Posted by: uss017 | March 20, 2011

Assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Judicial Madness and the Absurdity of the Conspiracy Theorists

Assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Judicial Madness and the Absurdity of the Conspiracy Theorists

Usman Sheikh (Vice-President, APML UK)

The courts in Pakistan have a rather bad reputation. The anti-terrorism courts are notorious for letting lose individuals who are strongly suspected by the law enforcement agencies of committing terrorist activities resulting in the deaths of dozens of civilians. It is almost impossible to get even a known terrorist convicted in our courts despite the pile upon pile of evidence. Consider two recent examples. The courts have become infamous for setting lose a known terrorist and criminal, Shahzain Bugti, who entered Quetta fully loaded with all kinds of weapons – rocket launchers, rifles, machine guns, anti-aircraft guns etc. This vile man was arrested by paramilitary troops of the Frontier Corps at the Buleli check post and every kind of weapon was recovered from his entourage. Yet the anti-terrorism court transferred this case, arguing this was not a case of terrorism and, as such, it did not fall under their jurisdiction. The fact that this man had also recently given an open call in the media for the killing of Pervez Musharraf, offering a reward of millions to the killer, also did not matter. Incitement to murder is perfectly acceptable to Pakistani courts. Subsequently, this murderer was released on bail by the High Court. Consider also the case of two innocent brothers who were murdered in broad daylight by a wild crowd in Sialkot. This brutal episode was recorded by a number of people on their cell phones. The clips are available all over the internet. However, till this day the known murderers remain unpunished.

It, therefore, comes as no surprise to learn that the anti-terrorism court, coming from a tradition where courts have such a ghastly record, has recently issued a warrant for the arrest of Pervez Musharraf in the assassination case of Benazir Bhutto. They could have summoned Pervez Musharraf or issued a notice rather than immediately take the extreme measure of issuing an unbailable arrest warrant. Only in Pakistan can we have such drama and open judicial madness.

Here I will briefly consider the “balance” of our courts, critically analyse the specific conspiracy theories implicating Pervez Musharraf in the assassination, and highlight the baboonish “logic” underlying the various conspiracy hypotheses.

First, can we really expect justice from the courts, particularly when it comes to Pervez Musharraf? Consider the nature of the verdicts delivered by the current Chief Justice almost immediately upon his restorations:

• Release of PML-N’s Javed Hashmi from prison (3 August 2007) – first restoration decision
• Allowed Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan in violation of his signed agreement to remain in Saudi Arabia for 10 years – first restoration decision
• Taking a range of suo moto actions which virtually paralyzed the functioning of the government – first restoration decision
• Permitting Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif to take part in politics
• Removal of the hijacking case against Nawaz Sharif without questioning the eyewitnesses
• Release of known terrorists: Abdul Aziz and Sufi Muhammad, both arrested under Musharraf’s government.

Is it at all likely that the Chief Justice would have taken these sort of decisions prior to his falling out with Pervez Musharraf? Is it likely that the courts are hell bent to extract their petty revenge from Pervez Musharraf?

However, let us put all the above aside and focus only upon the case in question. At the time of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, Pervez Musharraf was the President of Pakistan, having given up the post of Chief of Army Staff a while back. Does the President of any State micro-manage? Is the President responsible for the security of individuals and the one who implements the security measures? Of course not. Mian Soomro was the interim Prime Minister at the time and the Chief of Army Staff was Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani. The Prime Minister, not the President, controls the executive and the functioning. Neither was Pervez Musharraf in control of the Punjab government. As for the intelligence agencies, also being held responsible, they were under the control of Gen. Kiyani.

It makes no sense whatsoever to blame the President for the failure of a security system and its implementation because the security of an individual is not his responsibility. The law enforcement agencies on the ground are responsible for maintaining and implementing security and the ones involved in the planning also belong to the security apparatus. The President of a State, let alone Pakistan, has absolutely nothing to do with this.

