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Ban announces UN commission on Benazir’s murder

Can we hope to see criminals such as Hamid Gul, Baitullah Mehsud and other supporters/leaders of Taliban and Al Qaeda soon in a court of law?

Ban announces UN commission on Benazir’s murder

* Chile’s UN Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz to head the three-member body
* Presidential spokesman says Pakistan will only pay seed money, rest will be contributed by other countries

ISLAMABAD: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday announced the establishment of an independent commission to probe the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

“I intend to establish an independent commission of inquiry to be headed by a distinguished person who will be appointed very shortly,” he said while speaking at a dinner reception hosted by President Asif Ali Zardari.

The state-run APP news agency reported later on Wednesday that Chile’s UN Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz would head the three-member commission. It said Indonesia’s Marzuki Dar Usman will be a member of the commission, but no decision has been made on its third member, likely to belong to Sweden or Norway.

Earlier, talking to reporters at the Prime Minister’s House, the secretary general had said he would soon make an important announcement on the Benazir assassination probe.

Farhatullah Babar, the spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari, told Daily Times that a framework of the commission was being finalised.

He said Pakistan had offered to pay all the expenses on the probe, but the UN asked Islamabad to pay only the seed money adding it would ask other countries to contribute to the probe.

He said it was not clear how much Pakistan would have to pay.

“The people of Pakistan hope that this commission will determine the facts and circumstances of assassination of the former prime minister, and that the findings of the commission will lead to eventually exposing the financers, perpetrators, organisers, sponsors and conspirators of the terrorist act and bring them to justice,” he said.

President Zardari said at the dinner earlier that long-standing disputes continue to threaten global peace, adding that the Jammu and Kashmir issue had been pending on the agenda of the UN for the last six decades. “Pakistan is determined to resolve the issue through dialogue taking into account aspirations of the Kashmiri people,” he said. irfan ghauri/app (Daily Times)

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Zardari welcomes formation of commission

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has welcomed United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s announcement of setting up a commission to probe Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Addressing a dinner reception for Ban, he assured the UN of full cooperation by Pakistani authorities. “The commission will have complete freedom to access documentary material and physical evidence and to interview any individual whose testimony would be necessary for fulfilling mandate,” he said. staff report (Daily Times)

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UN Commission on BB’s assassination

Contrary to the analysis of many, the UN Commission on the assassination of the PPP leader Ms Benazir Bhutto will finally come into being. The visiting United Nations Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, announced on Wednesday that he was in the process of setting up the Commission comprising three members of repute from Chile, Indonesia and possibly from one of the Scandinavian countries. The framework of what and how the Commission will investigate is yet to be settled. A PPP spokesman says that the “findings of the commission will lead to eventually exposing the financers, perpetrators, organisers, sponsors and conspirators of the terrorist act and bring them to justice”.

President Asif Ali Zardari says: “The commission will have complete freedom to access documentary material and physical evidence and to interview any individual whose testimony would be necessary for fulfilling its mandate”. This will be the key question in the days to come. Will the government of Pakistan be able to make all institutions of the state open up to investigation by the Commission?

The UN, by taking the decision to go ahead with the setting up of the Commission, has broken new ground: it has allowed an international investigative instrument into the sovereign domain of a state on the government’s own request. For most analysts the question that arose was: if Pakistan is sovereign, why should the UN come and find out who murdered a former prime minister? Will not such a probe prove that Pakistan’s institutions are not under sovereign control and therefore Pakistan cannot do its own investigation without the government appearing to be partisan in the eyes of a divided national polity?

Most experts compared the case to the one relating to the killing of Lebanon’s former prime minister Mr Rafik Hariri in 2005 — a foreign secretary had to leave because he disagreed with the decision to invite the UN to investigate — and saw inconsistencies. They thought the UN General Secretary could not accede to Pakistan’s request without a vote in the UN Security Council and that Pakistan could not be compared to strife-torn Lebanon where the state’s sovereignty was fragmented. They also pointed to the designation in the Hariri case of an outside suspect in the neighbouring state of Syria who had controlled Lebanon in the past through troops stationed on Lebanese soil. Although the PPP had voiced its suspicion that the assassination in Rawalpindi could have been planned abroad, it had not nominated the external killer.

Finally, was it enough for the UN that Pakistan had pointed to an external killer without a UN Security Council mandate? Getting the UN in was seen as internationalising a case that had to be dealt with by Pakistan within Pakistan. The experts asked if an external probe would not subordinate Pakistan’s national institutions to external trespass and violate areas of information sealed to scrutiny on the basis of national security?

It now develops that the Friends of Pakistan, led by the United States, have agreed to partly fund the UN probe aimed at prying open areas of inquiry that an internally fractured state is unable to approach freely. In a way, Pakistan has thus finally been equated with a fractured and divided Lebanon, and the PPP is clearly interested in seeing where the tracks lead “inside” Pakistan rather than anywhere outside. Once the Commission gets going, the government’s guarantee that all institutions would be open to questioning will be put to the test. The Commission may finally not get anywhere, but unlike many of Pakistan’s own commissions in the past, the world will know where inside the machinery of the state people are unwilling to answer questions. Finding that out will help the international community determine the nature of terrorism incubating in Pakistan and threatening the outside world. Since that is problem number one for Pakistan, we support this initiative by the PPP government to unravel the murder of Benazir Bhutto.