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Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and the aftermath
Musharraf declared fugitive as Bhutto murder trial ends in Pakistan
Former military dictator has property confiscated as anti-terror court jails two police officials in relation to 2007 assassination
(The Guardian) One of the most controversial trials in Pakistani history has ended with the former military dictator Pervez Musharraf declared a fugitive and his property ordered confiscated after he failed to show in court over the assassination 10 years ago of Benazir Bhutto.
Two high-ranking police officials were sentenced on Thursday to 17 years in prison but the verdict, while bringing some closure to a process many had thought would never conclude, stops short of sentencing anyone for the murder. The police officials were found guilty only of negligence and mistreatment of evidence, and five accused militants were acquitted.
By failing to bring its most prominent suspect, ex-president Musharraf, to justice, the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi set “a dangerous precedent,” said Saroop Ijaz, a lawyer and researcher with Human Rights Watch in Pakistan. “This is a farce. Musharraf is in plain sight. And he regularly appears on television.”
Musharraf, who is accused of conspiring to murder the former prime minister, has been in self-imposed exile in Dubai since 2016, when he left the country after a period in house arrest, after the ministry of interior lifted his travel ban.
In a move that surprised some observers, the court also acquitted five suspects linked to the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), who had been accused of being involved in the conspiracy to kill Bhutto.“The acquittal of al-Qaida/Taliban terrorists against whom evidence has been provided is most surprising and raises several questions. On its face it seems a triumph of al-Qaida militants,” Bhutto’s party, the PPP, said in a written statement.
The PPP claims that Musharraf himself was behind Bhutto’s murder. He has denied the allegations.
(Reuters) – A court in Pakistan charged former military dictator Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday with the 2007 murder of Benazir Bhutto in an unprecedented move likely to anger the all-powerful army.
The indictment of the army chief who seized power in a 1999 coup – once Pakistan’s most powerful man – was almost an unthinkable event in a nuclear-armed country ruled by the military for half of its 66-year history.
Bhutto, a former prime minister, died in a suicide gun and bomb attack in December 2007 after a campaign rally in the city of Rawalpindi, not far from the heavily guarded court room where the charges were read out on Tuesday.
“He should be tried,” the public prosecutor, Mohammad Azhar, told reporters after a brief hearing during which the three charges of murder, conspiracy to murder and facilitation of murder were read out to Musharraf.
Pakistan Ex-Leader Charged in Bhutto Assassination
Pleads Not Guilty; Prosecutor Says the Onetime Military Ruler ‘Denied Her Security’
(WSJ) Ex-President Pervez Musharraf was charged in court with a role in the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, his most serious legal setback since his return to the country in March.
The onetime military ruler was charged in a Pakistani antiterrorism court on Tuesday with criminal conspiracy and facilitation of murder, lawyers said. Mr. Musharraf pleaded not guilty.
Robert Fisk’s World: On the streets of Pakistan, it’s as if the sun hasn’t set on the Raj
Seven indicted in Pakistan over Bhutto killing
(FT) A Pakistani court on Saturday indicted five Islamist militants and two police officers in the high-profile assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, prosecutors said.
A report by a UN commission of inquiry published last year said any credible investigation should not rule out the possibility that members of Pakistan’s military and security establishment were involved in the killing, though it did not say who it believed was guilty. It criticised Pakistani authorities, saying they had “severely hampered” the investigation.
Pakistan charges seven for Bhutto murder
(Al Jazeera) Two senior police officers and five suspected Taliban fighters charged for their alleged role in the killing of ex-PM.
A Pakistani court has formally charged seven persons, including two senior police officers and five suspected Taliban fighters, for their alleged role in the killing of Benazir Bhutto, officials said.
Two police officers, Saud Aziz and Khurrum Shehzad, who were in charge of the security for Bhutto, were accused of negligence by failing to provide adequate protection on the day of the assassination.
Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who was president when Bhutto was killed, was not charged.