Pervez Musharraf did not roll up his sleeves in order to put in place the bomb detecting sensors. He did not order the policemen on the ground to stand here or there. Neither did he sit down and select what particular vehicle was to be used by Benazir Bhutto and her entourage. Simply put, Pervez Musharraf had nothing to do with any of the security arrangements. He had no involvement precisely because he was the President and was, therefore, not responsible for anyone’s security, having also given up the post of Chief of Army Staff.

Therefore, right from the outset, it is pure folly and ridiculous to the extreme to blame Pervez Musharraf for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. And if one is still adamant to blame Mr. Musharraf and drag him into this saga using one absurd argument or another, then perhaps one is also equally justified in personally blaming Asif Ali Zardari for the security in place to combat suicide bombings throughout Pakistan and the resultant loss of life.

Secondly, it is interesting to note that the workers of the PPPP were solely responsible for the immediate security of Benazir Bhutto. Rahman Malik was Benazir Bhutto’s security manager and a senior police officer was personally handpicked by her to see to her security. Why has the court not issued their arrest warrants? It is Benazir Bhutto’s team which mostly ignored and failed to implement a number of key security suggestions given to them by various officials from the US. For example, we are informed: “However, there was no indication that Bhutto’s team – including her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who attended at least one of the meetings – had followed through on the most critical of the recommendations, including the hiring of private guards and reducing her visibility in large crowds like the one in Rawalpindi where she was killed.“ (NY Daily News National, The Associated Press, 31/12/2007).

Again, why has the court not issued the arrest warrants of those immediately responsible for arranging Benazir Bhutto’s security – people like Rahman Malik, Asif Ali Zardari and many other PPPP workers – and have, instead, issued an arrest warrant for the one man who was in no way responsible for Benazir Bhutto’s security – Pervez Musharraf?

Thirdly, we know that Benazir Bhutto’s brother, Ghulam Murtaza Bhutto, was assassinated when she was the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Fatima Bhutto, the daughter of Murtaza Bhutto – in fact, her entire family – continues to consistently blame Asif Ali Zardari for ordering the murder of her father through the police. Here one is on far firmer ground when holding the late Benazir Bhutto and her husband responsible because the former happened to be the Prime Minister at the time, with full control of the executive and the functioning of the State. Her police force killed Murtaza Bhutto. Why are the courts not willing to launch an investigation into this? Why can we not have a UN enquiry into this mystery? Does it make sense to spend millions on a UN investigation to look into the possibility of Zardari ordering the murder of his enemy brother in-law or does it make more sense to spend millions on a UN report to desperately blame Musharraf – the President at the time – for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto when we know he was not responsible for her security? I would rather spend millions on investigating Zardari.

Fourthly, let us consider the common allegations heaped by the hate-mongers:

1. The crime scene is said to have been cleared and hosed down within two hours of the attack. It is asserted that this was done deliberately in order to destroy crucial forensic evidence.

Response: Are we to suppose that Pervez Musharraf rang a security official on the ground and personally ordered him to quickly hose down the area? A far more commonsensical scenario is as follows: the area where the suicide attack occurred is usually busy with traffic and the local authorities, on their own, decided to hose it down after they were reasonably certain that they had collected and secured the required evidence. This was not a unique occurrence. After virtually every suicide bombing in Pakistan – down to this very day – we witness the local authorities hosing down the affected area within a few hours. At most and at worse, this is a case of negligence by the local authorities (something also acknowledged by Pervez Musharraf). We should not read too much into it.

2. There was scant police protection and no security cordon as Bhutto left the Rawalpindi rally.

Response: This is a lie. The truth, however, is that four police mobiles were provided to Benazir Bhutto comprising 30 personnel led by an officer she had hand-picked. Over 1,000 policemen had been deployed at Liaquat Bagh. There were about five walk-through gates and a bulletproof rostrum and policemen had been stationed on the roofs of nearby buildings. It was the responsibility of the PPPP’s leadership to have ensured that Benazir Bhutto did not expose herself to unnecessary risks. The suicide bomber was unable to enter the ground itself precisely due to the high security measures. He only acquired the opportunity to come close to her and strike when Benazir Bhutto was making her way back home. This is the time when one is most vulnerable to attacks, for being on the move from one location to another. Had Benazir Bhutto not come out of the escape hatch of the car, she would have been almost certainly alive (much like her colleagues in the car).

