UN report — another whitewash?

Published: April 25, 2010
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The writer is author of Military Inc. and currently a visiting professor at John Hopkins University, US (ayesha.siddiqa@tribune.com.pk)

The writer is author of Military Inc. and currently a visiting professor at John Hopkins University, US ([email protected])

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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Reader Comments (22)

  • Apr 25, 2010 - 2:06AM

    Does anyone really think that anyone with a military title in front of their name is going to get persecuted? Though I am sure they will pass on the blame on to the people who drove the tankers that carried the water to wash away the evidence, or the policemen who didn’t stop those with the hoses, or the mid-ranking government official who, without any possible motive or reason ordered it, or perhaps it was the fault of the weather, after all if it was raining she wouldn’t have come out of her car.

    We should not blame anyone in the Army, ISI, MI etc, after all they were busy laying the ground work of their post retirement opulence, the next phase of DHA and courting Arab realtor’s, or maybe they were pondering over the future of cement factories, fertilizer plants, banks etc etc; or more likely making there way home from the golf course. I am sure they all have a worthy alibi. Recommend

  • Apr 25, 2010 - 2:38AM

    Ayesha Siddiqa’s analysis is spot on! I wish there were a few more people as honest and intelligent as her. Recommend

  • Apr 25, 2010 - 3:39AM

    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.

    When did Qureshi said that Musharraf was not President at that time ?Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Apr 25, 2010 - 4:04AM

    I agree with Mr. Alam. While not lacking in courage, it is best she stay at Johns Hopkins. Recommend

  • M Vaziri
    Apr 25, 2010 - 4:34AM

    Yes. In short what Dr. Siddiqa is saying and has said is that Pakistan is a Military dominated country (Military Inc. … ) and such reports will never get anywhere.Recommend

  • Tahir Ali
    Apr 25, 2010 - 7:45AM

    Ayesha Siddiqa has anticipated the ultimate end for the report rightly. It for sure is to be thrown to the dustbin. The current Zardari-led dispensation simply has no intent and courage to implement the findings of the report. It, on the contrary, has started awarding those accused in the report-Rehman Malik has been chastised in the report but his dismissal has been turned into retirements for back benefits. Babar, the other occupant of the black Mercedes Benz that fled the scene, is also a federal minister and has been given with civil award. There is no action against Nadeem Ijaz, Hamid Gul, Musharraf, Pervez Elahi and Ijaz Shah as yet. What a pity that BB’ own party’s government is doing nothing to take proper and impartial action against the accused. Rehman Malik is even reported to have personally told Hamid Gul that his name won’t be placed in ECL.
    Tahir Ali
    Mardan Recommend

  • Apr 25, 2010 - 9:33AM

    The Govt. as expressed already have withdrawn in favor of the powerful military on foreign policy making and national security. How can the initiate a process against these de facto powers.
    Apart from sacred UN resolutions on Kashmir, some people insist the dispute should be left for the future wiser generations to resolve among between the two countries, the Same fact I think is waiting for the report also…
    An account is maintained from a very credible source and let someone in future will act upon itRecommend

  • idiota
    Apr 25, 2010 - 10:45AM

    the way it works is that the military will exert pressure and the PPP will respond by backing off. Simultaneously the military and its defenders will spread the rumours that it was an inside job from within the PPP.Recommend

  • anwaarahmad
    Apr 25, 2010 - 12:17PM

    Dr.Aesha has very rightly pointed out the limitations of present government to persue the real murderer of hope in the land of pures.Army has judges,media,leaders of mid-night meeters and a grin towards the masses.Recommend

  • Shahid Raza
    Apr 25, 2010 - 6:40PM

    To day I will not say much because it is so exasperating that I may utter some thing which I should not. Suffice it to say Ayesha Siddiqa is anti army and not pro Pakistan.
    I can not understand how such logic can emanate from a person of Pakistan origin. Recommend

  • Apr 25, 2010 - 10:39PM

    It is very clear, after reading the entire report on BB’s assassination, that MI/ ISI may well have been behind this gruesome murder. A very guilt conscious army spokesperson spoke to media the very next day (28th Dec, 2007) that the killer of BB was none other than the vilified, ‘unknown known’, Mr. Baitullah Mehsud. Mehsud, it must be said, neither had power or will to execute such a person. She was totally harmless to him as far as politics was concerned. And Mehsud had better reasons not to worry about her: He must have been anticipating another move of Pakistan Military at that crucial time.

    But we all know that Punjabi-dominated MI had much axe to grind against her. Firstly, Punjab as a province have never accepted someone dominating them from a smaller province. Secondly, MI or ISI must have been quite apprehensive about BB. Because she was much more democratic minded than say, Sharif Brothers or Zardari sahib. Therefore, it is safe to assume that she wanted an all-out control over erratic MI / ISI / Army.

