes then for this country’s sake. Or is it that you can’t?
Talking of security. Did Benazir Bhutto have a death wish?
• Why did she repeatedly ignore all warnings not only from the Government of Pakistan but other governments too that wished her well and had, in a sense, invested in her, not to return to Pakistan before the elections for security reasons?
• On arrival in Karachi there was a failed assassination attempt on her during her procession from the airport to the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Why did she still not take heed, despite continuing official warnings and kept presenting herself as a target?
• Why did she insist on addressing the public rally in Liaquat Bagh on that fateful day, December 27, 2007, after being warned by the Pakistani government, the director general of the ISI and the Saudi and UAE governments that there was a serious threat against her life?
• If the governments of the day are culpable of anything, apart from hosing down the place of the crime, it is that they did not forcefully prevent Benazir from holding the rally by cancelling permission to do so or even placing her – and Nawaz Sharif – in protective custody. After all, Sharif was also attacked that day at another place just outside Rawalpindi. I know that they were worried that if they cancelled permission or forced her not to hold the rally, she would have accused the government of trying to rig the elections by not letting her campaign. But what happened was much worse, even for the government.
• Before any such rally the personal security staff of a public leader and the official security authorities concerned hold meetings to determine the exact, minute-by-minute, yard-by-yard security protocol: how many vehicles will be in the motorcade, how many in the car of the VIP (as in Very Insecure Person), what route or routes will they take, how fast the motorcade will travel, who will be on the stage with her and where will they sit or stand, how far will the crowd be and so forth. They then sign the protocol and the VIP’s security team makes sure that it is followed meticulously. Why was it violated in Benazir’s case?
• Her vehicle turned right once it was outside the gate of Liaquat Bagh when it was supposed to turn left. Why? Stupid driver?
• Her driver stopped her vehicle when he was actually supposed to speed away on the pre-decided route? Why? Stupid?
• Whose bright idea was it to compromise the bombproof effectiveness of her vehicle by getting a makeshift sunroof made by an ordinary mechanic and welder? Are they not guilty of criminal neglect too? Or just of stupidity, though there’s little difference.
• They say that no autopsy was carried out at Mr. Zardari’s request, so as not to violate her body. But if you consider that they opened Benazir’s chest wide, took her lifeless heart in their hands and massaged it to try and make it start beating again, it was as good as an autopsy. There was no point in opening her stomach, for no one suspected poisoning. They also examined her neck and head and saw that there was no bullet wound in her skull or anywhere else on her body, only a jagged hole like a blunt instrument had hit it. There was no exit hole, as bullet wounds normally make. Those in the vehicle with her say that a white liquid was oozing out.
• When a person is near a bomb blast, as Benazir was, the shock wave kills them instantaneously because it turns their insides into gel. It also, apparently, causes electrical currents to go through the brain. I am sure that poor Benazir’s brain had turned to gel, which is why something white was oozing out. A brain, though soft, is solid, and will not ooze, except the liquid around it that acts as a shock absorber. I think the poor girl was dead before she hit the seat, perhaps even before her head hit the makeshift lever of the homemade run roof. Dr. Safdar Abbasi, loyal party member, a medical doctor and husband of Benazir’s most trusted aide Naheed Khan, was in the vehicle with her and felt her pulse after she fell. He found none but said nothing. Naheed Khan looks the most distraught person in the PPP; she and her husband are the only ones speaking openly without regard to their own safety. Once a fearsome lady who terrorized all within the party – she could make strong men’s hearts quake and stop a person in his tracks at ten yards with a glance – Naheed Khan and her husband have been kicked out of all important positions in the party and sidelined.
• The small guy is always the fall guy. The interior ministry spokesman, Brig. Cheema, has been roundly criticized in the UN report for misleading the investigators for saying on television that no bullet had hit her; only that her head had hit the lever on which there was blood. How can the UN make this assertion when they themselves acknowledge that no bullet had hit her while also acknowledging the presence and possibility of the lever? And if a spokesman says that Pakistani intelligence had intercepted a phone conversation between the late Pakistani Taliban (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud giving someone instructions about her assassination, how does it “mislead” investigators? I would have thought that it helped them. It’s safer to place the blame on minions and former rulers now harmless since they are safely out of the way, thus deflecting attention from the real perpetrators, whoever they are.
