Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 5:20 AM

Arrest Warrant for former Pakistani Pres. Musharraf

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

On Saturday Pakistan issued an arrest warrant for former President Pervez Musharraf:

A joint investigation team in its report to the court has found Musharraf guilty of being involved in the conspiracy and abetting to kill Benazir Bhutto.

(Zulfikar Ali Chaudhry, the lead prosecutor, Associated Press, February 12, 2011)

But, like anyone who knows anything about Pakistani politics, I smell a rat. After all, much of the judiciary in Pakistan is now comprised of judges and prosecutors who Musharraf either fired or persecuted during his dictatorship. 

Pakistan’s Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, issued a ruling which could only be regarded as an untenable challenge to the authority of General Pervez Musharraf – who appointed himself president in 2002, after seizing power in a military coup in 1999…  It’s hardly surprising that Musharraf wasted no time arresting, or putting under house arrest, all judicial and political opponents who he suspects might be inclined to oppose his declaration of emergency.

(Crocodile tears in West as Musharraf imposes martial law, The iPINIONS Journal, November 5, 2007)

Then there’s the red flag of Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, being not only the current president, but himself a notorious victim of Musharraf’s iron-fisted dictatorship.  In fact, he spent much his time between 1997-2004 in jail accused of using his wife’s position as prime minister to extort a piece of most business deals in the country, which earned him the nickname “Mr. 10 percent.”

Of course Zardari has always denied the accusations; but, like Hosni Mubarak, he would be hard-pressed to prove that he acquired his billions by legal means….

But there’s more: Musharraf announced recently that he was planning to return from exile in London to form a new political party. He seemed motivated by the delusion that his dictatorship was so popular that people would jump at the opportunity to return him to power democratically this time.

Yet it’s a testament to the unpopularity and insecurity of those who ousted and replaced him that they dare not give Musharraf a chance to even test his delusional proposition.

This is why this arrest warrant smacks of vengeance being served cold, as well as of a preemptive strike against any chance of Musharraf establishing a political base in the country again.

For the record, though, Musharraf not only denies having anything to do with Bhutto’s assassination, he claims that she steadfastly refused his efforts to provide enhanced protection. In fact, apropos of this claim, I personally recall Bhutto insinuating that Musharraf was trying to limit her freedom to campaign for his job by continually raising the specter of security threats against her. 

This led me to frame his dilemma as follows the day after she was eventually assassinated:

Bhutto repeatedly warned that if (or when) she’s assassinated her blood would be on his hand…  It’s impossible to say that Musharraf’s failure to provide the security Bhutto requested (if in fact he did) was the proximate cause of her death.

Frankly, Musharraf was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t. Because just last month, Bhutto condemned him for preventing her from holding a political rally at the very location where she was assassinated yesterday because he deemed it be unsafe. But he clearly knows that her supporters are too hysterical at the moment to appreciate his saying ‘I told you so….’

(The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, The iPINIONS Journal, December 28, 2007)

That said, it will come as no surprise to regular readers that of all the foreign dictators America coddled over the past 50 years, I found Musharraf most sympathetic.  Mind you, I cannot articulate any rational basis for this.  He just struck me at gut level as an honorable rogue.

Interestingly enough, my sympathies even led me to admonish him to abandon the fractious politics of Pakistan months before the Bhutto assassination in December 2007, which triggered his ignominious ouster in August 2008:

It would behoove Musharraf to follow the trail so many of his predecessors have blazed into exile. And, frankly, given the numerous assassination attempts on his life, it would be understandable if Musharraf decided that he’d be better off enjoying time in London, spending the millions he skimmed from U.S. military aid, than wasting time in Pakistan chasing Islamic terrorists.

(D-Day for America’s most-favored dictator…, The iPINIONS Journal, August 24, 2007)

So now it has come to this: but hell will freeze over before Musharraf subjects himself to the jurisdiction of Pakistani courts. And he will be aided in this by the fact that Pakistan does not have an extradition treaty with Britain. All of which lends credulity to my suspicion that this arrest warrant was issued more to keep him out of Pakistani politics than to prosecute him for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Related commentaries:
Crocodile tears in the west
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto
D-Day for America’s most-favored dictator

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