    On a much personal note, however, I feel that BB would have strengthened democracy in the country. Killing her served the ultimate purpose of America-led Pak Army. Recommend

  • akmal khan
    Apr 25, 2010 - 11:20PM

    A new horizon of thinking is developing about our military that Pakistan should make peace agreements with its neighboring countries as other countries have done in world and get rid off the military bogey and only in this way we can progress
    how a bad character our army has in our country!
    that such types of discussion are being made in publicRecommend

  • Abdullah
    Apr 26, 2010 - 12:49AM

    Dr. Siddiqa can shed light on the “military curse” in Pakistan. Her writings, and of other writers to that matter, are not merely manifestation of anti-Pakitsan or anti-militray perspective. What the militray and its offshoots need to do is to respect the role of other institutions in a state. The issue is not just Pakistan but millions of Pakistani who live in that country and feel deeply deprived of equal rights and opportunities in their own country. If militray is so sincere to Pakistan, then why donot they simply allow civilians their equal share in the nation’s resources.Recommend

  • Apr 26, 2010 - 2:11AM

    I respect Pakistan army as they will endanger their lives when we need them. I am sure every patriot feels that way. Ordinary soldiers are poor too.
    Those who criticise army they are not necessarily anti army. They want army to become a strong defending force and remain committed to its role professionally. We want our army to be the best and a role model for the rest of the world.

    Some poeple who are criticsing Dr Ayesha are like naive friends who encourage their friends even when they are wrong, resulting in long term harm to them!Recommend

  • Zaheer Ahmad
    Apr 26, 2010 - 2:18AM

    All are conjectures and speculations as Pakistanis have become infatuated with fancy, self-formulated stories.
    Had the government spent millions in solving the energy crisis instead of employing a platform-organization to do investigative work, many were less alienated to PPPP.
    Nonethless, who thinks like that in Pakistan.
    Lets spend millions more on a dead body!!!!!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Apr 26, 2010 - 10:23AM

    this report is not writen by an ASI this is reprot is belong to un. I think ppp gov. did enough and after this no gov. in pakistan can do much without the wishes of Establishment ,i think it is time for Establishment to produce real culpirt other wise it is black hole on it . mushraf and co. look introuble . Even hamid mir knew whole the truth . it is right time for action and within the few days some strange things will happen which find the course of this Investigation . for me case this case id sovel main culpirt name is mention in report . Recommend

  • Taimur
    Apr 26, 2010 - 3:25PM

    UN report truly a pack of liesRecommend

  • Chaudary Amjad Hameed
    Apr 26, 2010 - 3:28PM

    Aisha just go around and around the issue. She does not touch the core of the issue. She is just blackening the paper sheet. I do not see any relation between Hamood ur Rahman commission report and this UN report, there is no comparison. i think she was paid to write this article and to malise the armed forces. It was all the fault of Ms. Benazir and her cronies, they did not listened to the authorities and were stubborn, they paid the price, and for her near and dear ones, dead Benazir was more valuable than the living one.

    Musharraf is beyond all this. He was not the beneficiary of her death. The culprits are among the beneficiaries.Recommend

  • Ali Ahmed
    Apr 26, 2010 - 7:39PM

    At the time of Assasination of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, Present Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani was the Chief of Army Staff and its imposible that he was not aware about the facts of Assasination of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.Recommend

  • Apr 26, 2010 - 10:50PM

    @ Ali Ahmed
    General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani is part of establishment too. He has spent all his life supporting status quo. Don’t expect anything revolutionary from him. Click on my name to read an article that I wrote about Gen Kiyani 4 days before BB was assassinated. He was fresh and nobody knew who he was so I thought I should be the first one to guess. I’m satisfied that I was right!Recommend

  • Abdullah
    Apr 27, 2010 - 7:59AM

    the UN report is not a “pack of lies”. by the way, it’s the same army that support various UN peacekeeping missions. Pakistan militray is the largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping operations worldwide.Recommend

  • Zaheer Ahmad
    Apr 29, 2010 - 8:37AM

    @Abdullah, According to your statement, you are more than expected to do something like this.
    You go to a fruit vendor to buy some mangoes. All other vendors have rotten mangoes (or for some reason you don’t like them). You go to the most expensive vendor in the market and ask him to sell mangoes.But that vendor does not sell mangoes, instead potatoes. The vendor agrees to bring you mangoes a week after provided you pay him more than twice the double that you pay others.
    UN is a vendor that sells peace/embargoes among nations (potatoes). It is not an investigative agency in intra-nation affairs (mangoes). Recommend

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