Moreover, consider the construction of the car itself:

“It is also important to comment upon the construction of the vehicle. It was fitted with B6 grade armour and designed to withstand gunfire and bomb-blast. It is an unfortunate and misleading aspect of this case that the roof escape hatch has frequently been referred to as a sunroof. It is not. It is designed and intended to be used solely as a means of escape. It has a solid lip with a depth of 9cm.” (Executive Summary, John MacBrayne, QPM Detective Superintendent Counter Terrorism Command, from, “Scotland Yard report into assassination of Benazir Bhutto released,” IP-455 Press Release, 8 February 2008).

The above is particularly noteworthy as a few PPPP activists have also been going on and on about the inappropriateness of there being a “sunroof” in the vehicle.

Finally, even if we accept the worst case scenario, according to which the security was flimsy, we still find no evidence of an elaborate government conspiracy. Once again, we can blame the authorities for being negligent, clumsy and unprofessional; but that’s about it.

Some of the clumsiness, ineptness, and mistakes committed by the local police and authorities are being viewed and interpreted purely in terms of a conspiracy. It is as if no genuine mistakes can ever occur and there can be no such thing as genuine ineptness; everything which appears to be a ‘mistake’ is in reality a wilful act by design with an underlying sinister purpose.

3. Why was an autopsy not carried out?

Response: Benazir Bhutto was no ordinary person and disregarding the expressed wishes of her family would have led to more chaos and bloodshed in the streets of Pakistan. Let us not forget that her husband, Zardari (also the current President of Pakistan), had made it very clear, right from the start, that he and his family did not want an autopsy. Subsequent attempts to carry out a post mortem were also vigorously stopped by none other than Asif Ali Zardari, using the pretext that the family did not wish to see the body of Benazir Bhutto defiled.

Consider the type of large-scale destruction Pakistan witnessed almost immediately after the assassination. PPPP activists initiated large-scale killings, nationwide burnings, looting and plunder (mostly in Sindh). Imagine the type of reaction her autopsy would have elicited had it been carried out either without consulting her family or by disregarding their wishes. However, note that a conspiracy theory implicating the government still has no basis because an autopsy cannot show that the government of the time was somehow “involved” in the alleged scheme to kill Benazir Bhutto.

Thus, it would seem that the interim government had no ulterior motive in denying an autopsy. More importantly, Pervez Musharraf had stated clearly that if Zardari gave the permission, then the autopsy would be conducted. Why is it that the supporters of Benazir Bhutto did not pressurise Zardari to allow the autopsy? In a nutshell, supporters of Benazir Bhutto are upset because no autopsy was carried out, but they would also have been upset if the autopsy was conducted.

Moving along, we must ask, what motive did the government of the time have for wanting to eliminate Benazir Bhutto? Did the assassination benefit or harm that government? Certainly the latter. PML-Q lost the election, PPPP received a lot of sympathy votes, and PML-N was also able to win many more seats. Pervez Musharraf eventually resigned due to his weak position whereas Asif Ali Zardari, better known as Mr 10% throughout Pakistan, went on to become the President. Thus,
the opponents of Pervez Musharraf significantly benefitted from the death of Benazir Bhutto. Was the government so inept to realise that the elimination of Benazir Bhutto would merely make their situation significantly untenable? Why on earth would they be so desperate to kill Benazir Bhutto when she did not even enjoy wide-ranging support from the masses at the time? Yet even here our mentally challenged conspiracy theorists have a wondrous suggestion. It is claimed that on the day of her assassination, Benazir Bhutto planned to submit a “very sensitive” report to certain American officials listing evidence of the alleged “rigging” which was to be initiated by the government during elections (Saeed Shah, “Bhutto report: Musharraf planned to fix elections,” McClatchy Newspapers, 31/12/2007). This is gently pushed as a possible motive for her elimination.

