With charges against former dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, formally filed in an Islamabad court, the assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto is once again the center of attention. While few doubt that Musharraf failed to provide sufficient security to the popular leader, her assassination was not just Musharraf’s doing. In a forthcoming book United Nations investigator Heraldo Munoz has pointed out that there is much more that needs both investigation and prosecution.
DERA BUGTI: Since that incident, Asif Ali Bugti has never been to school, as his father fled from the troubled district and took refuge in Jacobabad, Sindh. This young boy who was 14 and in grade 8 at the time, was happily studying in Government Model High School Dera Bugti until the 2006 military operation shattered his dream. That is when unrest in his hometown began as a result of the late Nawab Akbar Bugti’s resistance against security forces.
I love the music of Junoon, but Salman Ahmad’s politics are completely baffling to me.
Here’s what makes absolutely no sense about this Tweet – Salman Ahmad supports Imran Khan…who is a creation of Zia ul Haq. Really. And you don’t need to take my word for it, it’s what Imran Khan himself says. In his autobiography, ‘Pakistan: A Personal History’, which I’m increasingly convinced no one has actually bothered to read, Imran Khan discusses at great length his admiration for and recruitment into politics by Zia ul Haq. Page 63:
As the captain of the Pakistan cricket team, I had a good relationship with Zia. He used to call me personally when we won matches and when, in 1987, he asked me on live television to come back out of retirement for the sake of the country, I agreed.
Three months later, at a dinner given for the cricket team in Islamabad, General Zia asked me to take back my decision to retire for the sake of the country, and again captain Pakistan. Within weeks I was leading the national team on a tour of the West Indies…
In 1988, while I was playing for Sussex and living in London, I got an unusual call from Pakistan. It was my friend Ashraf Nawabi, who was close to Zia. He asked if I would become a minister in the General’s cabinet…Nawabi’s offer took me completely by surprise. I declined it politely, saying that I was not qualified for the job. A day later, Dr Anwar ul-Haq, Zia’s younger son, called me up and urged me to join the government for the sake of the country.
I had already retired following the 1987 World Cup but a year later General Zia requested my return to the sport on national television. At a dinner organized for the team he took me into another room and warned me about what he was going to do. “Don’t humiliate me by saying no”, he said. “I am going to ask you to come back for the sake of your country”. Touched by the appeal to my sense of patriotism, I of course had to say yes.
Gen Zia the man died soon after this, but his political legacy lived on – and Imran Khan was increasingly drawn to it. Page 146:
In the summer of 1993, I was asked to be a cabinet minister in the caretaker government of Moeen Qureshi that had been formed following the dismissal of Nawaz Sharif’s government by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Qureshi himself called me. Again, I declined. However, by now I was thinking about how I could make some kind of political contribution.
During this period I also started meeting a lot of politically minded people and held endless discussions on the state of the nation.
I had been hoping that certain people I knew would form a political party I could support, but in the end they had neither the financial resources nor the nationwide support to challenge the two established parties, the PPP and the PML. So that option was not available to me. I had also explored the possibility of supporting one of the religious parties.
After Musharraf had come to power in a military coup in 1999, many of us in Pakistan hoped he might bring a new lease of life to our country, following years of unstable and corrupt civilian governments…Yet even at my first encounter with him, in a secret meeting a few months after the coup, the alarm bells should have rung.
So now Imran Khan has admitted to holding secret meetings and talks with both Zia and Musharraf following their military coups. You would think that these experiences would have taught the man a thing or two, but his devotion to military rule continued. Page 222:
General Ehtisham Zamir headed the political wing of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, and was tasked with bringing together General Musharraf’s ‘coalition of reform’. He was looking for my party’s support for the General, to give him ‘the strength to take on the crooked politicians’. After the referendum, in Spring 2002, designed to give legitimacy to Musharraf’s presidency, we met again and he told me of the ‘Grand National Alliance’, and that’s when the alarm bells started ringing.
