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Complex task: Musharraf’s trial

Updated August 22, 2013

HISTORY in the making it may have been as Pervez Musharraf stood in front of a judge and was charged with the murder of Benazir Bhutto, but the entire case — and Mr Musharraf’s overall legal woes — remain shrouded in uncertainty, and even mystery. As if to underscore that uncertainty and mystery, the insights of Heraldo Munoz, the lead UN investigator in the probe into Ms Bhutto’s assassination, were being pored over around the same time as Mr Musharraf was being indicted in Rawalpindi. As Mr Munoz has made clear, finding a clear chain of evidence leading from the scene of the crime to the ultimate masterminds is fiendishly difficult — a task that will be all the more complicated for Pakistani investigators and prosecutors given the various pressures that can be expected to be brought to bear on them.

For now, however, behold the supreme irony of Mr Musharraf indicted for the same crime and sharing a charge sheet with Baitullah Mehsud. The tangle here and mystifying cause-and-effect chain can be endlessly dissected. Mr Musharraf is often blamed for the rising tide of extremism in Pakistan, including the formation of the TTP that Baitullah Mehsud led, because of the troops he sent into Fata and the operations he green-lighted there. Conversely, the former military strongman is blamed in other quarters for not doing enough against extremism and continuing the double games of old wherein the Pakistani security establishment nurtures some non-state actors while cracking down on others. The principal lesson here is that play with fire long enough, and the architects themselves are likely to be caught inside a burning house. But while the Musharraf era is now history and Mehsud is no more — and to this country’s enduring loss, neither is Ms Bhutto — no real lessons have been absorbed. Nearly six years on from that traumatic day in Rawalpindi, the country is yet to decide who is the enemy and who are the national leaders who will take the fight to the enemy.