• Often in a high-profile assassination like Benazir Bhutto’s, some key witness is killed and silenced, which is one reason why the mystery is never solved.
o President John F. Kennedy’s alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was shot dead by Jack Ruby a few days after his assassination. The case is still unresolved.
o A senior police official – I think his name was Saeed Khan – shot dead Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan’s assassin on the spot instead of arresting him. The case is still unresolved.
o A key policeman involved in the dastardly murder of Murtaza Bhutto and his companions was killed while sleeping in his home in Karachi. The case is still unresolved.
o A man called Khalid Shahinshah was also part of Benazir’s personal security detail and was standing on the stage with her to her left making peculiar gestures and giving significant and meaningful signals. He was shot dead outside his Karachi home a few weeks after Benazir’s murder. The case is still unresolved, and will remain so as long as those who have benefitted from this UN Commission’s useless report can help it.
• Yes, there was a man called Khalid Shahinshah. He was reputedly close to Asif Zardari – one of his henchmen we are told. He was also supposed to be one of Ms Bhutto’s top security honchos (how many did she have?). He was standing next to her on her left throughout her speech at Liaquat Bagh.
• Did the Commission inquire why he, along with two longhaired hippy-looking photographers behind him, kept making peculiar gestures?
• Twice Shahinshah went down on his haunches and stood up, like an out-of-shape wrestler doing sit ups in slow motion. So did the hippy photographers behind him, as if it were a slow motion synchronized dance routine. He fiddled with the knot of his tie – repeatedly. He turned his eyes furtively left and right – repeatedly – as if signaling to someone. All this has been captured on camera and was on You Tube when I last looked. It was behaviour most peculiar.
• I’m told that after the rally Khalid Shahinshah jumped into Benazir’s vehicle. I’m also told that he jumped on to the front seat though I cannot be sure because no one paid me millions of dollars to carry out an inquiry.
• Not too long after, Khalid Shahinshah was gunned down on the drive of his house in broad daylight, Mafia style.
• Zardari never went to Shahinshah’s house to condole, we are told, even though he was reputedly close to him.
• Does this not look like a Mafia style hit to silence the man who knew too much and could no longer be trusted to remember his place in the Mafiosi scheme of things?
Did the Commission look into these episodes most peculiar? They threaten to speak volumes. Not surprisingly, it did not because it would have taken them in exactly the direction they weren’t supposed to go.
• It is the general belief backed by enough proof that America’s dogs of war – Blackwater/Xe International, DynCorp – have infested Pakistan. Did the Commission look into the possibility that one of them might be involved in Benazir’s murder, for sometimes they have their own agenda separate from their government?
Our then foreign secretary, one of the best we have ever had, Riaz Mohammad Khan, opposed asking the UN to probe Benazir’s murder, and he opposed it tooth and nail. He said that such inquiries are useless, lead nowhere and only obfuscate the issue instead of helping to identify the murderers. He also said that the authorities, especially our security and intelligence agencies, would not like to give minute details to a bunch of uninformed and untrained foreigners, untutored in conducting such probes and inquiries. He felt so strongly about it that he resigned. He was right.
Asking the UN or any outside agency to conduct such an investigation when our own people should rightly be doing it is to give further grist to the mills of those who would have the world believe that Pakistan is a failed or failing state which cannot even carry out an investigation at home because they are not competent enough, their people are all saleable commodities and will hide the truth for a consideration and because one Pakistani doesn’t trust another.
That this useless report, this utter hogwash, cost the wretchedly poor people of Pakistan $1.5 million a page is so utterly disgraceful that one is at a loss for further invective and expletives. The United Nation and its Secretary General ought to be ashamed for taking money out of the mouths starving millions to bridge its funding deficit because its patron saint the USA won’t pay it enough and on time to show the world what a useless body it is. Peace keeping body my foot, they are a bunch of incompetents and – dare I say – paid mercenaries who will churn out just what is required of them for a consideration. Remember their authorization to America to clear Al Qaeda from Afghanistan by attacking it. Would they give such an authorization, say, to Muslim countries to clear all Zionists out of Palestine?