Again, does this make sense? Couldn’t the government of the time just deny the allegations made within the report instead of going out of their way to kill Benazir Bhutto? Are we to believe that that government was incapable and unimaginative to think of a way to challenge the details and credibility of the report? Could not another member of the PPPP submit this report to the American politicians after the assassination? Or was it the case that there existed only one copy of this “very sensitive” report which Benazir Bhutto kept in a secret location? Did the government think that this report would vanish into thin air or become invisible after her assassination? What on earth is the proof and evidence to substantiate this allegation? Nothing. It would seem that in Pakistan you are only required to make an allegation and it will then magically transform into a fact.

Thus, we have nothing here apart from hearsay and even this does not appear to be a credible motive to kill Benazir Bhutto. The truth, however, is much simpler: Benazir Bhutto was killed by terrorists, who had already issued multiple threats against her life. Benazir Bhutto would probably have been alive had she not been so careless. She made a mistake and, as a result, had to pay for it with her life. She should not have poked her head out of the escape hatch.

From all that we know, suicide bombing (at least in our region and in the Middle-East) is the tool of religious extremists. From the outset, it makes sense to suppose that the ones responsible for a wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan – including attacks on President Musharraf, Shaukat Aziz (former PM) and Aftab Sherpao (former Federal Minister) – were also responsible for the suicide attack upon Benazir Bhutto. Afterall, it was a freaking suicide bombing.

It should be borne in mind that the terrorist Baitullah Mehsud is on audio tape congratulating his men for slaying Benazir Bhutto. This has been confirmed by the CIA as well, who have also recorded Mehsud congratulating his men. We then had the Scotland Yard report, which concluded Benazir Bhutto died as a result of a skull fracture sustained when her head collided with a blunt object – the escape hatch – from the force of the blast. Lastly, we even have the current Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gillani, on record stating that the killer of Benazir Bhutto, Mehsud, had been killed in a drone attack. So when we know that Benazir Bhutto died as a result of a suicide bombing, when we know she made a careless mistake by popping her head out of the escape hatch, when we know Baitullah Mehsud had claimed responsibility, and when we know that Pervez Musharraf was no longer in control of the security apparatus and the executive, what sense does it then make to issue his arrest warrant and to blame him?

Within a matter of hours after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, conspiracy theories began surfacing like wild fire all over Pakistan. Of course, in every society we find conspiracy theories. However, the
situation becomes dangerous when the courts are also infested with conspiracies and are seen to be operating with a clear agenda.

Only through judicial madness can the courts find Pervez Musharraf “guilty.” They have already taken the first step towards judicial madness by issuing an arrest warrant. If we think rationally and simply stick to the facts, there is no way we can hold the President of the time “responsible” for the assassination and/or the alleged lack of security. However, if we decide to ditch commonsense, reason and evidence, only then can we find numerous ways to drag in Pervez Musharraf and hold him responsible for something which was not his responsibility by any stretch of imagination.

It is time for all Pakistanis to speak out against judicial madness which is taking place right in front of their eyes. It is time for the international community to exert pressure upon the Pakistani regime and ask them to avoid the path of petty revenge politics. PPPP and PML-N have already caused a great deal of harm to the Nation through their politics of revenge and blood in the 90’s. They are at it again. We cannot afford to remain silent. They are afraid about the prospect of Musharraf returning to Pakistan and once again putting hurdles in the path of their civilian dictatorship.

© Musharraf Supporters 2011 All rights reserved



  1. Well written article. This is a good read for those would like to have some ammo for countering baseless allegations against President Musharraf.

  2. Well done Usman! This article is timely and an excellent reply to cheap talking politicians. The government is of PPP and yet they have failed miserably to find the assassinations. Further, senior PPP leadership has blamed it on TTP.
    Best Wishes!

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