Who murdered Benazir Bhutto? – Farrukh Khan Pitafi

Source Daily Times:
My countrymen and some foreign friends seem to have developed the new hobby of conducting pint-size researches on the assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Even before the UN report on her assassination — which mercifully did some justice to the scope of the tragedy — a book had appeared on the very subject. I have not read it and therefore cannot comment on it but I have been through the UN report. Interestingly, before the inquiry was commissioned, our foreign office and, as usual, our establishment were absolutely opposed to the idea. It was as if the UN Commission would end up opening our nuclear installations or other secret issues. That is exactly why the terms of reference of the study were restricted. And today the very same ‘Platos’ are questioning its rationale. The UN report, to me, has managed to provide a general framework, between the lines pinning blame on the facilitators of the crime.

But apart from that, an article has appeared recently, penned by Christina Lamb, the journalist who in the wake of 9/11, allegedly tried to book a ticket and travel from Pakistan in the name of Osama bin Laden and, by doing so, risked the invasion of our country. In her longish piece, ‘Who murdered Benazir Bhutto?’ she has tried to find answers. While she has collected quite a few intriguing points that could lead to a better understanding of the matter, at some places she has displayed an eerie lack of responsibility. For instance, she has quoted the UN report out of context at least once. The Commission members, she writes, were “mystified by the efforts of certain high-ranking government authorities to obstruct access”. The quoted sentence however does not end here. The actual sentence is: “The Commission was mystified, however, by the efforts of certain high-ranking government officials to obstruct access to Pakistani military and intelligence sources, as revealed in their public declarations.” You may ask what difference does that make. Well, a hell of a lot of difference sirs! Immediately after the quote, she rushes on to her experience with the police. This implies that there was general obstruction, by the government and not the military authorities, whose reluctance would at least be understandable.

Through this she builds a case that portrays the government as being hesitant in investigating owing to some of its own ulterior motives. And finally, where the article ends, you find the president being discreetly blamed for the tragedy. Do not take these funny points lightly. These points can later be used to repeat what has been done in the past: blaming the victim. When Benazir Bhutto first came to power, for the sake of democracy, through a compromise and did not open an investigation into her father’s murder, she was quickly dubbed as a sell-out. When her government could not probe into the murders of her two brothers, she was directly or indirectly blamed for their assassination. When she was attacked at Karsaz, certain Punjabi politicians blamed her for masterminding the assault on her own life. Now when she is no more with us, is it not natural to blame the victim again and rope in her own family?

But none of these Platos will ever tell you that after Zulfi Bhutto, every time the PPP came into power, it was through a million compromises that made governance and such investigations absolutely impossible. While some may call it a love for power, given the mortality rate, I insist that it was done for the love of the people and democracy.

Might I remind you that when, after her assassination, this country was burning and certain Punjabi politicians, then in the government, were playing the ethnic card by setting up camps for Punjabis from Sindh, it was this president who stepped in with the promise of “Pakistan khappay” (Pakistan will flourish). People say that since he is now in power and heading his party, he is the sole beneficiary of her slaying. How unfortunate! No one realises why he assumed the party leadership and the presidency in the first place. Or even the fact that he is the first president who, from a point of strength, gave up powers vested in him through the 17th Amendment. Why would they? They hate the PPP and they hate the Bhutto legacy.

The biggest strategic mistake, in my humble opinion, ever committed by Benazir Bhutto was to leave a fully empowered regent in Pakistan in her absence. In her absence, Makhdoom Amin Fahim developed quite cordial relations with the dictator of the time. While the Makhdoom of Hala cannot be blamed for this, the establishment started dreaming of a PPP free of the name of the Bhuttos. A similar mistake was committed by Nawaz Sharif, but upon serious reflection it was corrected when Makhdoom Javed Hashmi volunteered to be interned. Had Zardari not stepped in, the establishment’s plan seemed to have been the hijacking of the party by using the polite and unassuming regent as a rubber stamp. Sometime in the future you would have found Pervez Musharraf heading the party and all its sponsored factions! This plan was foiled but still the presence of the dictator meant that disgruntled segments would continue to be sponsored by him. That was when Zardari took over as the president too. Now that the party’s discipline has been restored, he did not show any reluctance in giving up his powers.

I am not an expert on forensics, nor am I a spook. Instead of any rocket science, I employ common sense. Common sense says that the establishment, always weary of the Bhutto name, was bound to gain from the assassination. I would have blamed the Taliban directly, given my firm stance against them, but it is my belief that only someone with cutting edge surveillance technology could have planned her assassination, for only he would have known that Benazir Bhutto had different plans than that of the dictator and his western backers. That reduces our list of potential plotting culprits to two: The US intelligence agencies and our very own establishment. The latter has acquired the said technology for the sake of fighting the war on terror. Only these two could read her e-mails and listen to her conversations. But blaming US intelligence agencies is not akin to blaming the US or its people. We do remember that the neo-conservatives in those days were desperate for another Republican win and, as part of their war on terror strategy, they had thrown their weight behind the dictator. Their weariness with Benazir was equally understandable. Do not forget that the US government, since Ayubian times, is considered an inextricable part of our own establishment. While I seriously doubt that any of these culprits, even if proven guilty, can be brought to justice, at least we can stop blaming the victims for each tragedy.

The writer is an independent columnist and a talk show host. He can be reached at farrukh.khan@pitafi.com



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