Bhutto death inquiry

More than a month after Benazir Bhutto’s first death anniversary...

Written by Ruchika Talwar | Published: February 7, 2009 11:38:56 pm

More than a month after Benazir Bhutto’s first death anniversary,the United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has announced an inquiry into the murder. Upon his arrival at Islamabad on January 4,his announcement became the lead story in all papers. On January 5,Dawn quoted him as saying: “I intend to establish very shortly an independent commission of inquiry headed by a very distinguished person,whom I am going to nominate soon…Sources told Dawn the Ambassador of Chile to the UN,Heraldo Munoz,would lead the three-member commission.” Indonesia’s Dar Usman and a third unnamed member from Sweden will comprise the body,it said. The News went on to add: “The commission is expected to submit a report within six months. The expenses would be borne mainly by Pakistan ….. The financing would be shared by some foreign countries. Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Hussain Haroon reportedly said the cost would not exceed 5 million dollars.”

Swat strategy

After the Pakistan Army announced adopting a “new strategy” for tackling the menace of the Taliban in Swat where ‘Operation Rah-i-Haq’ is underway,they added another dimension to the strife. Daily Times on January 5 quoted the army spokesman as informing: “foreign militants are also present in Swat.” Dawn questioned the very intent of the troops fighting in the troubled valley. “Two key questions remain unanswered. One,does the Pakistan Army have the will to crush the militants? Two,does it have the capability to do so? The will has been questioned on the grounds that the militants have suffered less as compared to the collateral damage caused in Swat. This fact has created an extremely negative perception of the armed forces among the Swatis and led to unfortunate questions about whose side the armed forces are on…If the Pakistan Army fails the Swat litmus test,any notion of the sovereignty of the state will be destroyed. Maulana Fazlullah will not stop at conquering Swat.”

Clean bowled!

Riled by ICC’s decision to exchange Pakistan’s name with Sri Lanka’s as the host of the forthcoming ICC Champions Trophy,Dawn’s January 3 editorial implored cricketing nations to stand by Pakistan during its hours of greatest trial. “Pakistan cricket was dealt another body blow when the ICC decided that this year’s Champions Trophy will not be held here after all…It is ironic that Sri Lanka,a country that is no stranger to terrorism,has been named as a possible alternate venue… Australia did not leave England when the London underground was attacked…. England returned to India following the Mumbai massacre — to show solidarity,among other reasons of a more material nature. It is time to show solidarity with Pakistan as well. Leaving us in the wilderness could sound the death knell for top-flight cricket in this country.” In a move that attempted to emulate the Indian ministry of external affairs’ travel advisory to Indians planning a Pakistan trip,Pakistan’s foreign office has barred the country’s cricketers from participating in the second season of the Indian Premier League. Daily Times reported on January 3: “‘We have been informed by the foreign ministry that the situation is not conducive for Pakistan cricketers to travel to India,’ sports minister Aftab Jilani said.”

Coalition mis-match

News came in this week of a possible power-sharing arrangement between formerly sworn rivals PPP and PML-Q,to usurp as many seats as possible from PML-N in the upcoming senate elections occupied front page space in all papers. The News on January 3 reported: “PPP and PML-Q are likely to cooperate in the upcoming Senate elections to secure maximum gains in Punjab and Balochistan…Sources said the two parties were actively engaged in discussions,a move they said was aimed at neutralising PML-N’s influence in the polls.” As the modalities of the deal were being worked out,Daily Times added on January 5:

“A close aide of PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said PML-Q had set certain conditions for cooperation with the PPP. One was the dissolution of the Punjab government.” The report also went on to quote the PML-N information secretary Ahsan Iqbal as saying “his party had the numerical strength to prevent any ‘misadventure’ against the Punjab government.”

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