He is wanted by the police in the case after the court issued an arrest warrant early this year, but has not been taken into custody. Property was officially confiscated from him in August after his failure to appear in court for his alleged negligence over security. Globe & Mail
Pakistan takes action on UN assassination report
Responding to a UN probe that found deliberate efforts by police to scuttle the investigation, Pakistan suspended several officials involved with the investigation — including one senior police officer who ordered the murder scene cleaned before evidence could be gathered, and one official who described the assassination as the work of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. Pakistani officials have not taken action against Pakistani military or intelligence figures. Pakistani government officials suggested that they would consider charging former military leader Pervez Musharraf, who was in power at the time of Benazir Bhutto’s death. The Guardian (London) (4/20)
Report on Bhutto assassination rips Pakistani government, security agencies
(FP Passport) The 65-page report (pdf) — which relied on interviews with 250 people and several key governments — provided a blistering account of government lapses that led to one of the most significant political assassination in a generation. In one of its most damning passages, it accused police investigators of deliberately seeking to avoid solving the case out of fear of discovering the possible involvement of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies.
A UN report on the killing of Benazir Bhutto makes awkward reading for Pakistan’s army
(The Economist) A FEW days after the murder of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007, a two-time former Pakistani prime minister, the country’s president, Pervez Musharraf, held a press conference in high spirits. Cracking jokes about his country’s famed unruliness, the then dictator dismissed concerns about a hapless police effort to secure evidence and investigate the killing. He suggested Ms Bhutto was partly to blame for having disregarded security warnings. But on Thursday April 15th a high-powered UN report into Ms Bhutto’s death took a more critical view of these events. For Mr Musharraf, now living in exile in London, and the Pakistani military establishment he once led, its conclusions should be devastating.
… At best, then, the report highlights the debilitating effect on Pakistan’s institutions of its periodic spells of military rule. It also suggests the contempt the country’s uniformed leaders display towards their civilian counterparts. Yet this is clearly not all. The report, which was kept under wraps for two weeks at the timorous request of Mr Zardari’s government, raises serious questions about the role in the killing played by Mr Musharraf’s regime, which included Pakistan’s current army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, who led the ISI until shortly before Ms Bhutto’s murder. Whether these mysteries will be cleared up is another matter—in a country where political murders are rarely solved.
16 July 2009
UN investigation of Bhutto assassination begins in Pakistan
A UN team spearheaded by Chilean diplomat Heraldo Muñoz and charged with investigating the assassination of Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto arrived in Islamabad. Critics believe the investigation, ordered by UN Secretary-General after a request from Pakistani President Asif Zardari, is unlikely to yield results as Bhutto supporters suspect Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency behind the attack. The Guardian (London) (7/16)
19 February 2008
Why Pakistan Matters
Washington struggled to come to terms with Bhutto’s death — the White House hoped she would share power with Musharraf and had made her the centerpiece of its latest plan for Pakistan. While the White House continued to back Musharraf’s grip on power as the best near-term key to Pakistan’s survival, others are more blunt in their assessment. Anthony Zinni, former chief of the Pentagon’s Central Command, whose remit includes Pakistan, warns that extremist groups are ‘trying to ignite Pakistan into the kind of chaos they need to survive, and create a fundamentalist, even radical, Islamic government.’
It doesn’t take much insight to see the dangers of that outcome. Failure to keep the sole Muslim nuclear power stable, whole and democratic might be catastrophic not just for the war on terrorism and the stability of South Asia but also for the future of Islam and the relations between Islamic states and the West. Yet Bhutto’s assassination has exposed how little influence the U.S. — or any other outside power — has on the nation that was bloodily carved out of India when the British left 60 years ago, and which has been bedeviled by violence and venal politics ever since.
(Strategic Forecasting -Stratfor- Analysis January 2, 2008)
Pakistan, Bhutto and the U.S.-Jihadist Endgame
(NYT) Musharraf’s Party Accepts Defeat
LAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistan appeared on Tuesday to be heading for a transition to an elected civilian government after President Pervez Musharraf told visiting United States senators that he accepted the resounding defeat of his party in elections and would work with a new Parliament.
(Al Jazeera) The Pakistan People’s Party has said it will try to form a coalition goverment without the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League-Q.
The PPP won the most seats in the national assembly in Monday’s election, while President Pervez Musharraf’s supporters in the PML-Q trailed a distant third.
(The Guardian) Bhutto’s party to form coalition with Sharif
The Pakistan People’s party will seek a national government that includes supporters of Nawaz Sharif, the husband of assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto said today.
But Asif Zardari said the PPP was not interested in entering a coalition with President Pervez Musharraf’s allies, who lost heavily in yesterday’s parliamentary elections.
As Zardari held out the prospect of an alliance between the PPP and Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N party – the two big winners from the election – Sharif stuck to his uncompromising line on Musharraf.
