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Musharraf vs Zardari

September 23, 2017


THE slanging match between the PPP and former military dictator retired Gen Pervez Musharraf over the assassination of Benazir Bhutto has taken its ugliest turn yet with Mr Musharraf accusing Asif Zardari of responsibility for the deaths of Benazir and her brother Murtaza Bhutto. The lurid accusations have received lurid coverage, allowing an absconding former dictator another turn in the national spotlight that he so evidently craves. Unhappily, the PPP has allowed itself to become part of an unseemly public spectacle by immediately hitting back at Mr Musharraf rather than focusing on the tragedy of the assassination in December 2007 and the fact that no one has been held responsible for the actions that led up to it. While political assassinations have stained this country’s past, Benazir Bhutto was an iconic leader of the modern era — the investigation and trials relating to her murder ought to have been conducted with clarity and purpose rather than hastily and seemingly with an intent to obfuscate. The recent anti-terrorism court verdicts relating to the assassination were deeply problematic and appear to have raised further questions rather than answer any meaningful ones.

For example, if the investigations and prosecutions were poorly managed, then who was responsible for those lapses? Five terrorism suspects accused of direct involvement in the plot to assassinate her have been exonerated, but the judgement has offered little insight into whether they were wrongly implicated or some other troubling chain of events occurred during the investigation and prosecution phases. Two senior police officers have been convicted in the case and they may bear personal responsibility for their actions, but it is inconceivable that they acted alone in the manner the court has suggested. Who instructed the police officers to behave in the unprofessional manner that they did? Moreover, while Mr Musharraf has been declared an absconder in the case, there is no clarity on what specific charges a trial against him can be attempted — assuming the self-exiled former dictator ever returns to Pakistan to face them. Now Mr Musharraf’s ugly remarks threaten to eclipse the fact that the greatest tragedy of the modern era in the country remains unsolved. No country can stride confidently towards a democratic, constitutional, rule-of-law future if its greatest leaders are cut down in shocking circumstances that are never fully revealed to the public. The PPP should focus on seeking out the truth and getting justice.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2017