I met Musharraf for the fifth and final time on 23 July 2002, when he invited me to President House in Islamabad; I was hoping to change his mind about making this coalition of crooks. It was then I realized how much those of us who supported him initially had been fooled by his promises to clean up the political system. Also present were Musharraf’s spokesman and national security adviser, along with the head of the ISI, and Zamir.
Imran Khan didn’t have a problem with Gen Musharraf and the ISI cobbling together alliances and manipulating politics – his only problem was that he wanted to choose the participants! That the ‘old guard’ of PTI was merely a creation of the ISI is even admitted – possibly unwittingly – by Imran Khan himself a few pages later. Page 225:
But now we were firmly out of the establishment-backed coalition. Consequently, a lot of potentially good candidates abandoned us. The ones that were left were turned on by the ISI.
How could the ISI ‘turn on’ PTI officials unless they were with them in the first place? Whether intelligence agencies ‘turned on’ PTI in 2002, Imran Khan certainly seems to be back in their good graces now. In 2011, Prince Jam Qaim told A. K. Chishti that “some well wishers in the military had advised me to join Imran Khan”, and in May of this year, former chief of General staff and Director General Military intelligence Lt Gen (R) Ali Kuli Khan Khattak joined PTI. While this does not mean that PTI is a being backed by ISI or the military, it is still interesting to think why Imran Khan is so popular among military and intelligence officers, particularly those from the eras of past dictatorships. It is also worth noting that, despite Imran Khan’s criticism of past dictators in his book, his criticism is always about how they turned out to be disappointing dictators – not that he had a problem with them being dictators in the first place. In fact, it seems like Imran Khan never met a dictator that he didn’t originally support and even have secret meetings with. None of this suggests that Salman Ahmad should or should not support Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif, or any other politician. But, please, let’s not be selective in our memory of who was and who wasn’t given a place in politics by dictators. Imran Khan is many things, but he’s no angel.
At the beginning of the year, Gen. Musharraf announced that he would return to Pakistan between 27-30 January. He would arrive in Karachi and would stand in general elections. When the date arrived, however, Musharraf was nowhere to be found. His aide told reporters that he was postponing his return, but insisted that “Gen Musharraf will return to Pakistan, that’s for sure”. Three months later, it looks like Gen. Musharraf’s return is not so ‘sure’ after all. The British government has refused to honour an extradition request for Musharraf to answer charges of his involvement in the assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. But it’s not only the British government that seems to have Gen. Musharraf’s interests at heart.
The Harry Walker Agency represents prestigious world leaders including former American President Bill Clinton, Nobel Peace Laureate and former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, and Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan. They also represent Gen. Musharraf.
Next to a smirking photograph on the Harry Walker Agency’s website, Gen. Musharraf’s biography is an eyewash of his record as dictator. The biography notes that Pakistan came close to full-scale war with India in the late 1990s, but doesn’t mention that this nuclear scare came as the result of Gen. Musharraf’s too clever by half attempt to lead troops dressed as militants across the line of control in Kashmir – a strategic blunder salvaged only when then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif traveled first to Beijing, then to Washington asking for help in defusing the potentially catastrophic standoff between two nuclear powers.
The Harry Walker Agency’s biography of Gen. Musharraf further describes the former dictator as “a fighter against terrorism and extremism”, despite the conclusion of former CIA officer Bruce Riedel that Gen. Musharraf was a “double-dealing” ally who allowed al Qaeda to regroup in the tribal areas while fleecing the US of billions of dollars.
Most disturbingly, though, is that the Harry Walker Agency describes Gen. Musharraf as a “democratic reformer,” ignoring the fact that he seized power in 1999 through a military coup, placed Supreme Court justices under house arrest when they attempted to enforce anti-corruption laws, and suspended the Constitution in 2007 less than a year before he was deposed. Gen. Musharraf’s regime set democracy back by decades.
As dictator, Gen. Musharraf consolidated power in himself and crippled civilian institutions. The present government of Pakistan has spent the past four years passing legislation including the 18th Amendment to undo the damage done to Pakistan’s democracy through power consolidation under Musharraf’s dictatorship. Some of the damage from Gen. Musharraf’s regime, however, can never be undone.
