This is high time for the US administration to use the tragic death of Benazir Bhutto for making intervention in Pakistan. There will be no denying the fact that officials have still been extending support to terrorists. Now the terrorists after creating choas in Pakistan have been planning other terrorist attacks. Actually the tragic murder of Benazir Bhutto has tarnished the image of terrorists.
According to a leading newspaper, in an unusual gesture, 12 members of the US Congress have threatened “to block aid to Pakistan if the White House does not support a Rafik Hariri-type UN investigation into Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and prevent any delay in the January 8 polls”. Needless to say, and rhetoric aside, all the Congressmen are from the Democratic Party and find the occasion useful to put the Bush administration under pressure on the subject of Ms Benazir Bhutto’s assassination on December 27.
But the fact also is that Ms Bhutto herself had demanded international inquiry into the October 18 Karachi bombing in which she was nearly killed. Given her misgivings before she embarked for Pakistan from Dubai, this was a natural reaction from her. But after the various changing positions taken by the caretaker government on the details of her assassination, the PPP high command has joined the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan to demand a UN-sponsored “Rafik Hariri type” investigation. The UN Security Council had mandated a UN probe into the assassination of the ex-Lebanese prime minister in 2004.
While a Hariri-style investigation into Ms Bhutto’s assassination, is not possible for various reasons, not least because there is no suspicion of a third state’s involvement, as was the case in Mr Hariri’s assassination, passions are running high and the government needs to do much more than it has done so far, which is simply to give one contradictory statement after another. The demand that the government should get help from international agencies to investigate the matter more expertly and objectively could not be faulted. Ms Bhutto’s stature, the circumstances of her assassination and increasing cooperation among states on such issues demanded that the government not invoke the issue of sovereignty on this point. President Pervez Musharraf’s Wednesday address to the nation and his assurance that Pakistan will receive a team from Scotland Yard to help Pakistani agencies with the investigations is a welcome move, though it may be too little too late.
The reactions from Naudero are getting tougher and tougher. Mr Asif Ali Zardari, the co-chairperson of PPP, has already responded to Mr Musharraf’s speech by saying that if the government had accepted the PPP’s demand for such an investigation after the Karachi bombings, Ms Bhutto might still be alive. He had also earlier rejected the theory that Al Qaeda was involved in Ms Bhutto’s killing, clearly going back to the position that “the establishment” had a hand in it. This statement could become a strain and would have been picked by everyone including the rejectionist APDM to render any further “revelations” from the government investigators irrelevant. The “official” position had shifted too many times since December 27 to allow credibility to any new change now.
The government was suspiciously keen to go to the TV channels with the “latest findings” after the event. But there was no justification for speculating, for instance, and spreading the word that shrapnel from the suicide bomb had killed Ms Bhutto. The interior ministry should have waited for the doctors’ verdict to arrive. But after it adopted the “shrapnel” version, it looked as if it was tripping over itself to establish Al Qaeda as the culprit. This is a probability, of course, but when the version was changed from “shrapnel” to “bullets” to finally “no bullets” and a lever, the press conference lost all trust.
In the event the doctors’ version of “no bullets” was also undermined. The interior ministry went to town after discovering what it thought was two important nuggets: the video tape showing a man firing with a handgun at Ms Bhutto from an angle that didn’t prove that the shots had hit the target; and a conversation intercept that had Baitullah Mehsud “confessing” to a deputy that he had arranged the assassination. The ministry should have looked at all the possible angles of politicisation of the press conference before going public on its “discoveries”. What destroyed the press conference was the discovery of a private video by a TV channel showing the shooter actually hitting his target!
What followed was a wholesale discrediting of the government’s version. It was not only dismissed out of hand by most analysts in Pakistan, but a majority of commentators abroad, including many Congressmen in the United States, also thought that the establishment might have been involved in some way in getting rid of a challenger to President Musharraf. That is why foreigners began to listen to the voices of scepticism in Pakistan and increasingly adopted the version that laid the blame on elements inside the Islamabad establishment that didn’t want her around.
In these circumstances, an investigation carrying the trust of all parties had become imperative. President Musharraf’s decision that Pakistan will seek the help of Britain to investigate this matter and that he is personally very keen to get to the bottom of who killed Ms Bhutto is reassuring at this stage. He also made clear that Ms Bhutto was eager to get Pakistan back to a democratic path and those who have rioted after her death may not be in sync with her dream.
The involvement of a foreign agency had not only become important because of the gaps in local expertise, as conceded by Mr Musharraf, but also because the government had lost all credibility. The way the caretaker government acted in unholy haste to hose down the stretch of road near Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi where the killing took place may have made a probe difficult, but it had definitely damaged the grounds on which Islamabad claims to hold an effective investigation.
Mr Musharraf again spoke about Baitullah Mehsud’s intercepted conversation. The Scotland Yard team should be able to find, using high-tech methods of “comparison analysis” with Mehsud’s earlier recordings, if the message was indeed sent by Mehsud. We also learn that the foreign minister of France, Mr Bernard Kouchner, on a visit to Pakistan, told President Musharraf that France and the European Union were ready to help in investigating Ms Bhutto’s assassination. Mr Kouchner, the first high-ranking foreign official to visit Pakistan since Ms Bhutto was killed, met President Musharraf to offer the help of France and the 27-nation EU bloc. According to Mr Kouchner, President Musharraf is supposed to have said that “the idea was interesting”. It seems that the idea was “interesting” enough for Mr Musharraf to have finally given a nod to it.