There were as many reactions to Rehman Malik’s briefing on the investigation into Benazir Bhutto’s murder as there were questions. Some of Sindh’s elected representatives were happy with the report while others pointed out facets that were ignored.
“I did not find anything new in the three-hour presentation. It was nothing but a jugglery of words and compilation of old statements issued by Rehman Malik on different occasions,” said MPA Nuzhat Pathan, who was close to Benazir when she returned to Pakistan in 1986. “How can we trust on a man who is famous for fabricated statements,” she said referring to the remarks of former home minister Zulfiqar Mirza that, “Rehman Malik eats an apple and says he is eating a banana.”
A PPP member, who did not want to be named, said that holding Baitullah Mehsud, the Haqqani network and the Taliban responsible was easy rather than talking about the international conspiracy, which is an open secret as stated in book ‘No Higher Honour’ written by former US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. He said that the people of Sindh had been waiting for four years to hear good news but were disappointed. A majority of members were interested in asking questions, but the speaker only gave four to five of them permission.
“We wanted to know about the investigation of her blackberry which was found from Bilawal House after three years,” said the PPP member who did not want to be named. “Whether the investigators have included it into the investigation or no? If yes, what are their findings?”
Nusrat Seher Abbasi of the PML-F quoted from a statement by one of the doctors who had given Bhutto first-aid. Initially they said that PPP leader Amin Fahim had refused a post-mortem. She had wanted to ask about that. “This was a really important opportunity, but members were not given time to ask questions,” she said. “I assure you that except for a few, a majority of members are not satisfied.”
But Ghulam Mujadid Isran, who moved the resolution to summon Malik, called it a big success. “The speculation has come to an end as for the first time an official report has been made public,” he said, adding that they now wanted the federal government to disclose the finding of the October 18 attack.
Shaharyar Mahar pointed out that nothing was discussed about action against the police and intelligence officials who issued wrong statements. “Some of the officials have been promoted. We want to know how that happened,” he said.
For her part, Sindh Information Minister Shazia Marri said that it was a good effort. “The case has yet to be tried,” she said. “The investigation was impressive and comprehensive. The concerns that we had, as to why the place of the assassination was washed, the press conference (by an interior ministry official who alleged Bhutto had been killed when her head struck a sunroof lever in the car), and why no security was provided to a twice-elected prime minister, were ably answered. We will have questions and speculations will arise but the reality of terrorism cannot be denied.”
PPP MPA Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto added that while the investigation was very detailed there are still questions that millions of people have.
It was acknowledged that the most alarming crisis facing Pakistan is the challenge of extremism. So many terrorist acts have taken place - 200 Awami National Party activists have been killed in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, for example.
ANP MPA Ameer Nawab said a lot of work was done in the briefing to explain who created the plan. “The investigators have reached Baitullah Mehsud but who was really behind the conspiracy has not been revealed.”
Described as part of the ‘old boys’ network’ of militants who had participated in the Afghan war and who provided the men to carry out the assassination plot against Bhutto.
One of the wanted men in the investigation – now dead – who also served as a handler in the kidnapping of filmmaker Satish Anand in Karachi
From Interior Ministry official Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema – who declared after Bhutto’s assassination that she had been killed when her head struck the sunroof lever in her car – to then-CCPO Rawalpindi Saud Aziz and the police officers who refused to allow a post mortem , the investigation names and blames them for their roles in failing to protect Bhutto.
Head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, who was killed in a drone strike in 2009. The investigation claims Mehsud ordered the attack on Bhutto and had warned her of it. Mehsud had denied the claim when he was alive.
General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf
The investigation names Musharraf for having warned Bhutto against coming to Pakistan before the elections and his government for not providing her security despite being a twice-elected prime minister.
Darul Uloom Haqqania
The seminary in Akora Khattak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which has earlier been linked to providing fighters for the Afghan war in the 1980s. Malik claimed four of the 12 people who participated in the attack on Bhutto were students of the seminary.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2012.