By Humayun Gauhar
I posted a brief comment on Facebook when Musharraf was indicted and the chatter started. “No amount of security can do anything if the subject stops her vehicle and sticks her head out. Benazir, God Bless her, killed herself inadvertently. Similarly, Akbar Bugti killed himself by mistake when he blew up the mouth of the cave he was hiding in to kill Pakistan Army officers and commandos.”
Expectedly, some of the chatter was laced with prejudice but people have the right to free expression, even to make fools of themselves.
The strategy of Musharraf’s detractors was based on the assumption that he would never return and challenge them to prove their charges. When he did he caught them with their pants down and put many of them in the line of fire too. They had assumed that he was a coward like them and would never return except under a deal or pardon. One should be glad that Musharraf did return, as we need to separate truth from falsehood and expose those who would pervert it. The so-called treason case against Musharraf will be interesting too for it could rope in a prime minister, politicians, bureaucrats, generals and judges all acting holier than thou but are now quaking in their boots. (Did I use the word ‘rope’? A Freudian slip, I’m sure).
In their eagerness to seem ‘emancipated’ they stand with the alien western electoral system that regularly throws up leaders who are from “the worst amongst us” and whose follies and foibles invite intervention, Musharraf’s detractors clutch at straws. The crux of the case against him is that he failed to provide adequate security to Benazir. It is not the job of the president to provide security. It is the job of the prime minister and the interior ministry if the capital is involved or the chief minister and home ministry of the province concerned. She was not only given all the security that a former prime minister should get, but more.
If this were so Musharraf should be indicted in two more cases when as president he did didn’t provide himself enough security and only escaped two massive assassination attempts that led to the deaths of many. Only God’s Grace and the stupidity of the terrorists saved him not his own security. That he was president doesn’t dilute the ‘argument’; he is culpable. By this reasoning George W. Bush should also be indicted for failing to provide adequate security on 9/11. The global list is endless. It would become a circus.
Benazir had repeatedly been warned by Pakistan’s intelligence and security agencies and also by foreign governments that there were serious assassination threats against her. Yet she returned before the date she had agreed to with the US. The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) certainly was a huge error by Musharraf for not only has the country paid a heavy price for it as indeed has Musharraf but a terrible precedent has been set: if you are a big thief you are above the law, only small thieves aren’t. The Supreme Court has since struck the NRO down. Why is it not being implemented?
It is said that the ISI chief visited Benazir at her Islamabad home that morning to dissuade her from attending the Rawalpindi rally, but she remained adamant. If Musharraf wanted her assassinated why would they have tried so hard to persuade her not to attend the rally? If they had placed her under house arrest Benazir would have raised an unseemly ruckus over being denied the right to campaign. The government was caught in a bind.
That security at the venue was adequate is evident by the fact that nothing untoward happened there. It broke down when Benazir’s vehicle, instead of speeding away as agreed protocol had it, slowed down and stopped. Then the homemade sunroof in her armor plated SUV opened, she stood up and stuck her head out offering herself up for slaughter like a sitting duck. No security in the world, however good, can do anything in such a situation. Security vehicles don’t come with sunroofs from manufacturers for it defeats the purpose. Her party had it made in a Karachi workshop. Did Musharraf put those idiotic ideas into her head to make a sunroof and then stick her head out of it? When she did the assassins threw everything at her. No autopsy was carried out to determine what killed her – bullet, bomb, shockwave or head hitting the lever of her homemade sunroof – because only legal heirs can permit it, which they didn’t. Yet prejudiced fools imagine that Musharraf could have ‘ordered’ it.
Why didn’t those inside Benazir’s vehicle stop her from going so patently to her death? Were they so in awe of her that their common sense deserted them or…? One wonders.
The tape of the conversation of the head of the of Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) Pakistan Baitullah Mehsud, now droned, discussing her assassination being released within a couple of days after her death is no smoking gun except for jesters. Obviously intelligence had the tape far in advance, one of the things they based their warnings to Benazir on. After she was killed it was right to release it as fast as possible. The TTP later claimed that they had killed her.
Another straw: the place was washed within hours, thus losing evidence. This is always done after all evidence is collected, which takes about an hour in a case like this. Murtaza Bhutto’s place of assassination was also washed very soon after but no hue and cry was raised. Would you rather that to avoid suspicion they let human flesh rot while dogs, cats, crows and vultures eat it? If grieving relatives and onlookers feel bad so what, as long as doubters are satisfied. Better still, fly out CIA and/or Scotland Yard teams to collect the evidence and do the washing for our doubters have so much faith in them. The most important evidence that was lost for years were Benazir’s cell phones. Did Musharraf take them too?
It is understandable if facts are selectively chosen by incorrigible doubters to ‘prove’ their case, but for a UN Commission team not to at the very least wonder about Zardari’s man Khalid Shahinshah making suspicious gestures while standing beside Benazir on the stage, as if signaling to someone, and the two hippy ‘photographers’ behind him makes one wonder. Why didn’t they wonder why Shahinshah was gunned down a few days later in broad daylight at the gate of his Karachi house? Why aren’t they asking why his assassin was also killed soon after? Truth be damned, it is Musharraf they want to get to deflect suspicion from the real assassins. Zardari said on her first death anniversary that he knew who had killed Benazir. Of course he would, but why doesn’t someone ask him who it was?
The UN report is a shallow joke arranged by Zardari’s government and the terms of reference made by it, like retired Scotland Yard people were arranged by Benazir to inquire into Murtaza’s murder. Both are cover-ups. When the foreign office sent the request to the UN the foreign secretary resigned in protest. I wrote an essay on the UN report that is available on the Internet and on www.gauhar.com. Read it if you wish. No loss to me if you don’t.
As to our courts, they have swung from the obsequious end of the spectrum to the belligerent end. Both can make for miscarriage of justice. The obsequious end legitimized four army takeovers, abrogation of the first two constitutions, Legal Framework Orders and Provisional Constitutional Orders (PCO), but not the last PCO because it didn’t suit the judges whereas the earlier ones did. With some 23,000 cases pending in the Supreme Court and some 2.5 million in the entire judiciary, they keep chasing ghosts. Cases of people they don’t like are heard with alacrity, like the ones against Musharraf, while cases that are embarrassing are brushed under the carpet. The Asghar Khan case finally got judgment after 18 years but still awaits implementation. Why? Who are they trying to protect?
Benazir’s assassins killed two birds with one stone: Benazir physically and Musharraf politically. Why would Musharraf kill Benazir knowing that it would be the end of his presidency before its time in 2013? Who did it suit? Those that felt that Benazir said one thing and did another; promised and then balked. Musharraf was not letting America put boots on Pakistani ground and refusing to give thousands of visas to US mercenary contractors without verification. Benazir’s widower and Musharraf’s successor did just that without question and allowed American drone strikes at will. Kill two birds with one stone and get a pliable leader ‘democratically’ elected. If pliant leaders are elected it is democracy. If not, it is Morsi. That’s the script, or part of it