Pervez Musharraf and complex whodunit with multiple endings


Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf at the Aspen Ideas festival, Colorado, on July 1 (Pic: Video grab from

The thing about high crimes and assassinations in Pakistan is that almost any theory is entirely plausible but none is fully provable. After reading an excerpt from an upcoming book based on the United Nations investigation of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, the only clarity to emerge is that everything is indistinguishably meshed up.

It is one hugely complex whodunit where you can choose your own ending and can be both absolutely right and absolutely wrong and everything in-between.

Foreign Affairs website carries the excerpt by Heraldo Muñoz, the lead United Nations (UN) investigator in the Bhutto assassination case. Here is what Muñoz, who is UN Assistant Secretary General, says, “In Bhutto’s case, it would seem that the village assassinated her: Al-Qaeda gave the order; the Pakistani Taliban executed the attack, possibly backed or at least encouraged by elements of the establishment; the Musharraf government facilitated the crime through its negligence; local senior policemen attempted a cover-up; Bhutto’s lead security team failed to properly safeguard her; and most Pakistani political actors would rather turn the page than continue investigating who was behind her assassination.”

This is culpability without distinction in that it indicts all major players in Pakistan even while it does not really indict anyone. I do not say this as a criticism but Muñoz really seems hard-pressed to make any definite conclusion. Like I said, it is one hugely complex whodunit where you can choose your own ending and can be both absolutely right and absolutely wrong and everything in-between.

Now that former President Pervez Musharraf has been officially charged on three counts of murder, criminal conspiracy for murder and facilitation for murder by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi, we can only wait to see what judgment it reaches. Musharraf and seven others named in the charges have pleaded not guilty.

Bhutto was assassinated on December 27, 2007 after she returned to Pakistan from a 10-year-long exile. Her return was said to be part of a deal between her and Musharraf where she would become prime minister with him staying on as president. Speaking of deals, I have been saying on this blog since 2009 that Pakistan’s ruling elite always seems to be in a frenzied deal-making mode. They always seem to be preempting something. That comes across as their primary vocation. I was struck by this one sentence in Muñoz’s excerpt: “In Pakistani politics, everything that works is the result of a deal that has been cut.”

Not that there is something even remotely original about my observation of frenzied deal-making in Pakistan but it is good to see a total outsider like Muñoz recognizing it as well.

Perhaps just about now Musharraf is kicking himself for choosing to return from his own personal exile in the hope of participating and winning in the election that eventually brought back his nemesis Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. All things considered, Musharraf was having a great life out of London, traveling around the world in his dapper suits and holding forth on Pakistan with the air of a wronged and unheeded statesman.

It is conceivable that he could have continued his life as a paid speaker at polite global conferences where audiences consider it infra dig to interrupt and challenge a former dictator. Now that he is well and truly inside the unoiled shafts and toothed wheels of Pakistan’s justice system he has no option but to experience all the grinding that comes with it. He might just emerge unscathed but then he might not.

I know enough about Pakistan not to second-guess its establishment. Anything can happen because of the indictment, including incarceration and innocence or something which is neither but both.


About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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