Musharraf’s Watergate? Physicians Coerced by Military; Nawaz: Musharraf Must Go

It looks increasingly as though someone in the military government in Pakistan may have been somehow complicit in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

An attorney for the physicians who put out the story that Ms. Bhutto died of a concussion went to CNN on Monday and said that his clients were pressured by the military. They appear not to have actually agreed with the concussion story, and felt coerced but could not speak out because they had been threatened with being fired if they did.

So what we can conclude is that elements in the Pakistani military forced government physicians to deny that Bhutto was shot. But newly surfaced videotape shows conclusively that she slumped after shots rang out; and she did not throw her head back against the sun roof lever as the physicians were coerced into maintaining.

So, why did these military elements make the physicians file a false report? About that we can only speculate. But it should be noted that lying about a crime is usually a sign of guilt. If the military was completely uninvolved, why should it care how she died?

You could construct a speculative scenario in which the shooter used a standard army issue revolver (I’m not a hardware guy, but I think that would be a .38) because he saw a target of opportunity, but that Plan A had been to detonate a belt bomb. If he used a service revolver, that would raise the question of who gave it to him and why. What if the bullet were found, say at the crime scene? If Benazir were not struck by a bullet, then the army could always maintain that it was fired by a soldier on the scene in the midst of the chaos, and was aimed at the perpetrators. But if she was killed by the army bullet, then it could not be explained away. (In fact, the bullet has not been found, but someone may have been afraid it would be).

Motive? Well, the military’s suspicions of her would have been rather heightened in mid-November when she reacted heatedly to then Gen. Musharraf’s declaration of a state of emergency:

‘“It is time for him to go. He must quit as President,” she said as police detained dozens more of her supporters on the tenth day of a state of emergency. “There are no circumstances in which I could see myself serving with General Musharraf.” ‘

She later reconsidered, but there are some things you cannot take back. For instance, say you threatened a Mafia don that you would pull his guts up through his nose. Then later you said you didn’t really mean it.

The government stonewalling on the issue of an autopsy and the coercion of government employees to toe a pre-determined line, smells to high heaven of complicity. It could be incompetence or stupidity, of course. And the Pakistani military is not all one thing. There is the Inter-Services Intelligence, some members of whom have long ties to Muslim militants. There is the officer corps, etc.

Three further notes: The Pakistan People’s Party members and other opponents of Musharraf already were thinking like this before circumstantial evidence emerged that made it even more plausible. I fear their conviction will now be unshakeable, which does not bode well for social peace. It would be a feud.

Second, the physicians would not have had their lawyer speak out about their having been coerced by the military if they thought that Musharraf was likely to continue in office. That is, they have made a bet on a PPP prime minister and are more afraid of being punished by the new government than they are of being punished by the old one. Do they think the old one is about to be overthrown?

And, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, head of the Muslim League (N), called Monday for Musharraf to resign, saying of him, “He is a one-man calamity and the source of all the problems. The country is burning.”


PS McClatchy says Benazir was about to go public with charges that the Inter-Services Intelligence had intended to fix the elections in favor of Pervez Musharraf.

PPS A kind reader pointed out that the Pakistani military had taken over security for Benazir’s appearance at Liaqat Bagh, raising questions about how a gunmen and bomber got through.

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