(IPS) PAKISTAN: Voters Get Carrots, Sticks in Lacklustre Polls
Analysis by Beena Sarwar
KARACHI – Voter apathy marked Monday’s general elections that were accompanied by allegations of massive manipulations and violence on the one hand and lofty promises of development and cash gifts by some candidates on the other.
(The Independent) Increase in violence threatens low turnout in Pakistan
Andrew Buncombe in Islamabad and Omar Waraich in Lahore
Against a backdrop of the constant threat of violence, more than 80,000 troops will join police in a massive security operation across the country. Yet despite such measures, experts say the threat of violence – a total of 47 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack on Saturday – combined with cynicism about the likely fairness of the result is expect to result in a low turnout.
No Known Candidates in Pakistan Election
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — When Pakistanis take part in Monday’s crucial parliamentary elections, the country’s most talked about politicians won’t be on the ballot.
Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, and President Pervez Musharraf is not up for re-election but could be vulnerable to impeachment if the opposition takes commanding control of parliament.
Bhutto’s death left Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted as prime minister in a 1999 coup, the nation’s most prominent opposition leader. But he can’t run either after being convicted of hijacking and terrorism more than a decade ago — charges he said were politically motivated.
Pakistan Bombing Kills as Many as 45 Before Elections
Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) — A suicide bomber in Pakistan killed as many as 45 people and left dozens injured near the election office of the late Benazir Bhutto’s People’s Party in Parachinar, Pakistan, ahead of elections in two days.
(Al Jazeera) Pakistan election special with Sir David Frost
(CNN) Pakistan elections: Facts and figures
(The Independent) Loss of core support means Musharraf’s party faces disaster
… As Pakistan lurches through the final week of election campaigning, all the opinion polls suggest that the party created by President Pervez Musharraf to buttress his military rule does not enjoy such good fortune. Indeed, they reveal that support may stand as low as 12 per cent as a resurgent opposition continues to feed on the President’s increasing unpopularity. More
New poll-rigging row in Pakistan
Fraud fears overshadow Pakistan polls
On the day she was assassinated in December, Ms Bhutto was about to present evidence which cast grave doubt on whether Pakistan’s parliamentary elections would be free and fair. The report she had with her on the day she died talks of election violence, intimidation and corrupt officials. According to the PPP, nothing has changed.
(BBC) Scotland Yard’s report into the murder of Pakistan’s former prime minister Benazir Bhutto is likely to fuel, rather than settle, the controversies surrounding the issue. More
(Independent) Benazir Bhutto died of a “severe head injury” and not a gunshot wound in an attack by a lone terrorist, Scotland Yard said today. More
Bhutto’s party fights for her legacy
February 4 2008
Al-Qaeda Commander Moved Freely in Pakistan
Libyan Killed Last Week Operated Openly
By Imtiaz Ali and Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Feb. 3 — A Libyan al-Qaeda commander who was killed last week in northwestern Pakistan had lived there for years and, despite a $200,000 U.S. bounty on his head, felt secure enough to meet officials and visit hospitals, according to officials and residents of this city.
… The lack of progress in hunting al-Qaeda commanders such as Libi has fueled frustration among U.S., Afghan and European officials, who say al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies regularly plan operations abroad from havens in Pakistan. The Pakistani government has barred U.S. forces from searching for al-Qaeda leaders on its soil.
Foreign Policy: Five elections to watch in 2008
Parliamentary elections on Feb. 18
The contenders: Four major political parties will be vying for a share of power: President Pervez Musharraf’s faction of the Pakistan Muslim League (known as the PML-Q), former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s party (the PML-N), the Pakistan People’s Party of the late former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and the Islamist Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, which allied with Musharraf’s party during the last legislative elections in 2002.
Why it matters: Do you even have to ask? Pakistan today is a combustible brew of worsening political instability, increasing repression, and growing Islamic militancy—in a state with a history of nuclear proliferation. When rioters burned down election offices in Sindh Province after Bhutto’s assassination, the government postponed the elections for six weeks. Speculation is rife that the security services will use the extra time to rig the elections in favor of Musharraf’s party, a fear underscored by the fact that Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper’s published the leaked “official” results of the elections—all the way back in December. Musharraf has promised “free and fair” contests, but his word isn’t exactly golden in Pakistan these days. Assuming he isn’t willing to share power, bet on blood in the streets on February 19, and a coup can’t be ruled out.
