Bhutto Investigation: Better Late Than Never?

Het Nieuwsblad, out of Flanders, has this piece on-line now about how the United Nations has finally gotten around last week to setting up its long-promised investigative commission to look into the assassination of the Pakistani politician and international figure Benazir Bhutto. You might remember that that actually occurred at the very end of 2007 – so one-and-a-half years ago!

Anyway, the commission will be headed by Chile’s ambassador to the UN, Heraldo Muñoz, assisted by former Indonesian public prosecutor Marzuki Darusman and the former Irish policeman Peter Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald actually has some experience in this sort of thing, as he was heavily involved in the UN’s investigation into the February 2005 bombing-assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Strangely, though, back then Fitzgerald and his UN staff were on the scene in Lebanon to begin their inquiries only eleven days after the crime was committed, and he issued his report the following month. I wonder what his private thoughts must be about the considerable delay involved here.

There’s another, more subtle problem present as well. Presumably, as was certainly the case in Lebanon, an important reason for this UN measure is the generally-accepted skepticism that the Pakistani authorities themselves could ever conduct a thorough and impartial investigation. The “whodunit?” here is simply too politicized; if you ask the government in power at the time (headed by former general Pervez Musharraf), you get the answer that the Pakistani Taliban were the culprits, but the current government (headed by President Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower) instead points the finger at Musharraf. Yet the Nieuwsblad article notes that commission-member Darusman has already indicated that it will rely on the current Pakistani government to bring forward suspects.

In all, then, this whole UN effort looks like a farce – one-and-a-half years is surely long enough for any murder-trail to go stone-cold. But the article also reminds us that, for whatever reason, the Pakistani authorities at the time made sure to hamper any proper collection of evidence, no matter how prompt, by thoroughly hosing down the site of the assassination just as soon as the bodies and the wreckage of the vehicle in which Ms. Bhutto had been riding could be removed.

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