The National Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution on April 14 asking the federal government to approach the United Nations for constituting ‘Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Commission’ to identify the culprits, perpetrators, organisers and financers behind her assassination and bring them to justice. The adoption of the resolution by the National Assembly is a welcome move. It is line with Pakistan Peoples Party’s demand which it has maintained ever since the untimely death of its chairperson on December 27, 2007. PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari had sent a letter to the caretaker prime minister early this year demanding probe by a UN commission but no action was taken by the then government in this connection. PPP leadership also sent letters to the UN secretary-general as well as the Security Council president. Commenting on these letters, the UN spokesperson had stated that the UN would not have any objection if the request was sent by the Pakistani government for the formation of the investigation commission. Benazir Bhutto’s murder is yet another sad, if not the saddest, chapter of Pakistan’s violent political history. In our country, politically motivated murders have been continuing unabated since assassination of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. In all such cases, the finger was pointed to a ‘foreign hand’ which could not obviously operate without local connection. The PPP leadership also believed that there was a foreign hand behind Benazir Bhutto’s murder which had active assistance from the Establishment. Apprehending her assassination, Benazir Bhutto wrote a letter to President Musharraf on October 16 in which she alleged that some elements within his own establishment were working on a plan to eliminate her. Though the contents of this letter have not so far been made public either by the party or by the presidency, it has been speculated in the press that the three names given by BB in her letter were those of the then CM Punjab Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, DGIB Brigadier Retired Ejaz Shah and a top bureaucrat Wasim Afzal. President Musharraf’s associates rejected these claims. In fact, the presidential camp shifted the responsibility to Al-Qaeda and Taliban. Soon after Benazir Bhutto’s murder, the caretaker government blamed the Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud for planning and executing her murder. In fact, spokesman of the ministry of interior Brigadier Retired Javed Iqbal Cheema claimed within forty-eight hours of BB’s assassination that Mehsud’s men were behind her murder. He also produced an audio cassette in his press conference which purported to contain a record of conversation between Mehsud and an unknown ‘Maulana’ confirming successful completion of the ‘mission’. In her posthumous autobiography ‘Reconciliation between Islam and the West’, Benazir Bhutto alleged that Osama bin Laden’s 16-year old son Hamza bin Laden was involved in the October 18 attack on her convoy near Karsaz in Karachi. This statement lent further support to the claims of the caretaker government that religious extremists, particularly Al-Qaeda and Taliban, were behind Benazir’s assassination. Retired Generals Hamid Gul and Mirza Aslam Beg have blamed the Americans for being behind Benazir Bhutto’s murder. Their contention is that BB returned to Pakistan as a result of a deal with President Musharraf through the courtesy of the Bush Administration on the commitment that she would fully support the US action against Al-Qaeda and Taliban. However, after coming to Pakistan she changed her mind because she thought that such an action would make her unpopular. Therefore, she was eliminated not by the Al-Qaeda or Taliban but by the Americans. When I asked Wajid Shamsul Hasan, a close confidante of Benazir Bhutto, who he thought was behind the PPP chairperson’s murder, he pointed finger towards Pakistani Establishment. According to him, some of the Pakistani generals were scared that she might allow IAEC to have access to Dr A Q Khan if she returned to power. Therefore, those generals eliminated her to preclude any such possibility. The contents of this interview were published in the Frontier Post on March 24 and 25. We do not have any clear evidence to say with hundred percent authenticity as to who was behind Benazir Bhutto’s murder. However, there are at least three things which make one believe that Benazir Bhutto’s apprehensions about the Pakistani Establishment’s partial or total involvement in her assassination as contained in her letter of October 16 were not entirely misplaced. Firstly, within a few hours of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, the crime scene was washed with the help of the fire-brigade trucks to eliminate forensic evidence contrary to prevalent practice. Secondly, an autopsy of her body was not carried out in clear violation of section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which stipulated that post-mortem was compulsory in all cases of unnatural death. Thirdly, the spokesman of the ministry of interior produced a doubtful audio-cassette in an apparent bid to shift the blame to Baitullah Mehsud. These three things clearly demonstrate that there were certainly some influential elements within the Establishment who tried to eliminate the evidence of their direct or indirect involvement in the gruesome murder of Benazir Bhutto. In view of the possibility of a ‘foreign hand’ assisted by the elements within Pakistani Establishment, demand for a UN probe in Benazir Bhutto’s murder did not seem to be unjustified. Therefore, the National Assembly took a positive action on Monday by adopting a resolution asking the federal government to get Benazir Bhutto’s murder investigated from the United Nations. The nearest example of such an investigation by the United Nations is that into the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri who was killed on February 14, 2005. Soon after Hariri’s murder, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1595 for sending an investigative team to look into Hariri’s assassination. Despite passage of almost three years, Hariri Commission has not yet completed its work and the investigation into the former Lebanese Prime Minister’s murder has effectively been put into cold storage. Even if the commission comes up with some concrete findings, the real culprits may never be brought to justice. In view of this sad experience, the new government should not leave everything to the ‘Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Commission’ which is still in the air. The October 18 revolution, if it can be dubbed so, has brought loads of new challenges for the coalition government ranging from food and energy crisis to Pakistan’s role in the War on Terrorism. The coalition partners are already struggling hard to meet the deadline of thirty days for the restoration of the judiciary to the position of November 2, 2007. No doubt, these are all compelling challenges which need immediate attention. However, all the things can be easily managed if the new government can establish a Monitoring Cell to identify its targets, including the Prime Minister’s 100-Day Agenda, and monitor their performance on regular basis. Nevertheless, the coalition partners should not ignore investigation into Benazir Bhutto’s murder by the national agencies. Now that PPP happens to be in power, it should re-order investigation into its slain chairperson’s assassination. Simultaneously, a judicial commission needs to be constituted to record evidence of key witnesses who might not be available for their testimony by the time a UN commission is constituted. Benazir Bhutto’s murderers may have done their ‘homework’ in the best possible way and they may have also destroyed all important evidence against themselves. Yet, that does not mean that it is impossible to reach them. Even the cleverest of the criminals inevitably leave some clue behind him which can help the tracers to reach him, provided that there is a will to reach him. This is so because this universe is being run not by the criminals but by Almighty Allah. At the time of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, Saud Aziz was CCPO and Muhammad Irfan Elahi was DCO at Rawalpindi. Both these officers were also present at Rawalpindi General Hospital where BB was taken soon after the attack. They can shed some light as to why and under whose orders her post-mortem was not done and the crime scene was washed. By the way, who is that bearded man in his thirties with heavy jacket around his waist and a P-cap on his head at a close distance from BB when she is coming off the stage after finishing her speech in Liaquat Bagh Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007?
Courtesy: The Frontier Post, 16/4/2008