Indictment by the United Nations

Zafar Hilaly April 22, 2010

KARACHI: The UN report on Benazir Bhutto’s assassination does nothing for some but a lot for others.

It’s old hat, a waste of money, say the former. But to the latter it is perhaps the single most devastating indictment of our society, and the state system, since the British cut India and Pakistan adrift in 1947.

It is a far more humiliating record of our follies than the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto suppressed, less because he feared that it may compromise our relations with countries but more for what it had to say about the establishment, of which ZA Bhutto was also a part.

In other words, it was not the lies that the Hamoodur Rahman report exposed, but the truth that it revealed that it was suppressed. Similarly, if one reads between the lines, what the UN report on Benazir’s murder says or, more accurately, insinuates about our society, and particularly our establishment, is shameful.

It confirms what we know in our hearts but are loath to have foreigners say, let alone document, viz, that we are a functioning kleptocracy, a vast criminal enterprise, that lives by no principles or laws and has no concept of right and wrong except that which promotes the interests of those who usurped power either on the point of a gun or by fixing the elections.

It is a sobering thought that all this is contained, in so many words, in a document that will be available to posterity and for anyone wanting to know what Pakistan represented. It contains not only what many know and have prattled about, but rather the findings of the formally designated representatives of the world community about the nature of our establishment, its mores and ethos.

It will live on in infamy as a reference work on the way governments of failing states operate. And, when the next time a Pakistani delegate gets up to speak in the UN and claims that another country has wronged Pakistan and attempts to set the record straight, reference will be had to this report to show, in fact, how Pakistan functions.

It is not that our leaders get murdered periodically that happens in other states too but that the perpetrator/facilitator of the crime could be the state itself. “So what?” one can hear some say, not realising that the mere fact they can ask such a question is proof enough of the depths to which we have sunk. As for the cost of the undertaking, surely justice is such a fine thing that we can never pay too dearly for it.

There is a way that we can make amends and that is to let the chief justice lead a criminal investigation and put at his disposal all the resources of the state. We should request the authors of the UN report to attend and, at the conclusion of the enquiry, invite the Security Council to pass a resolution complementing Pakistan for having conducted a thorough investigation into a matter of which the Security Council remains seized.

That way perhaps we can show, albeit belatedly, that we the people can and never will become accomplices to a crime. It was right for President Asif Ali Zardari to call for a UN investigation. Those officials who opposed the investigation were the types that have long advised governments to lie, cheat, obfuscate and hide the truth those who speak the truth but only so that more can be hidden.

They are clerks and word merchants who long ago signed an armistice with the truth. Only such a move could have got the attention that Benazir’s murder deserved. But, more importantly, it now gives Mr Zardari the strength and the moral authority to proceed fearlessly to bring those responsible to justice.

Mr Zardari must not allow anything to stand in his way, neither his job nor his life. He owes his wife a lot, but he owes Pakistan too. How fitting then for him to restore to his countrymen the honour, respect and dignity that many accuse him of squandering. He would truly have made amends. Benazir Bhutto, we know, would be proud of him.

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