An absconding general

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has named former president, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, an “absconding accused” in the Benazir Bhutto murder case. Former CPO Rawalpindi Saud Aziz’s statement led to this new development. A charge sheet was filed at an anti-terrorism court in this regard on Monday. As per Mr Aziz, General (retd) Musharraf gave the order to change (late) Ms Bhutto’s security incharge and after her assassination, the crime scene was hosed down on his orders. These are serious charges and given the fact that Mr Musharraf has not been cooperating in the ongoing investigation of Ms Bhutto’s assassination, the former dictator can be in some serious trouble. On the other hand, Musharraf’s spokesman accused the FIA of covering up the truth in an aim to divert attention from the government’s own “inefficiency and corruption”.

More than three years have passed since Ms Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. Many investigations, both internal and external, have taken place but we have yet to see any concrete results. In an e-mail sent to Mr Mark Siegel before she came back to Pakistan in 2007, Ms Bhutto wrote, “Just wanted you to know if [something happens]…in addition to the names in my letter to Musharraf of October 16th, I would hold Musharraf responsible.” Even though the Musharraf regime tried to pin the blame on al Qaeda and the Taliban, the fact remains that the government was responsible for providing adequate security to a former prime minister, especially since she had been given death threats even before her arrival. Musharraf was president in 2007 and even if he was not directly involved in this gruesome murder, it was his responsibility to ensure that nothing untoward happened to Ms Bhutto. Apart from General (retd) Musharraf, the chief minister of Punjab, military top brass and other officials should be held responsible for being lax vis-à-vis Ms Bhutto’s security arrangements.

The PPP-led government gave Mr Musharraf a safe exit after he resigned from the presidential post despite the fact that the finger of suspicion was pointed at him for their leader’s political assassination. Now that a formal charge sheet against him has been presented, the PPP should carry the investigation through to its logical conclusion and make sure that all those involved in Ms Bhutto’s death are punished. If Mr Musharraf does not come back willingly and cannot be extradited, Red Warrants should be sought from the Interpol so that he can face these charges in a trial court in Pakistan. One thing is sure now though. Mr Musharraf’s political ambitions are not going to be fulfilled any time soon.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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