Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 5:24 AM

Musharraf, Former Pakistani President and Army Chief, Charged with Bhutto Assassination

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

It would be an understatement to say that Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former president and army chief, is experiencing a fall from grace worse than that of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s former president and army chief. Especially given that while Egyptian authorities are now scheming to set Mubarak free, Pakistani authorities are scheming to imprison Musharraf for life; that is, if they don’t execute him.

images-3I should disclose here that, even though he was a certifiable despot and megalomaniac, I have a soft spot for Musharraf; admittedly, for many of the same reasons TV viewers have a soft spot for Tony Soprano. More important, though, I do not think he had anything to do with the assassination in 2007 of Benazir Bhutto, the globally acclaimed first female prime minister of Pakistan.

Unfortunately, this murder charge might be the least of those that will seal his fate. For the irony cannot be lost even on Musharraf that the man he deposed in 1999, Nawaz Sharif, now heads the government that is also charging him with treason for attempting to purge and stack the judiciary – by appointing judges and prosecutors who share his political ideology. On this charge, I fear, he is probably guilty. It might be helpful to know, however, that presidents of the United States do this (i.e., attempt to stack the judiciary) as a matter of course….

But he faces another murder charge in relation to the death of a Pakistani nationalist leader; and seems likely to be indicted on other charges stemming from his iron-fisted, nine-year rule.

images-2Musharraf has been under house arrest ever since his ill-advised and utterly incomprehensible return in March after nearly four years in exile. I am convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that, with a Pakistani judiciary now hell-bent on vengeance, he will never be free again….

As an indication of my antic fondness for him (or in homage to his leadership), here are excerpts from just some of the commentaries I’ve written over the years, which should also suffice to put his current predicament into context.

  • “Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf: A Friend In Need Who’s a Friend Indeed,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 7, 2007:

In which I hailed the fact that Musharraf risked being called a traitor by fellow Pakistanis and becoming a target for assassination by Taliban insurgents for making such a public show of his intent to help the United States hunt down Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda terrorists. (Never mind what it says about his effectiveness given later revelations that bin Laden was hiding out right in Musharraf’s back yard when he was boasting about this anti-terror common cause….)

  • “Day of Reckoning for America’s Most-Favored Dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 24, 2007:

In which I warned that the Supreme Court’s decision to defy his wishes – by paving the way for his nemesis Sharif to return from exile, without fear of arrest – was a foreshadowing of things to come, which prompted me to urge him to flee. I noted specifically that:

Bush and Musharraf are acutely aware that Musharraf does not stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning a free and fair election in Pakistan. And nothing assured them of his ignominious defeat quite like yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to allow the man he deposed, the exiled Sharif, to return home, without prejudice…

If Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League were to win, they might well brand Musharraf a traitor and Bush himself a terrorist.

In which case, 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.

  • “Crocodile Tears in West as Musharraf Imposes Martial Law,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 5, 2007:

In which I decried Musharraf’s decision to defy Bush and other Western leaders by imposing martial law, suspending the constitution, replacing the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and postponing parliamentary elections, indefinitely, all in a vain attempt to forestall democratic efforts to outs him.

But I also noted this ironic, if not fateful, potential consequence of his dictatorial decrees:

Bhutto must be acutely aware that, but for Musharraf’s military regime, al-Qaeda sympathizers would probably have little difficulty perfecting their attempts to assassinate her. And, no doubt this fact is fresh in her mind – given the attempt they bungled so spectacularly on October 18 as she was parading through one million Pakistanis who were celebrating her triumphal return after eight years in exile…

Whatever the case, there’s no denying that both Musharraf and Bhutto will enjoy far greater personal safety in a Pakistan under martial law than in one where the free movement and association of would-be assassins – who want to kill him as much as they want to kill her – remained unchecked.

  • Unknown-3‘The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto: a Rendezvous with Destiny,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 28, 2007:

In which I reasoned that, by imposing martial law, he basically assumed responsibility for Bhutto’s fate. Accordingly:

Bhutto’s avenging supporters are blaming President Pervez Musharraf for her death. Not least because Bhutto repeatedly warned that if (or when) she’s assassinated, her blood would be on his hand…

Never mind that Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders had issued a practically unpreventable fatwa against her simply because they consider it a religious abomination for a woman to hold political office, let alone lead a Muslim country; or that there were countless other factions in Pakistan lying in wait to assassinate her…

But 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….’

In this same commentary, I added crucially, however, that:

The irony is not lost on me that had Musharraf not caved in to Bhutto’s demand to lift the state of emergency on December 15, she would probably still be alive today.

  • “Musharraf  Suffers Humiliating Blow at the Polls,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 21, 2008:

In which, well, I warned it would be thus. (See above in “Day of Reckoning….”)

  • “President Pervez Musharraf Forced to Resign,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 18, 2008:

In which I bemoaned the way he compounded his humiliation at the polls by refusing to bow out gracefully, voluntarily, immediately:

What is most noteworthy about this development is the self-evident fact that the only advice Musharraf heeded came from the White House in July after President George W. Bush’s first meeting with Pakistan’s new prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani.

I have no doubt that Musharraf began packing his bags when Bush, his indispensable political patron, welcomed Gilani with open arms…

Enjoy London Pervez!

And alas, finally:

  • “Musharraf Facing Arrest in Pakistan,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 13, 2013:

In which I wondered why he could not have left well enough alone:

By all accounts, he was living quite comfortably between London and Dubai and traveling the world to regale anyone who would listen with stories about why Pakistan would be a much more stable and reliable friend of the West today if he were still in charge. Of course, he was always at a loss to explain why Osama bin Laden was invited to set up a rather ostentatious haven in Pakistan, right in a military town no less, while he was still in charge.  But I digress….

Imagine my consternation, therefore, when I read that he returned last month to enter the fractious politics of Pakistan, pinning clearly delusional hope on being elected president.

So here we are.

Related commentaries:
A friend in need
Day of reckoning for America’s most-favored dictator?…
Musharraf impose martial law
Assassination of Benazir Bhutto
Musharraf suffers
Forced to resign…
Arrest warrant for Musharraf

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