They met some 250 odd people and lapped up all their conspiracy theories except one – the favourite – which many Bhutto family members led by Benazir’s uncle Mumtaz Bhutto believe: that Zardari himself was involved. They have no proof for it, of course, and are depending on the Agatha Christie type of logic that, “He who benefits from the crime did it.”
Life is a little more complicated than that, and in Pakistan it is a hell of a lot more complicated even than that. Here, things are never what they seem. Anyone who doesn’t realize this is always going to come a cropper trying to understand just what it is that makes this country tick. For if they knew, they would soon discover that this country doesn’t tick at all. It chugs and bumps along in fits and starts and you don’t know from one moment to the next where you will end up. It is a country full of Muslims but no Islam, only a hypocritical camouflage of it. Here up is down and down is up. Here truth is lies and lies are the truth; heroes are villains and villains are heroes; traitors are patriots and patriots are traitors. Alice would have a far more wondrous time here than in Wonderland. She would find it full of Mad Hatters and lunatic kings and Queens of Diamonds for that is what they all lust after – and, of course, their equally crazy henchmen, serfs and slaves.
Look at the confluence of the press conference of the head of the Commission and Zardari’s reaction in 24 hours. Was it not unconscionably convenient for President Asif Ali Zardari – who as Benazir’s widower holds the highest office in the land and has leadership of the family’s political jagir or fief that passes for a political party but which is actually a cult with some Bhutto as the icon – to declare that he will not take revenge from her killers because revenge has already been extracted by democracy which, the Benazir leftovers never tire of lecturing us, is the best revenge. This is the bizarre logic of those who seem to be scared of the truth and scareder still that it will out. It begs the question: how can he take revenge when he doesn’t even know who the assassins are? Or does he now, for did he not say not too long ago that, “I know who her killers are?”
This “democracy is the best revenge nonsense” is a copout even bigger than the UN Commission’s copout. Of course this is not the place to go into whether we have democracy or not, especially after the 18th Amendment which to my mind has actually put democracy in retreat. But that is another issue, which we can go into later.
So was anyone surprised when right on cue the genius senator (he can’t win a real election so he gets into parliament indirectly through the back door) who gifted us the 18th Constitutional Amendment that has put democracy in retreat thundered: “Musharraf should come back and have the courage to face the charges against him” or claptrap to this effect. This is just posturing to divert attention from the real issue: “Who killed Benazir Bhutto?” They wouldn’t dare take President Pervez Musharraf to court even if they could, which they can’t anyway, because during the course of the proceedings the truth might out and we would know who her real killers are. This is just another heartless drama of dancing on Benazir’s grave and we are all the bemused audience.
Does Asif Zardari have the right to decide whether to pursue Benazir’s murderers or not, or leave it to ‘democracy’? I don’t think so. Benazir Bhutto was not just Asif Zardari’s wife. For the many millions who adored her and her father, she was the keeper of the Bhutto legacy. She was twice prime minister and – who knows – could have been prime minister a third time, an ‘honour’ her great rival Nawaz Sharif is now gleefully waiting for thanks to the anti-democratic 18th Constitutional Amendment. Despite her many flaws, faults, follies and foibles (who doesn’t have them?) she was a great lady and, like her father, a courageous one too. She was the beautiful face of Pakistan to the world and she was the acceptable face of Pakistan for the world. That is the reason why the British and the Americans thoughtlessly pushed Musharraf to do a deal with her, to withdraw all the cases against her and get into a power sharing arrangement with her. It say ‘thoughtlessly’ because they should have known the danger they were putting her in, something many of us knew for months and are on record for having said so many a time. For this thoughtlessness I say that some her blood is also on British and American hands. It doesn’t matter whether one opposed her or supported her or was indifferent, the people of Pakistan and not just her supporters deserve to know who killed her. Mr. Zardari has no business to duck out of the issue by simply taking action against the negligent and saying that “democracy is the best revenge.”
We should not grudge Zardari the offices he now holds for his wife put him there by stating in her will that he is to be her heir if something were to happen to her. She didn’t say that her son should be; it is Zardari who made him party chairman and himself the co-chairman. Saying the will is a fake is neither here nor there unless you can prove it. Hearsay doesn’t count, especially when the Central Executive of the party has accepted it as authentic. Sure the CEC comprises mute serfs – the mazaras, haris, massalis and kammis of the Bhutto political jagir, but they are still the CEC.