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The good general’s latest outburst

If the one-time enemy combatant is privy to intelligence from his timeat the top  then he should come back and dish the dirt before the ATC

By Miranda Husain

Gen (rtd) Musharraf, it seems, has something in common with a certain American singer who, in her heyday, mused at the futility of a life off-camera. For the former military strongman certainly only appears to recall the truth when recasting himself in the role of talking head.

Yet this time, he really has outdone himself.

Asif Ali Zardari was behind the murders of Benazir Bhutto and her brother Murtaza. Not only that – the former civilian president was working in cahoots with both the late Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud and quite possibly former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his intelligence services. And to think it was poor Karzai that the Americans found delusional.

Thus the plot thickens.

Except that it doesn’t.

For not one iota of evidence does the one-time enemy combatant provide. Admittedly, being the COAS at the time of Benazir’s assassination would likely make him privy to certain classified intelligence. Which, if we are to play along with this latest charade, begs the question: why, then, not come back to face a closed-camera trial and dish the dirt before the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC)?

If Musharraf had to go down this path in a concerted effort to deflect attention from the murder charges that the courts last month handed down in the Benazir assassination case – it might have been more prudent to have dropped this ‘bombshell’ back then. Instead of the risky gamble he took whereby he reminded Trump – who at the time had likely been busy rolling up his sleeves as he painstakingly penned by his own hand his carefully crafted address to the UN in which he threatened to, like, totally destroy Pyongyang – that Pakistan had sold nuclear secrets to the North Korean Rocket Man. Not to mention two other axis-of-evil alumni, Iran and Libya.

Musharraf would do well to keep one thing in mind. Back in 2007, the year that Benazir returned to the country, a US intelligence report said for the first time that Al Qaeda was in Pakistan. Which naturally raises questions as to who really was responsible for Benazir’s murder?

Fortunately for this country  it seemed that no one was really listening. The whole world had heard it all before.

This is not to say that the latest Musharraf attempt to secure the limelight might not be borne of a genuine caring and sharing sensibility that comes with doffing the hardman uniform. After all, he will always be a man who cherishes the institution that brought him to power and that kept him there for just under a decade. And he likely thinks that he is helping at a time when Pakistan has arrived at a critical juncture regarding its anti-terror record. Meaning that while PM Abbasi was at the UN asserting that he would never let his country be scape-goated by the usual suspects for the military and political stalemate across the western border in Afghanistan – Musharraf was pushing the point home that he, personally, would fight to the bitter end to ensure that our men in khaki would forever be vindicated. And that he would not allow an Afghan war to be fought on Pakistan soil. Quite possibly someone leaked to him the PM’s speech. After all, he may still have friends in high places even with the odious Blair out of Downing Street.

Yet what this does suggest is this: the game is up. Our media is out of control. It strengthens not the democratic process when a former head of state wanted for murder is allowed to regularly pop up to offer sound bites and more. When, that is, he isn’t hosting his own talk show from abroad. He won’t come back to face the music but PEMRA is happy to let him be white noise. Unless, of course, the media regulator considers gagging him tantamount to tarnishing the Army’s image. And in other words sees him as the latter’s ultimate reformed asset. Whatever the case may be the media is playing a dangerous game. For it is interfering yet again in the tenets of a free and fair trial. Just as it did over the summer when Nawaz Sharif was on trial for corruption.

Yet Musharraf would do well to keep one thing in mind. One of these days, one of his attention-grabbing outbursts might just land Pakistan in hot water. For back in 2007, the year that Benazir returned to the country, the US National Intelligence Estimate report said for the first time that Al Qaeda was in Pakistan – the federal capital, no less – and not just in Afghanistan and Iraq. Which naturally raises uncomfortable questions as to who really was responsible for Benazir’s murder?

 (The writer is the Deputy Managing Editor, Daily Times).

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