Pakistan Shuns C.I.A. Buildup Sought by U.S.
WASHINGTON — The top two American intelligence officials traveled secretly to Pakistan early this month to press President Pervez Musharraf to allow the Central Intelligence Agency greater latitude to operate in the tribal territories where Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups are all active, according to several officials who have been briefed on the visit.
President Pervez Musharraf has said that Pakistan’s success in fighting terrorism is critical and any failure could impact on the West.
In an address to a British think tank, he called for support and encouragement not “criticisms and insinuations”. He outlined his strategy for defeating al-Qaeda and the Taleban, and securing Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.
Ex-Officers Call on Musharraf to Step Down Before Elections
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — An influential group of former military officers has called on Pakistan’s embattled president to step down, a move that could further undermine him before parliamentary elections next month.
A statement by the group, the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen’s Society, blamed the president, Pervez Musharraf, for the current crisis and said Mr. Musharraf, the former army commander, no longer “represents the unity and the symbol of the federation as president.”
Democrat Musharraf visits Europe
Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, has pledged to hold free elections as he began a European trip aimed at bolstering outside support.
But addressing journalists at Brussels, the Belgian capital on Monday, he urged the West not to hold Pakistan to unrealistic rights standards.
“We must have fair and transparent elections,” on February 18, he said. “Whoever wins, obviously power will be handed over to them.”
“We are for democracy and I have introduced the essence of democracy, but we cannot be as forward looking as you (in the West) are.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has ruled out a United Nations inquiry into the assassination of the opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto.
He told the French paper Le Figaro that Pakistan had its own institutions to investigate the killing and that they were being assisted by the UK.The president said he hoped the results of the investigation would be published before February’s parliamentary vote.
Ms Bhutto’s son, Bilawal, has repeatedly called for a UN inquiry.
January 6, 2008
(BBC) Pakistan’s President Musharraf has said for the first time that murdered opposition leader Benazir Bhutto may have been shot.
Until now Pakistani officials have maintained that Ms Bhutto had banged her head on part of her car’s sunroof.
(Pakistan Daily Times) VIEW: Post-assassination Pakistan
Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi
Opposition to Musharraf’s continued stay in office is increasing. In the event that the PPP and the PMLN take a significant portion of the vote in the election, an open confrontation between them and Musharraf cannot be ruled out.
A 19-year-old who has just seen his mother killed in a suicide bomb attack, a disgraced former prime minister who has been banned from holding public office for his involvement in corruption, and a dictator who has been obliged to remove his military uniform only with extreme reluctance so that he can at least give the appearance of supporting civilian rule.
At first glance, Bilawal Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Pervez Musharraf, respectively the key figures in Pakistan’s delayed election process, do not inspire confidence that the faltering transition from military dictatorship to functioning democracy has the least chance of success. More
Stratfor Geopolitical Weekly
The endgame of the U.S.-jihadist war always had to be played out in Pakistan. There are two reasons that could account for this. The first is simple: Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda command cell are located in Pakistan. The war cannot end while the command cell functions or has a chance of regenerating. The second reason is more complicated. The United States and NATO are engaged in a war in Afghanistan. Where the Soviets lost with 300,000 troops, the Americans and NATO are fighting with less than 50,000. Any hope of defeating the Taliban, or of reaching some sort of accommodation, depends on isolating them from Pakistan. So long as the Taliban have sanctuary and logistical support from Pakistan, transferring all coalition troops in Iraq to Afghanistan would have no effect. And withdrawing from Afghanistan would return the situation to the status quo before Sept. 11. If dealing with the Taliban and destroying al Qaeda are part of any endgame, the key lies in Pakistan.
U.S. strategy in Pakistan has been to support Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and rely on him to purge and shape his country’s army to the extent possible to gain its support in attacking al Qaeda in the North, contain Islamist radicals in the rest of the country and interdict supplies and reinforcements flowing to the Taliban from Pakistan. It was always understood that this strategy was triply flawed.
… Someone killed Benazir Bhutto and changed the entire dynamic of Pakistan. Though Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party probably would have gained a substantial number of seats, it was unlikely to sweep the election and seriously threaten the military’s hold on power. Bhutto was simply one of the many forces competing for power. As a woman, representing an essentially secular party, she was unlikely to be a decisive winner. She was highly visible and a factor in Pakistani politics, but if Musharraf were threatened, the threat would not come from her.
