Blame game over Benazir

Published December 29, 2017

A WAR of words has erupted between Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari used the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his mother’s assassination to accuse Mr Musharraf of involvement in Benazir Bhutto’s death.

As has become his habit, Mr Musharraf quickly lashed out against the accusation and delivered a crude response to Mr Bhutto-Zardari. Neither appears to be aware of what his words and accusations imply.

Explore: Who killed Benazir Bhutto?

If, as the PPP has often alleged, the party is aware of who is responsible for the assassination of its iconic leader, it had five years in government immediately after Benazir’s killing to try and bring to justice her killers. It made no such attempts.

And if Mr Bhutto-Zardari truly believes that Mr Musharraf was responsible for his mother’s murder, it implies that the PPP considered being in government more important than bringing to justice, or at least putting on trial, Benazir’s alleged killers.

Or is the PPP leader now just indulging in political posturing with his attacks against Mr Musharraf? That is an unsettling possibility for a politician so young though otherwise clearheaded in his understanding of the militant and extremist threats to Pakistan.

Mr Musharraf’s comments have been wholly more astounding. In an interview with the BBC, the former military dictator suggested that so-called rogue elements within the military could have played a role in Benazir’s assassination. A female political leader with liberal, secular leanings would be a logical target for militants, Mr Musharraf has asserted.

But that implies that the former army chief had also lost control of the forces he commanded for a decade. The very possibility of the existence of rogue elements suggests a breakdown in the chain of command.

When asked about Mr Musharraf’s astonishing claim, DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor denied the existence of rogue elements in the military and emphasised the sanctity of the chain of command.

It appears that Mr Musharraf has caused some discomfort in his parent institution. Perhaps in the days ahead, Mr Musharraf will retract or clarify his comments.

There appears to be a pattern of outlandish and provocative statements by the former dictator in recent times. But Mr Musharraf ought to be pressed to explain his latest comments and justify them if he stands by them. His outburst directed at Mr Bhutto-Zardari is also shameful and ought to be retracted.

Ultimately, what should not be lost sight of is that there remains little clarity about the events surrounding Benazir’s assassination. The collapse of trials of several individuals accused of facilitating the suicide bombers has underlined how shoddy the investigations and prosecutions have been.

The uncertainty has fuelled conspiracy theories and threatens to reduce a convulsing event in Pakistani history to political theatre.

The memory of Benazir Bhutto deserves better and Pakistan deserves better.

Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2017

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