Kamran Shafi, never one to bat an eyelash in the face of controversy, uses his excellent style of writing to get straight to the heart of several issues raised by the UN report.
So then, the UN report is out, setting many cats on many dovecotes (or is it mongooses on snake pits?), even hitherto forbidden dovecotes. Good I say, and bully for the UN Commission to say out loud what needed to be said, particularly outing the term ‘the establishment’.
Felicitations to it too for so methodically laying out the quite glaring facts gleaned, no doubt, after months of painstaking work ferreting out the truth from a bureaucracy trained all its life to obfuscate matters if not lie outright to protect itself and its bosses.
So unnerved are the denizens of these snake pits that the ‘ghairat brigade’ is marching once again, this time to denounce the report as yet another Kerry-Lugar bill-like attempt (of the Israeli/Indian/American/Jewish/Hindu/Christian confederacy of course) to undermine Pakistan’s ‘sovereignty’.
Of course, in their blind (and deaf) zeal to protect the establishment, they completely overlook the fact that whilst the wording of the Kerry-Lugar bill is exactly as it always was, the establishment goes on unashamedly receiving US aid: weapons, equipment, cash, whatever. Its ‘fury’ was just for show, mere posturing.
What in God’s name was the ISI’s Rawalpindi detachment commander Col Jehangir Akhtar doing at the Rawalpindi General Hospital after the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto and while her body was lying in the hospital? Why did his superior, Maj-Gen Nusrat Naeem, first refuse to admit that he had spoken to Prof Mussadiq, the doctor handling Ms Bhutto’s case (to hear directly from the professor that Ms Bhutto was really, really dead!), and then upon being ‘pressed further’ admit it?
Why did Rawalpindi’s city police officer (another silly designation leftover from Gen Naqvi Sahib’s tinkering with a perfectly adequate system) sneeringly ask a respected person like Prof Mussadiq, who was medical superintendent of the hospital to boot, if an FIR had yet been registered in the case when the professor asked if he should go ahead with carrying out a post-mortem examination on Ms Bhutto? Post-mortems are not held before a FIR, so could the ex-CPO tell us why an FIR had not been registered and the post-mortem carried out? Why, indeed, was the scene of the crime hosed down within hours of the assassination, an assassination, mark, of a person of such exalted status as a twice-elected prime minister and the leader of the largest political party in the whole blessed country? It goes without saying that let alone someone of the rank of a CPO, even an inspector general of police would not by himself dare order the washing of a place where such an important person had been murdered. This is the Land of the Pure, do we not know all of this?
It is a damning report, this one, and flings several well-deserved brickbats at our establishment which I have often described as venal and self-serving and mindless and cruel. It says clearly that it was mystified “by the efforts of certain high-ranking Pakistani government authorities to obstruct access to military and intelligence sources … that the investigation was severely hampered by intelligence agencies and other government officials, which impeded an unfettered search for the truth”.
Far more importantly it says that the ISI “conducted parallel investigations, gathering evidence and detaining suspects”. And that “evidence gathered from such parallel investigations were selectively shared with the police”. The commission also “believes that the failure of the police to investigate effectively Ms Bhutto’s assassination was deliberate”.
The officials, “in part fearing intelligence agencies’ involvement, were unsure of how vigorously they ought to pursue actions, which they knew, as professionals, they should have taken”. Whilst this is absolutely scandalous, as a citizen of this hapless and luckless country I have to once again thank the commission for so clearly saying that our agencies of state are a law unto themselves.
Last but not least, the speeding away of the back-up vehicle with VIP passengers aboard has not been adequately explained. What possessed Babar Awan, Rehman Malik, Tauqeer Zia and far more than all of them put together, Farhatullah Babar to drive hotfoot to Zardari House after they had heard the explosion?
Or is it that they did not hear anything; simply did not know what the devil was going on because while the leader was driving slowly through the crowd, they were rushing pell-mell to Islamabad to prepare for Benazir’s next engagement? We must hear in detail from these four, and soon.
Before we go elsewhere let us close this with a quote from the commission itself: “It remains the responsibility of the Pakistani authorities to carry out a serious, credible criminal investigation that determines who conceived, ordered and executed this heinous crime of historic proportions, and brings those responsible to justice. Doing so would constitute a major step towards ending impunity for political crimes in this country.” How well put, gentlemen.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we hear disconcerting stories from Swat and North Waziristan. Are the Taliban on the march again we ask ourselves amid reports that beheadings are once again the flavour of the times, and that attacks on our forces are once again being carried out with impunity? Where are Muslim Khan and his other cohorts said to be under arrest? Have they been charged with the crimes against humanity they have clearly committed as we saw them admit on TV? There are so many questions and no answers.
Why has the Swat flogging video been challenged two years and more after the flogging happened, by nameless people writing in certain newspapers: articles that have no by-line, no date? Why is their and more than them the newspaper’s memory so selective?
Do they not remember the selfsame Muslim Khan say on live TV the day after the video was shown that the woman was lucky she was only flogged, for her crime deserved being stoned to death? Who is orchestrating this new attempt to paint the Taliban in better colours than those they deserve? The establishment has learnt no lessons from this country’s sad history, my friends — we are in for very great trouble unless the political parties continue to face down the establishment jointly.
PS: I continue to believe that Benazir was killed by a bullet — the professional stance of the shooter, his close proximity to his target, the flying dupatta, and the fact that she fell down before the bomb exploded all point to this theory. Indeed, is the dupatta missing because it has a bullet hole in it? Questions, questions.