Killing buries truth in Pakistan
By Syed Fazl-e-Haider
KARACHI - The truth was buried on Saturday alongside the body of assassinated Pakistani prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali in his hometown in the Jhelum district of Punjab province. The Federal Investigation Agency's (FIA) special prosecutor had been investigating the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and was scheduled to submit a charge sheet against former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in the case when he was gunned down in Islamabad on the way to the hearing on May 3.
Gunmen on a motorcycle fired multiple bullets on Zulfiqar Ali, who received at least 17 bullet wounds. He was appointed as special prosecutor in the death of Bhutto four years ago. Since then he
had presented six charge sheets in the court and was to present a seventh. Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide attack during an election rally in Rawalpindi city in 2007.
Renowned human rights activist Asma Jahangir condemned the killing of the FIA prosecutor, deeming it a calculative move by hidden hands to target Zulfiqar Ali in order to stop him from performing his professional duties.
The assassination, which reports have linked to a militant group, came days after a court put former president Musharraf on a 14-day judicial remand over allegations that he was involved in a conspiracy to kill Benazir Bhutto. The court was to take up a bail application of the former military ruler. Zulfiqar was reportedly set to oppose a bail application on Friday.
In February 2011, Pakistan's anti-terrorism court had indicted Musharraf in the Bhutto's assassination case, while in August 2011, he was declared a proclaimed offender. Musharraf returned to Pakistan in March after nearly four years of self-imposed exile to contest the May 11 general elections. The slain prosecutor had reportedly compiled evidence connecting Musharraf with Bhutto's death.
The News in its editorial said,
Chaudhry's murder adds a new twist to the case which remains unsolved more than five years after the most popular politician of the country was assassinated at Rawalpindi's Liaquat Bagh through a huge blast and with bullets. A while back we saw a similar murder of Khalid Shahenshah in Clifton Karachi. Shahenshah was BB's [Benazir Bhutto's] main security guard.
It is astonishing that a government led by the party Benazir Bhutto headed made such limited efforts to discover what really happened, apart from making grand and expensive but purposeless moves like the so-called UN inquiry which led to nothing - and this nothing was, for whatever reasons, perhaps the goal. This lack of action has almost ensured that Benazir's murder may join the long list of mysteries that our political history is replete with.
The assassination of Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali may make it all the more likely that this will be the case. This incident is no doubt a personal tragedy for the victim's family and also for that of the female passerby who also died during the incident. But this death also goes beyond the personal and adds a new chapter to our history of many secrets seeped in blood. There are clearly persons who do not want the truth in this case to ever surface and wish to intimidate - even eliminate - those who are pursuing the case.
Besides Bhutto's murder, Zulfiqar Ali was dealing with high-profile cases including the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in which 166 people were killed. He had sensitive information and concrete evidence about the involvement of terrorist outfits in the cases.
Zulfiqar Ali was reportedly close to submitting final evidence against the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group in the Mumbai attacks. The police reportedly recovered a bag at the scene of his assassination containing an Italian gun and a pamphlet inscribed with a message from "Mujahideen-e-Islam", stating, "Howsoever acts against Islam would face same tumult."
He received 17 bullets where only one or two would have sufficed. But the militants, calling themselves the Mujahideen-i-Islami, who killed Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali succeeded in conveying their message loud and clear - they can strike at will, wherever and whenever they wished, irrespective of consequences and 'collateral damage' - in this case a pedestrian - ... The FIA official's killing also shows the failure of the intelligence system. The militants are way ahead of the state, for they knew Chaudhry Zulfiqar's routine and took precise aim when the car had slowed down to make a U-turn. Can the state be as thorough in its ways? Do the plethora of intelligence agencies we have know who these 'Mujahideen-i-Islami' are?
The killing of Zulfiqar Ali not only raises safety concerns among the investigators of high-profile cases but also sends a brutal message to the prospective investigators in such cases.
The Express Tribune in its editorial said,
The murder of Zulfiqar Ali decreases the possibility we will ever know the truth and this is extremely unfortunate. Other key persons in the case, including Benazir's security officer, have died before this latest incident. Indeed, the whole affair is beginning to, rather eerily, resemble the case involving the gunning down in Karachi in 1996 of Benazir's younger brother Mir Murtaza Bhutto. This, too, was followed by the killing of key witnesses and investigators ... No more curtains must be drawn to hide what really happened. Such acts only make matters worse, adding to uncertainty and the uncomfortable feeling that we live in a realm of darkness where much is kept hidden from the eyes of the citizens and the most drastic acts are carried out by unknown persons to prevent the truth from breaking through from behind this shield. Chaudhry Zulfiqar seems to have become the latest victim of these forces.
The assassination of an officer investigating high-profile and sensitive cases is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan. Kamran Faisal, who was investigating the 22 billion rupee (US$224 million) Rental Power Projects (RPP) scam involving former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, was found dead in his official residence in Islamabad on January 18 in mysterious circumstances. Faisal, an assistant director of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), was found hanging from a ceiling fan a day after the NAB chief told the Supreme Court that it did not have enough evidence to arrest Ashraf, after the court on January 15 had issued the order to arrest him.
Syed Fazl-e-Haider ( www.syedfazlehaider.com ) is a development analyst in Pakistan. He is the author of many books, including The Economic Development of Balochistan, published in May 2004. E-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
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