Mark Siegel, a close personal friend and former advisor to Benazir Bhutto, was with Benazir Bhutto when she received a chilling phone call from Gen. Musharraf threatening her with dire consequences if she dared return to Pakistan to participate in the 2008 elections. As usual, Benazir Bhutto did dare.
Though Pakistan People’s Party won the elections, Benazir Bhutto was not able to celebrate. On December 27, 2007, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated as she waved to crowds of supporters.
An independent investigation by the United Nations followed, and in 2010, the UN released a report that stopped just short of declaring Gen. Musharraf responsible for Bhutto’s assassination. Last year, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan issued an arrest warrant for the former dictator on charges that he deliberately withheld security despite knowing of specific plans to attack Bhutto. Through his spokesman, Musharraf declared that he has “no intention of complying” with the court. The old habits of a dictator die hard.
Earlier this year, a federal Joint Investigative Team (JIT) report found that Musharraf “had prior knowledge of the assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto by accused Baitullah Mehsud and withheld this vital information of a conspiracy.” The government has asked Interpol to issue a red warrant for the former dictator so that he can be brought to Pakistan to comply with the courts.
Though Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto is the highest profile Pakistani lost under Gen. Musharraf’s regime, she is certainly not the only one. During Gen. Musharraf’s dictatorship, hundreds of Pakistanis went missing and are believed to have been disappeared by state agencies under his direction. In 2009, Gen. Musharraf told Al Jazeera that perhaps the missing Pakistanis had voluntarily disappeared, a suggestion the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan called “absolutely untenable,” noting that Gen. Musharraf referred to a Supreme Court investigation into the missing persons as a “constant interference in executive functions” when he suspended the Constitution for the second time in 2007.
Today, Gen. Musharraf is following the path set by his fellow dictators Augusto Pinochet and Idi Amin, living a life of luxury in so-called ‘self-imposed exile’. Based out of a multi-million dollar flat in London outfitted with silk carpets and leather furniture, the former dictator dines at five-star hotels and relaxes by playing golf and games of bridge with arms dealers.
To pay the bills, Gen. Musharraf travels the world – often to Europe and the US – giving high dollar speeches. Industry experts estimate that today the former Pakistani dictator is commanding upwards of $200,000 per appearance. In January, The News reported that the former dictator had amassed over $1 billion in Middle Eastern bank accounts.
While Gen. Musharraf hides behind British protection enjoying a life of fame, wealth and luxury made possible by the Harry Walker Agency, justice for Benazir Bhutto and the hundreds of other Pakistanis disappeared under the his regime remains missing. The UN report investigating Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s death concluded that, “it is essential that the perpetrators of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto be brought to justice.” The way some are facilitating Gen. Musharraf’s life of luxury doesn’t only deny justice, it makes a mockery of it.
In his attempts to return to Pakistan without handcuffs, Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf has been looking at Imran Khan as a possible partner. The Nation reported earlier this month that the former dictator told an audience at LUMS that “APML could stand by PTI if Imran Khan would take up the challenge of doing away with the crises facing the country and strengthening Pakistan”. Geo reported that talks between Imran Khan and Gen (r) Musharraf are being brokered by American Arjumand Hashmi.
Imran Khan has been a little more coy about any possible grand alliance, possibly because his memory is not quite as short as Mushy’s. It was only a few years ago that Imran Khan announced a countrywide ‘Musharraf Hatao’ campaign. At the press conference, Imran Khan said Musharraf should be put to death.
Imran said Musharraf had accepted responsibility for killing 83 innocent citizens in Bajaur. “Though Saddam did not confess to any killings, he has been awarded the death sentence. The same should be done with General Musharraf, who has publicly admitted the government’s involvement in the Bajaur airstrike,” he said.
This raises an interesting question. If PTI-APML alliance somehow managed to form a government, would Imran Khan carry out his plan to execute Pervez Musharraf?