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Monday, 20 October 2008

Fallout of Karsaz FIR: If you want to try Hamid Gul, reopen Asghar Khan's petition against ISI in the Supreme Court

New Karsaz FIR

IT is intriguing that a new First Information Report about the bomb attack on Benazir Bhutto’s procession should have been registered a full one year after the Oct 18 crime that killed some 140 innocent people in Karachi. Those named in the new FIR are two former spy chiefs — former ISI boss Gen (retd) Hameed Gul and former Intelligence Bureau head Ijaz Shah — besides former Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi. In a statement made a day after the Karsaz blast, Bhutto said that prior to her return to Pakistan she had written a letter to President Pervez Musharraf, naming the three persons who she suspected wanted to kill her and eliminate the top PPP leadership. The big question is why the authorities waited for 12 months to discover new suspects and why these three names were not included in the previous FIR. One obvious answer could be that the previous government wasn’t being helpful and that Pervaiz Elahi used his influence as chief minister to block investigations. That still wouldn’t fully answer the question, because the PPP-led government has been in power now for nearly seven months and could have moved the investigating agencies immediately after it came to power.

The security agencies have made no startling disclosures over the last 12 months. Maybe, one could argue, the authorities were working quietly and did not wish to go public with whatever progress they had made. That said, the investigating agencies’ competence does not arouse much confidence. While the vehicle that was bombed at Karsaz was secured, the immediate surroundings were quickly cleaned of everything that may have served as evidence — a stupefying phenomenon that was seen again after the Liaquat Bagh tragedy when Bhutto finally fell victim to her assassins. Contrast this with the investigation into the Lockerbie crash where the police gathered every bit of metal and scrap spread over a radius of several miles and finally found the clue. Here the police cleaned up or hosed down the crime scenes in Karachi and Rawalpindi, destroying evidence either deliberately or out of sheer negligence.

The intelligence agencies’ perverse role in politics for decades need not be repeated here, nor do we have to emphasise the three suspects’ hostility to the PPP, especially the Bhutto family. But that still does not point to their culpability. A year has gone by, and investigations into both the Oct 18 blast in Karachi and into the murder of Benazir Bhutto two months later in Rawalpindi have made little or no progress. All we can hope is that the registration of a fresh FIR should prompt the government sleuths to shake off their sloth and investigate the crime in a manner that should show no trace of politicisation or bias.


Fallout of Karsaz FIR

On the first anniversary of the terrorist attack made on the procession of the PPP leader Ms Benazir Bhutto in the Karsaz area of Karachi, an FIR has been lodged on the basis of a letter written by her naming three persons who could be involved in her assassination. They were two ex-ISI army officers, Mr Ijaz Shah and Mr Hamid Gul, and one ex-chief minister of Punjab, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi. Mr Gul has already said that he would not give himself up to the police but will appear before a commission if it is set up. An FIR of murder, however, requires the arrest of the accused.

The political scene is too divided for the sort of justice the PPP wants. The retired army officers’ organisation calling itself Ex-Servicemen’s Association [a sub-division of ISI?] is already growling, threatening to bring “25 lakh ex-servicemen on the roads against the PPP government”. They repeat Mr Gul’s accusation that it is being done on orders from Washington, covering him with the nimbus he has always craved as an anti-American hero. In Punjab, the arrest of the ex-chief minister, who is a member of the National Assembly now, will be possible only after the current PMLN chief minister, Mr Shehbaz Sharif, has given the go ahead to his police. In sum, the move made through the FIR in Karachi will pit elements within the army against the PPP while starting an inter-party spat between the PPP and the PMLQ, indirectly empowering the opposition inside the parliament against the sitting government. Those stupid people who advised this action are no friends of Mr Zardari.(Daily Times)

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