EDITORIAL: Benazir murder probe - Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Source : http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\11\24\story_24-11-2010_pg3_1

The news that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has decided to send a questionnaire to former president General (retired) Pervez Musharraf after submitting a challan to an anti-terrorism court strikes one as odd. It begs the question why this exercise could not be undertaken while he was still in Pakistan and what legal value would this investigation hold when the prescribed procedure for law enforcement agencies is to collect all evidence and record necessary statements before presenting the challan. It is also not clear how General (retired) Musharraf would be disposed to reply to the questionnaire — yet to be approved by the interior ministry — and how his responses, if he does, could be verified. The utterly dubious nature of this exercise seems to indicate that it is meant for public consumption rather than producing any meaningful evidence. Faced with criticism for giving a ‘clean chit’ to Musharraf and his cohorts in the court challan, the government may have decided to deflect attention from its own pusillanimity by pretending to question Musharraf, who successfully used the power and influence of his institution to stave off any such possibility earlier. This instance is symptomatic of the way the government has handled the matter throughout.

Ever since the PPP came to power, largely attributable to the sympathy wave created by the unfortunate assassination of its chairperson, Benazir Bhutto, there does not seem to have been any serious effort to unearth who committed this gruesome deed. One grants that former president, General (retired) Pervez Musharraf had stakes in the obliteration of forensic evidence in the notorious ‘hosing down’ of the crime scene and preventing any meaningful progress on the murder probe. However, it is beyond comprehension what obstructs the current regime from doing so. The various investigations held for the purpose — from Scotland Yard, the UN Commission of Inquiry to the FIA joint investigation team’s probe — have done little to clear the picture. The conclusions of these protracted probes are primarily focused on the negligence of the Musharraf regime. The mystery surrounding the masterminds persists, whose identity has been obscured despite clear pointers in a certain direction. Just before coming back to Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto had expressed apprehensions regarding her security and named three individuals, including Musharraf, to be held responsible if anything were to happen to her. Her arrival in Pakistan and the subsequent series of events, starting from the Karsaz bombings and culminating in her assassination, point to a highly sophisticated plot designed to eliminate her from the scene. The buck stops with Musharraf and his coterie of generals, who were then running the show. Why did investigators fail to probe accordingly? In the challan submitted to the court, the FIA makes ambiguous reference to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) while expressing its inability to examine Musharraf despite efforts to that effect. Nor has it been able to question serving generals who formed part and parcel of Musharraf’s coterie. Without these critical examinations, the probe remains incomplete.

It may be concluded that the PPP, despite being in power, was too feeble to stand up to the formidable power of General Musharraf. It was expedient to let Musharraf off the hook when the PPP had freshly received the present of the NRO from him, which paved the way for its coming back to power. Holding impartial investigations would mean also questioning two prominent ministers and close aides of President Zardari, who were in charge of Benazir’s security and whose conduct on the day of the incident left many questions unanswered. Benazir may not have been betrayed as much by Musharraf as she has been by her own party. Her spirit still hovers in a void, seeking closure and justice. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Reforming the judiciary

At the full court reference on the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Rahmat Hussain Jafferi, Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that strengthening the judiciary is integral for the survival of democracy in case some extra-constitutional forces strike the political set-up. CJ Chaudhry’s words should strike a blow to all the undemocratic forces lurking in the shadows for an unconstitutional move to oust the government. The PPP-led coalition government has been in trouble with the judiciary ever since the restoration of the deposed judiciary. Cases pertaining to the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in the past and now the 18th Amendment soured relations between the executive and the judiciary. Thus, the CJ’s words could not have come at a better time. Justice Chaudhry talked about tackling corruption in the judiciary and rightly said that accountability is necessary. It is hoped that the honourable CJ is able to eradicate the menace of corruption, especially in the lower courts, so that the common man is able to get justice without paying any ‘price’ for it.

Asma Jahangir, President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), commended the CJ for summoning the intelligence agencies’ chiefs in the case pertaining to the 11 ‘missing’ prisoners from Adiala Jail. Our intelligence agencies have always operated in a culture of impunity and believe that they can get away with anything and everything. The apex court’s orders have given a clear message that the highhandedness of the security establishment needs to be buried for good. Ms Jahangir also talked about adopting a principle that retired judges of the superior courts should not accept an appointment that is lower than their last-held post. It would indeed set a good precedent if Ms Jahangir’s advice is adhered to and it should not just include appointments outside the superior judiciary but also within. Ms Jahangir also asked that specific guidelines should be followed when taking up issues of public interest. This is important since we have seen that some petitions lie around in the courts for years while some are taken up very quickly. Does this constitute equity, justice and equal treatment? Ms Jahangir also pointed out the plight of the seven judges who have been held in contempt after the July 31 judgement that declared General Musharraf’s November 3, 2007 emergency and the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) as unconstitutional. She expressed the hope that the apex court would address this issue soon.

Ms Jahangir has raised some very important issues that need to be addressed for proper judicial reform, something that this country has been waiting for for a long time. Retiring Justice Rahmat Hussain Jafferi, who is one of those judges who have always upheld principles, would surely approve of these suggestions. *

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