In all probability by the time these lines appear in print the three-member committee probing the controversial hosing down of Benazir Bhutto’s place of killing would have released its findings. Given what has transpired so far, it would be fair to assume that the report will most likely indicate that the police officers were acting on their own, thereby rejecting the allegation made by the United Nations Commission report that quite possibly the-then military intelligence chief had ordered them to hose down the crime scene.
The decision can be predicted not because the probe is a farce but because the police officers have all categorically said that they were acting on their own. They have said that under the circumstances it was the best course to follow because the aim was to bring under control the emotionally-charged protesters who had started to gather at the place of the assassination. They have also said that before cleaning up the place they and the intelligence agencies operatives had gathered every bit of vital evidence to track down and catch the culprits.
With two self-confessed main planners of the plot in custody and on the verge of being convicted, their actions on the scene of the crime cannot be questioned, they said. No court of law will disregard a clear admission of responsibility by responsible officers and still look for culprits imagined to have been directing them from afar. Also finding out who made calls to whom and said what at that time in the miasma of millions of signals crisscrossing the frequency spectrum of the area is next to impossible.
At any rate calls to and from phones used by intelligence agency chiefs are protected against recording and interception. That said, a clean chit to the former MI chief, Major-General Nadeem Ijaz is unlikely to address the real issue Pakistan’s military and intelligence elite are faced with in the aftermath of the UN Commission’s findings. Despite containing fatal flaws of formulations and its B-grade research methodology, the report’s accusations against the establishment’s alleged complicity in Ms Bhutto’s murder have had nationwide resonance.
Leaving aside the few names known for their visceral hatred of anything that shines like brass, even more balanced commentators have bent a serious ear to the thesis that the ruling military and intelligence set-up could have protected Ms Bhutto but chose not to. Political parties, without exception have also bought into the same theory. Yet others have used political history as a reference point to nod in agreement. Altogether, this rush to informal agreement with the UN commission’s scandalous assertion that the entire structure of the state is in cahoots with the militants who entrapped Ms Bhutto speaks of the yawning trust deficit between the members of the establishment and the citizens.
This would be dispiriting for someone like the chief of army staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, whose entire endeavour in office has been to rehabilitate the army’s public image and place the uniform on the highest peg of national approval. While immensely successful, the army’s refurbished image, built with blood, toil and sweat of the martyrs in the war against terror, continues to be dimmed by the shadows of the past.
General Musharraf’s political and constitutional shenanigans are recent wounds. But worse than all of these crimes have been the fact that they all went un-punished. No matter how biased, reports like the UN Commission’s will continue to enjoy credence among a suspicious minded public if these demons of the past are not laid to rest and punished.
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