By Mark Siegel , an adviser and friend of the late Benazir Bhutto, was her collaborator on “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West,” completed days before Bhutto’s assassination.
I was with Benazir Bhutto on Sept. 25, 2007, when she received a call from Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who was then Pakistan’s president. She was visibly shaken when she hung up the phone: Musharraf had threatened her with dire consequences if she returned to Pakistan to lead her Pakistan Peoples Party in the upcoming elections, where she was the major threat to defeat him. Bhutto quoted him as saying that she would be responsible for what happened to her.
Three weeks later, she returned to Pakistan after eight years in exile. She was greeted in Karachi by 3 million people — and two suicide assassin bombers. Within hours of her arrival, a failed assassination attempt took the lives of 170 of her party workers. Afterward, she emailed me to say that if anything happened to her, she would hold Musharraf responsible. Two months later, she was dead.
Earlier this month, Pakistan’s government, after a four-year investigation, requested that Interpol issue an international warrant for the arrest of Musharraf for Bhutto’s murder. He has been summoned before the Supreme Court of Pakistan tomorrow. No one expects him to appear.
She was assassinated on Dec. 27, 2007 as she left a campaign event in Rawalpindi. Despite the fact that Musharraf had ordered intense security teams to guard two other former prime ministers who were his political supporters, Bhutto was provided with virtually no security at all.
The crime scene in Rawalpindi was almost immediately washed down, with forensic evidence hosed away by the police. No witnesses were interrogated. No autopsies took place. Nor did an investigation.
But, finally, the conspiracy is unraveling.
For one, a United Nations tribunal issued a blistering 70-page report essentially holding the Musharraf government responsible for Bhutto’s murder. The UN concluded that the failure of the police to effectively investigate Bhutto’s assassination, and the destruction of evidence, was deliberate and ordered from above. The UN also found that the assassination would have been prevented if the authorities had provided adequate security.
Picking up the mantle of the UN report, the government of Pakistan formed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to investigate the assassination. The JIT concluded its report last month, and its conclusions are not ambiguous: Musharraf, working with two police officers who reported back to him, knew of the plotting of the assassination, was aware of the timing and personally ordered the destruction of evidence.
Those officers facilitated the terrorists who devised the multifaceted elements of the conspiracy, from conception to execution to coverup. Musharraf’s failure to provide security to Bhutto, despite his full knowledge that an assassination would be attempted, all but ensured that the conspiracy would succeed.
The report concludes: “JIT is of the firm opinion that already established security breach and destruction of evidence on the day of assassination . . . is part of a wider conspiracy to eliminate Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto from the political scene before the elections. It is clearly evident that conspirators had assurances and support of the then-president.”
The motive was clear — the elimination of the iconic leader of the country’s dominant party, which seemed on the verge of a landslide victory.
Bhutto had believed that Musharraf was complicit in the attempt to take her life in Karachi by not providing her enough security. In fact, his involvement in the Karachi and Rawalpindi attacks was much more direct and insidious.
Both the UN and JIT reports blame the Musharraf government for the assassination of Bhutto. The government has begun criminal proceedings against the seven accused, including Musharraf. Yet despite all of this, Musharraf has spent the last four years touring the world making high-paid speeches and living royally in residences around the globe.
But there is hope: If and when Interpol issues a red warrant against Musharraf, the police of all 190 Interpol member countries will have the authority to arrest him.
Meanwhile, the democratically elected Pakistan Peoples Party government (which Bhutto would have led) is in its fifth year in office, and will be the first civilian Pakistani government to complete a full term. The 1973 constitution has been cleansed of the arbitrary powers seized by military dictators. There is an independent judiciary, a robust civil society and an energetic, uncensored press.
Benazir Bhutto famously said that “democracy was the greatest revenge.” We have given her that democracy. Now it is time to give her justice.
Source: New York Daily News