UN report — another whitewash?

Ayesha Siddiqa April 24, 2010

The release of the UN commission report on the murder of Benazir Bhutto has become a controversial document. Those sympathetic to the ‘deep state’, view it as part of a larger conspiracy to target Pakistan’s military. The civilian government’s decision to delay the release of the report without any explanation raises further doubts in the minds of those who would want people to remain unsure about what exactly happened in December 2007. The report reads like a thriller.

There are pages after pages of damning evidence implicating the military’s intelligence outfits for their involvement in Bhutto’s assassination. The country’s spymasters had a convenient bogey in the shape of Baitullah Mehsud who could be blamed for every mysterious death that could not be owned. Irrespective of Mehsud’s ideology, the fact is that he had no reason to hurt Benazir Bhutto who was reputed as a pliant politician. The results of the UN report are crucial.

The report establishes two factors. First, it points out a conspiracy amongst key functionaries of the deep state. Former president Pervez Musharraf’s public relations agent, Rashid Qureshi may even have pointed towards the involvement of the existing top brass since he stated that Musharraf was neither the president nor the army chief at the time of Bhutto’s death. Second, the report indicates the existence of an entity that oversees physical dispensation of people without any fear of retribution.

However, it is a pipe dream that the culprits will ever be brought to justice. President Asif Zardari claims that 90 per cent of the accused are caught which will probably include the sweeper, some constable or some odd gatekeeper — as the country’s legal system allows. His government lacks the intent and the potential to bring the real culprits to justice which includes senior serving and retired officers of the military. Therefore, the UN report will probably meet the same fate as the Hamoodur Rehman Commission report – the only other document relating to another national tragedy.

The only difference being that it took decades for the Rehman report to get to the Pakistani public. However in the case of Benazir Bhutto’s death, the report was released in just over a year. Both reports find that the establishment dominated by the military and civil bureaucracies is the only reality of political power in the country. They can also tamper with historical facts. But more important, the common factor between the two is that while the reports kindle a fire of anxiety and deep suspicion between segments of the people and the ‘deep state’, getting justice will always remain a pipe dream.

Such anxiety will probably be manipulated in the future for some political dividends. In any case, Mr Zardari may not have the political capacity to bring the killers to justice.The main accused that is Pervez Musharraf and his core team, have already started to deny that he ever met the UN team. Interestingly, it is the same UN whose ‘resolution on Kashmir’ is considered a bible on the Kashmir dispute. Like the report on the break-up of Pakistan, this one will soon be turned controversial. A greater fear is that a concerted effort will be made to construct doubt. We shouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow some conspiracy theory points a finger at Benazir Bhutto’s children.

The Rehman report was made controversial due to claims that the report was inconclusive and biased. Similarly, some key public intellectuals are trying to create doubt about this report as well. The main issue raised is why didn’t the Commission reveal names? But how could they do this if they were being stopped and facts hidden.

The most critical common thread between the two investigations is that the partial results will plant seeds of doubt amongst the marginalised people of Pakistan regarding the intent of the powerful elite to be truthful and be merciful. Just imagine – what chance do ordinary folk have when important people like Benazir Bhutto are killed and a half of the state sacrificed? Most tragically, the common folk will probably not take the report to heart and surrender to the fact that it’s just that our gods behave badly.

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