Therefore, her murder is a mystery. It is actually a mystery on two levels. First, it is not clear who did it. Second, it is not clear how the deed was done. … the confusion in this case appears to be way beyond the norm.
Who would want Bhutto dead? Musharraf had little motivation. He had enemies, and she was one of them, but she was far from the most dangerous of them. And killing her would threaten an election that did not threaten him or his transition to a new status. Ordering her death thus would not have made a great deal of sense for Musharraf.
Whoever ordered her death would have had one of two motives. First, they wanted to destabilize Pakistan, or second, they wanted to kill her in such a way as to weaken Musharraf’s position by showing that the state of emergency had failed. The jihadists certainly had every reason to want to kill her — along with a long list of Pakistani politicians, including Musharraf. They want to destabilize Pakistan, but if they can do so and implicate Musharraf at the same time, so much the sweeter.
The loser in the assassination was Musharraf. He is probably too canny a politician to have planned the killing without anticipating this outcome. Whoever did this wanted to do more than kill Bhutto. They wanted to derail Musharraf’s attempt to retain his control over the government. This was a complex operation designed to create confusion.
… Our first suspect is al Qaeda sympathizers who would benefit from the confusion spawned by the killing of an important political leader. The more allegations of complicity in the killing are thrown against the regime, the more the military regime is destabilized — thus expanding opportunities for jihadists to sow even more instability. Our second suspects are elements in the army wanting to use the assassination to force Musharraf out, replace him with a new personality and justify a massive crackdown.
Why Benazir Bhutto posed a threat
MANIPAL, India, Dec. 31
Column: Future Present
On Nov. 7 this columnist wrote that Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto’s election plans were likely to fail “if she survives.” The skepticism over her longevity was because of the threat she represented to both the Punjabi component in the Pakistan army and to the continuation of the military’s monopoly over state power.
While President Pervez Musharraf avoided challenging the latter, since 9/11 he has quietly but systematically sought to reduce the suffocating grip of the Punjabis over the army, giving better representation to Mohajirs, Balochis, Pashtuns and even a few Sindhis in the higher reaches of both the military as well as the civil administration. Had there been a teaming up between the wily Musharraf and the mercurial Bhutto, especially after he was made to quit as army chief, the two may have succeeded in leveraging anti-army sentiment in Pakistan enough to send the soldiers back to their barracks. More
My heart bleeds for Pakistan. It deserves better than this grotesque feudal charade by Pakistan-born writer, broadcaster and commentator, Tariq Ali
December 30, 2007
Bhutto party names son as leader, will contest election
We expect that the news of 19 year-old Bilawal Bhutto’s designation as Benazir’s heir (not to mention his father Asif Ali Zardari, ‘Mr. Ten Percent’, as co-chair) may stir up problems within the PPP. Much as the feudal nature of the PPP is touted, there must surely come a time when the Bhuttos relinquish their ‘hereditary right’ to the leadership. Our suspicions appear to be confirmed by the comments at Bilawal Zardari Becomes New PPP Chairman and Benazir Bhutto’s Successor
December 27, 2007
Bhutto Assassination Sparks Chaos
By Griff Witte Washington Post Foreign Service
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, Dec. 27 — Benazir Bhutto, for decades the central figure in a tortured struggle to bring democratic rule to Pakistan, was assassinated Thursday afternoon as she waved to supporters after a political rally, plunging the country into new turmoil just days before scheduled elections. Full article
‘A Wrong Must Be Righted’
An interview with Benazir Bhutto
By Gail Sheehy
A fascinating and revealing interview with Gail Sheehy that bears out the writer’s description of Benazir Bhutto: “Like her country, Bhutto is a riddle. Brilliant, beautiful, fearless, she is also ruthlessly ambitious, devious and corrupt.”
Editor’s note: The assassination of Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto on Dec. 27 occurred after PARADE’s Jan. 6 issue went to press.
Bhutto’s murder adds more danger and confusion to the already chaotic situation in this region. Pakistan is vital to U.S. security interests and the global fight against terrorism. In late November, PARADE sent Contributing Editor and best-selling author Gail Sheehy to Pakistan to interview former Prime Minister Bhutto as she campaigned through the country. Bhutto told Sheehy that she had long been a target of terrorists as well as the Musharraf government. She knew she could be murdered at any time.
PARADE’s Jan. 6 interview with Bhutto is one of the last interviews of her complex life.
After her assassination, PARADE immediately posted the entire interview online.