It is not often that a civilian body is called upon to probe military actions. The three-man commission set up by the prime minister to look into Benazir Bhutto’s murder will focus on orders given to wash down the scene of the crime. The fact that the then chief of military intelligence thought it fit to move in on a matter that should have been handled by the civilian administration is indeed bizarre. No matter how grave the crowd control issues – and it is these which were cited as the reason for hosing down the murder site – it is unusual for a top army official to get involved.
The fact that Major-General Nadeem Ijaz is a relative of former president Pervez Musharraf is a further angle of intrigue. The move by the army chief to suggest a joint probe into the role of the former MI head, who remains a serving officer, should increase the chances of the inquiry’s success. But we must hope it does not instead lead to a cover-up. Traditionally, the army is touchy about investigations involving key officers. But it would be in the national interest if all concerned were to understand that getting to the truth is crucial. There is another dimension to this. Even after the UN probe, a number of questions remain unanswered.
There have been insinuations about the involvement of those near to Benazir in the actions that contributed to her death. It is also somewhat unclear if any bullets were fired at the site. The commission set up now needs to look into all these matters. It is also important that those involved at any level be identified and names cleared in other cases. To some degree the UN report has helped do this. The process must continue so that the sense of public disquiet that still surrounds the assassination can be calmed. And there is confidence that an all out effort has been made to reach those who plotted a murder that forever altered the political face of our country.