It has now been nearly three weeks since Murtaza Bhutto was murdered by the Sindh police. Yet much confusion persists over key questions regarding the case. It is almost as if the government either doesn’t want to unearth the truth or is deliberately trying to create obstacles in the path of the investigations or is conspiring to move the spotlight away from itself and point it at certain other quarters. Consider the circumstantial evidence in support of such perceptions.
1. Following the murder, the Sindh government announced that three judges of the Sindh High Court would undertake a judicial enquiry into the affair. But before the enquiry could kick off, the prime minister gave a statement in Larkana absolving a key police officer, SSP Wajid Durrani, of any involvement in the murder. Mr Durrani is reported to have been handpicked by Mr Asif Zardari for the slot of the SSP, South Karachi, some time ago.
2. Some days ago, the Sindh government said it had asked the Chief Justice of Pakistan to nominate a judge of the Supreme Court to chair its judicial tribunal. Now we understand that this cannot be done unless the federal law ministry formally asks the Supreme Court to do the needful. Since the law ministry has done no such thing to date, it appears that the Sindh government was only interested in deriving some propaganda mileage out of its press statement.
3. Two FIRs are said to have been lodged in the days immediately following the murder. The one by the police party which committed the murder claims that it acted in self-defence when Murtaza’s guards opened fire on it. The other is by Murtaza’s secretary who survived the shootout and is now in police custody away from the scrutiny of the press. We don’t know what it says but we can be pretty sure that it corroborates the police’s version of the affair. However, in a most suspicious development, the police did not allow Mrs Ghinwa Bhutto, Murtaza’s wife, to lodge an FIR. The widow has now petitioned the Sindh High Court to force the police to accede to her demand.
4. Following the murder, the Sindh government was expected to seal the record of the incident so that it could not be tampered with. This was not done. It was also expected to take key police officials involved in the shoot-out into protective custody. But this too did not happen. SHO Haq Nawaz Sial, who said he had sustained a bullet injury, was a key witness who should have been protected at all times. But he wasn’t. Indeed, when it later transpired that he had actually faked the injury (a medical board said it was a self-inflicted knife wound) he should have been arrested as a key suspect. But he wasn’t. Soon thereafter, the police announced that Sial had committed suicide even though his wife and son have gone hoarse claiming that he was murdered by two masked men who scaled the walls of his house as he lay asleep in his bedroom, unguarded by anyone.
5. The prime minister said in Larkana a day after the shoot-out that the murder of Murtaza Bhutto was part of a conspiracy by Ziaist elements to eliminate the Bhuttos. Later in Islamabad, she pointed a finger at the Aiwan i Sadr which, she alleged, had become a nest of conspirators. This was followed by a wall-chalking campaign in Lahore, undertaken at the behest of the PM’s house in Islamabad, which said that “Leghari was Murtaza’s killer”. Now we are told by important inmates of the PM’s house that a khaki agency plotted Murtaza’s murder. Also, there are reports that a dastardly whispering campaign has been launched by supporters of Ms Bhutto in Sindh pointing the finger at the khakis.
While the Presidency and GHQ are quite capable of countering this vicious onslaught on their integrity, we cannot help but note the desperate strain in the statements and remarks of the prime minister and her close associates. Instead of facilitating the enquiry in established and transparent legal ways, it appears they are going out of their way to hide the truth or lay the guilt at someone else’s door.
This would suggest that some sort of devious strategy has been chalked out in Islamabad whereby efforts will be made to counter and denigrate the important issues — independence of the judiciary, corruption in political and bureaucratic circles, reckless economic management and dismal law and order — raised by President Leghari with Prime Minister Bhutto recently. By trying to tar the presidency and the army with the brush of Murtaza’s murder, is the prime minister hoping to undermine the credibility and authenticity of the far-reaching issues they have raised with her and which they expect her to resolve quickly? Is the prime minister preparing the ground for some sort of deceitful defense in the event she is ousted from office in the near future?
The prime minister should stop playing such dangerous games. They could hasten her departure instead of giving her a reprieve.