What UN investigation of Benazir Bhutto’s murder entails


Tariq Majeed

So the PPP-led government has gone ahead with the inadvisable action. “Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram met Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on June 6 and handed over a letter from Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi seeking a high level probe into the murder of the PPP leader who was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack in Rawalpindi on December 27 last year.
While the contents of the letter may be made public by the UN later, some details from the story in The Nation (June 7) ought to be quoted here: “The letter comprises two parts: one is the ‘preamble’ with the detailed background and the other is the operative or the actionable part which contains the request for setting up an independent international commission to investigate the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. In the letter a specific reference has been made to a December 2007 Security Council Resolution that condemned the killing of Benazir and underscored the need to expose all those behind it. Apparently one proposed option suggests that the UN secretary-general should form an international commission for a limited period rather than the one mandated by the UN Security Council, which would have permanence and could resort to intrusive measures with free access to sensitive sites and state institutions.”
Reading between the lines one can see now the source that inspired the proponents of this imprudent proposal. How would the government’s request be processed in that den of hidden traps, the Security Council, where the path that such issues are to take is set by the western powers? The case of the Hariri Commission can serve as an example and a warning in this regard. In a previous column, UN Probe into BB’s Murder, in The Nation (April 20), I had quoted just one alarming passage from the Security Council Resolution on the Hariri issue, hoping it would discourage the PPP leaders from approaching UN for an inquiry into BB’s murder. Here is the Hariri case in more detail.
Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, was killed along with 21 others in a bomb attack on his motorcade on February 14, 2005 in Beirut. Fingers were pointed at Syria, as Hariri, once an ally of Syria, had joined the anti-Syrian opposition. The Security Council president, on pressure by the United States, asked the UN secretary-general to send a Fact-Finding Mission to Lebanon. The mission’s task lasted from February 25 to March 24, 2005.
The Security Council examined the mission’s report in a meeting on April 7, 2005 and took several decisions. Pursuant to its orders, an investigative team headed by a German judge Detlev Mehlis was formed, which presented its initial report to the council on October 20, 2005. This report implicated Syrian and Lebanese officials in the bomb attack. Syria has claimed repeatedly it had no knowledge of the bombing. Mehlis asked for and was given more time to investigate a number of additional leads. At this stage, Lebanese politicians asked to extend the investigating team’s duration and charter, to include assassination of other prominent anti-Syrian Lebanese, such as Gebran Tueni.
A second report, submitted on December 10, 2005, upheld the conclusions from the first report. On January 11, 2006, Mehlis was replaced by a Belgian, Serge Brammertz.
In February 2006, the UN made a proposal, to which the government of Lebanon had to agree, establishing a Special Tribunal for Lebanon in order to have a court ready to try the culprits the investigative commission would finally mark. The tribunal would be located outside Lebanon. The Lebanese government is yet to follow the final proposal that is strongly opposed by Syria and its allies in Lebanon. The UN acted in early 2007 to force the process ahead. In December 2007, the Netherlands agreed to host the tribunal in the town of Leidschendam, a suburb of The Hague. The investigation is still continuing. In early April 2008, the commission asked for more time to complete the work. The chief investigator would become the special tribunal’s prosecutor once the UN probe of the Hariri and related cases is completed.
The investigation commission draws its guidance and authority from the Security Council. The Security Council Resolution 1595, adopted unanimously on April 7, 2005, begins with the usual agreeable, though deceptive, note that the council reiterates “its call for the strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon.” This is just lip service. What it says specifically on the issue is what matters. Similarly, a notation that the commission would “assist the Lebanese authorities in their investigation” is only a formality; in practice the commission is totally independent. Reproduced below are some significant provisions of the Resolution. The Security Council: “Having examined the report of the fact-finding mission to Lebanon….Noting with concern the fact-finding mission’s conclusion that the Lebanese investigation process suffers from serious flaws and has neither the capacity nor the commitment to reach a satisfactory and credible conclusion, Noting also its opinion that an international independent investigation with executive authority and self-sufficient resources in all relevant fields of expertise would be necessary to elucidate all aspects of this heinous crime, Welcoming the Lebanese government’s approval of the decision to be taken by the Security Council concerning the establishment of an international independent investigation commission, and welcoming also its readiness to cooperate fully with such a commission…,
”    Decides…to establish an international independent investigation commission based in Lebanon to assist the Lebanese authorities in their investigation of all aspects of this terrorist act, including to help identify its perpetrators, sponsors, organisers and accomplices;
”    Reiterates…its call on the Lebanese government to bring to justice the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of the February 14, 2005 terrorist bombing, and calls upon the Lebanese government to ensure that the findings and the conclusions of the commission’s investigation are taken into account fully;

”    Decides…to ensure the commission’s effectiveness in the discharge of its duties, the commission shall: i) Enjoy the full cooperaton of the Lebanese authorities, including full access to all documentary, testimonial and physical information and evidence in their possession that the commission deems relevant to the inquiry; ii) Have the authority to collect any additional information and evidence, both documentary and physical, pertaining to this terrorist act, as well as to interview all officials and other persons in Lebanon, that the commission deems relevant to the inquiry; iii) Enjoy freedom of movement throughout the Lebanese territory, including access to all sites and facilities that the commission deems relevant to the inquiry; iv) Be provided with the facilities necessary to perform its functions, and be granted, as well as its premises, staff and equipment, the privileges and immunities to which they are entitled under the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations;
”    Requests…the secretary-general to consult urgently with the Lebanese government with a view to facilitate the establishment and operation of the commission…, and requests also that he report to the council accordingly and notify it of the date the commission begins its full operations;
”    Requests…the secretary-general to undertake the steps and arrangements necessary for the establishment and functioning of the commission, including recruiting experienced staff…;
”    Directs…the commission to determine procedures for carrying out its investigation…”
Some people may think that in Benazir Bhutto’s case the commission may be formed directly by the UN secretary-general, as Pakistan government’s letter seems to be asking. However, it is unlikely that the secretary-general would proceed without referring this matter to the Security Council. Whatever the nature of the commission and the methodology of its operations, there is a strong possibility that the investigation’s course could be even more tortuous, demanding and prolonged – and far more costly in expenses – than the Hariri case. Hariri investigation’s estimated cost is $35-40 million, which reportedly the World Bank is lending to Lebanon.
If this case is left in the hands of the UN, its implications for Pakistan, both the state and the people, will be very damaging. It is going to impinge on every sector of national affairs. The “diplomatically-privileged” investigators would have an unending stream of demands for sensitive information and access to sites and personnel. They may take years – even beyond the life of the PPP-led government – to complete the job. What if there is another high profile assassination and a demand is made for its investigation by the UN, or some people raise a cry for reopening any recent political murder or gruesome incident in the country and bringing in the UN for its fresh inquiry? Officials in Islamabad should know that the same Zionist “Neo-Cons” lobby that controls the US policies, and that has no love for Pakistan, also controls the affairs in the UN.
It is best for the government to set-up its own commission on the lines of the Shafiur Rahman commission that investigated the Bahalwalpur C-130 Crash. There is still time to withdraw the request while it is with the UN secretary-general, but once the Security Council clears the issue for action, the arrow would have left the bow.
The writer is a retired air commodore

Source: The Nation, 25/6/2008

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