I greatly respect Ayesha Siddiqa and usually enjoy reading her columns for the insightful analysis they provide. For this reason, I did not enjoy her column in today’s Tribune. Actually, it makes me worried.
Siddiqa’s column tells about the UN report and the damning findings that were made public when it was released last week.
There are pages after pages of damning evidence implicating the military’s intelligence outfits for their involvement in Bhutto’s assassination. The country’s spymasters had a convenient bogey in the shape of Baitullah Mehsud who could be blamed for every mysterious death that could not be owned. Irrespective of Mehsud’s ideology, the fact is that he had no reason to hurt Benazir Bhutto who was reputed as a pliant politician. The results of the UN report are crucial.
The report establishes two factors. First, it points out a conspiracy amongst key functionaries of the deep state. Former president Pervez Musharraf’s public relations agent, Rashid Qureshi may even have pointed towards the involvement of the existing top brass since he stated that Musharraf was neither the president nor the army chief at the time of Bhutto’s death. Second, the report indicates the existence of an entity that oversees physical dispensation of people without any fear of retribution.
This is an accurate description of the report, and as troubling as the report’s findings are, it is actually Siddiqa’s response that makes me worried.
In any case, Mr Zardari may not have the political capacity to bring the killers to justice.The main accused that is Pervez Musharraf and his core team, have already started to deny that he ever met the UN team. Interestingly, it is the same UN whose ‘resolution on Kashmir’ is considered a bible on the Kashmir dispute. Like the report on the break-up of Pakistan, this one will soon be turned controversial. A greater fear is that a concerted effort will be made to construct doubt. We shouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow some conspiracy theory points a finger at Benazir Bhutto’s children.
The Rehman report was made controversial due to claims that the report was inconclusive and biased. Similarly, some key public intellectuals are trying to create doubt about this report as well. The main issue raised is why didn’t the Commission reveal names? But how could they do this if they were being stopped and facts hidden.
The most critical common thread between the two investigations is that the partial results will plant seeds of doubt amongst the marginalised people of Pakistan regarding the intent of the powerful elite to be truthful and be merciful. Just imagine – what chance do ordinary folk have when important people like Benazir Bhutto are killed and a half of the state sacrificed? Most tragically, the common folk will probably not take the report to heart and surrender to the fact that it’s just that our gods behave badly.
This is what worries me. When I first read a copy of the UN report, all I could think was, “Finally the day has come when these killers have been exposed. Surely, now they will be brought to justice.” And yet day after day I am hearing people who say that the report is worthless. I point out that the UN all but handed the courts an indictment of Musharraf, and people who I once thought were not crazy answer with some nonsense about Rehman Malik. It is as if the house is burning to the ground, and these people are only worried if the curtains match!
We have the opportunity to finally see justice not only for Benazir Bhutto, but for Pakistan. We have been handed the opportunity to finally close the book on one of the worst chapters in the nation’s history. And yet, we seem uninterested in this opportunity. We’d rather tell some conspiracy theories. We’d rather let these culprits go free because they were yesterday’s villains. We have already found new people to gossip about.
Ayesha Siddiqa’s column bothers me not because what she says is so wrong. What bothers me is the possibility that once again she is correct.