A committee and a half – By Kamran Shafi
The committee set up to fix responsibility for the hosing down of the site of Benazir Bhutto’s dastardly assassination is something to behold: a federal secretary, a provincial additional secretary and the vice chief of general staff of the Pakistan Army.
What a committee indeed, with a real general on it whose presence must strike the fear of God into the other members, one of whom is reportedly best buddies with the general being investigated! Only a very unique government of a very unique country could have set up such a committee.
The point is this: a lowly official such as a CPO (city police officer) would not, even in his wildest imagination, even in a horrible nightmare, on his own order the hosing down of a site where a personage as illustrious as Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated.
Neither would a functionary of state so cockily and with such nonchalance dismiss a senior doctor’s request to carry out a post-mortem on a leader of the stature of Benazir Bhutto, a post-mortem that was legally binding on the state to carry out, mind, unless he had friends in very high (and very secure) places who were egging him on. Don’t we know this; don’t we come from the same country as Mr Saud Aziz and his friends? Are we Martians?
The government must get real; it must bend every sinew to get to the bottom of this horrendous crime. Benazir was no ordinary person: she was the daughter of a very great man in whose name the PPP still gets the votes of the poor and the dispossessed of our country. She herself bravely led the PPP for well on 33 years and had an unusual and strong bond with the poor with whom she empathised in a very real way; never cynically. Why, I have seen her weep hearing an old man tell her his problems, and herself making a call to some minor government functionary asking him to please help.
I write what I write only to point out to those that matter, both in government and ‘outside’, not to take Benazir’s cruel and cold-blooded murder lightly. Benazir’s blood will be avenged, mark my words, for there are too many people out there whose lives she touched very deeply. I would caution anyone whose name is being bandied about in the press in relation to this horrible crime to review their stand immediately: to wit, the threesome of Rehman Malik and Babar Awan and Farhatullah Babar to at the very least agree with each other regarding the minutes immediately following the shooting/bombing.
They must tell us why they drove to Zardari House in Islamabad when, according to some of them, they knew that Benazir had come under attack. Rehman Malik must tell us who it was that told him on the telephone that Benazir had survived the attempt on her life when the fact is that she fell down dead immediately after the second shot of the pistol shooter from barely two metres away, and which made her dupatta flutter at what surely must be the exit point of the bullet.
Let me say here and now, that one of the above mentioned, Farhatullah Babar, is well known to me as a gentleman for 22 years now when both of us worked for Benazir — him as speechwriter, I as her press secretary. I cannot for a moment believe that he could ever tell an untruth, and more than that, that he could ever think a bad thought about Benazir. So why the confusion?
Questions: why did the ‘follow-car’ become an ‘advance car’? Did the occupants hear the blast? If so, why did the car not immediately turn back to see what had happened to the leader? Who told Rehman Malik Benazir was unhurt? Why did the car not stop and wait for Benazir’s SUV to overtake them and then follow her to Zardari House? These questions simply must be answered and answered immediately. Remember, the avenging spirit of the very poor is very great, indeed.
One Shaukat Ali, in a letter reminiscent of many others that are written when the establishment is upset (!) has alleged that I lost my temper while on a TV talk show with Sheikh Rashid and said that the corps commanders had no right to object to the Kerry-Lugar Bill. Wrong. I did firmly correct Sheikh Rashid when he suggested that I had ‘abused’ the army which was like a second mother to me for I had served it for 11 of the best years of my life, and that I would not let him get away with raising his voice at me as he was in the habit of doing with others.
As for the Kerry-Lugar Bill, I did not bring it up. Sheikh Rashid did. However, I have always said, and continue to maintain, that it is a perfect piece of legislation that says words to the effect that unless the US secretary of state certifies from time to time that the army is not interfering in the political life of the country it will not receive US aid.
My point has always been that in spite of expressing their ‘fury’ at the KLB the army top brass had no compunction in asking for US aid in a meeting between Generals Kayani and Petraeus exactly nine days after venting their ‘fury’. So why the ‘fury’?
As for our soldiers and officers fighting bravely the enemies of Pakistan, what in the world does that have to do with a handful of senior generals stepping out of line? Indeed, it is because of the wrongheaded policies of our brass hats that we are in the soup we are in, and why brave young men are losing their precious lives.
Incidentally, let me tell Shaukat Ali that while I am well over the age of recall to active duty, I have volunteered my services to my battalion whenever needed. So, no one please lecture me on probity and ‘love’ of the army/country. Not Master Rashid, not Master Ali. Incidentally, a search on the Internet showed that 95 per cent of viewers supported what I had said.
PS I made the mistake of my life when I appeared, against better counsel, on Dr Shahid Masood’s Meray Mutabiq which was recorded and then edited. And by golly was it edited! Suffice it to say that I was shocked out of my wits, and greatly saddened, at the show as aired.
Tuesday, 04 May, 2010