Farahnaz Ispahani’s interview to “The voice of Russia”

Former Dictator General Pervez Musharraf indicted in Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s murder case

Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf has been indicted on three charges over the 2007 assassination of the country’s opposition leader and Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Prosecutors say that he is accused of murder, criminal conspiracy to murder and facilitation of murder. The offence carries the death penalty or life imprisonment. Ms. Farahnaz Ispahani, a Pakistani politician and Public Policy Scholar for Woodrow Wilson Center from Washington DC, comments.

First of all, Musharraf has been indicted on three charges, as we know, over the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007. The offence carries the death penalty or life imprisonment. What do you think the verdict will be, is there any general opinion about it?

Absolutely I do not want to go into the matter of the case and what will probably result because that is left to the court at this point. What is very clear to all Pakistanis today is that this first step is a good thing as it is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a coup-making general has to answer charges in a court of law. As to the specifics of the case at this point, as I said, we cannot comment because it is subjective and we will have to watch and wait for that.

The indictment of Musharraf is actually an unprecedented event, as you said, it’s a step forward. At the same time the military have big authority in the country. So can you say that this decision is actually supported by most people or do they think that this is sort of a blow to the tradition of Pakistan and to the military who are highly respected in the country?

We have two things unclear right now. One is the history of Pakistan’s judiciary. Pakistan’s judiciary has not always stood with the democrats, as in the case of Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s father, Prime Minister and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He was in fact condemned to death by judicial action of the court of Pakistan. It was what we call a ‘judicial murder’. So very often we have seen the judiciary aligning itself with the military and the establishment against democrats. As to the Pakistan military and military operators, we have yet to see, they have allowed this case to come so far that whether they will be meddling or going forward – again we’ll have to wait and see soon. Right now this case of this indictment of General Musharraf is going to be very important for Pakistan’s future, going forward, as to whether the judiciary and the military stay out of politics and do not play politics with this case and go forward on the evidence.

How would you explain that although you said that the judiciary and the military were together all the time, how would you explain the fact that this time it seems different, they are making independent decisions?

Well, this is the problem. One of the things that neither my party, the Pakistan People’s Party, which was Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s party, what we don’t want to happen right now is that the judiciary, the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Justice were removed by General Musharraf and Mr. Nawaz Sharif who is the prime minister right now was also removed by General Musharraf. We do not want politics played at the expense of the truth in this case. The case has to go forward. We feel that there will be vindication for Pakistan, democrats in Pakistan and members of Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s family’s party but this case must not become a revenge mechanism for the judiciary and Mr. Nawaz Sharif against Pervez Musharraf because that will devalue the case.

Given what you’ve just said, maybe the death penalty will anyway be perceived as revenge. Is it better for the political development of the country to have life imprisonment as a sentence?

At the moment both are the possibilities. In our former government under President Zardari and Prime Minister Gillani, we did not put a single political person or any person to death because President Zardari did not believe in the death penalty. But since Mr. Nawaz Sharif has taken over it seems that he is going to get the death penalty exercised. So we will have to see going forward whether the death penalty option is one that is exercised. But as we always say, democracy is the best revenge, we are not looking for blood but we are looking for justice to be done. And if you look at the United Nations Commission reports, what we’ve done on this, the assassination of Ms. Benazir Bhutto, it was clear that Mr. Musharraf was if not directly complicit he was complicit in certain ways, including the fact that he did not allow Ms. Bhutto the level of security that was due to her as a former prime minister and one who stood up against Muslim extremists and the Taliban.

Link to the original interview and Audio File & Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/2013_08_21/First-time-in-Pakistans-history-coup-making-general-has-to-answer-charges-interview-4116/?from=menu

Written by Farahnaz Ispahani

Farahnaz Ispahani is a Global Fellow, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC. She is the author of the recently published book "Purifying the Land of the Pure: The History of Pakistan's Religious Minorities. Oxford University Press, 2017. Ms. Farahnaz Ispahani has been a leading voice for women and religious minorities in Pakistan for the past twenty five years, first as a journalist, then as a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, and most recently as a scholar based in the United States. An advocate of Pakistan’s return to democracy during the military regime of Pervez Musharraf, she served as a spokesperson and international media coordinator for the Pakistan People’s Party, working alongside the late Benazir Bhutto. During her tenure in parliament (2008–2012), she was a member of the Human Rights Committee and the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus. In 2013–2014, she served as a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where she completed a book on the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan. In 2012, she was listed among Foreign Policy magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers, as well as Newsweek Pakistan’s Top 100 Women Who Matter. During her fellowship, Ms. Ispahani is exploring women’s political participation in the Muslim world, both in terms of their progress toward gender equality under democratic systems and the converse rise of women as agents of extremist propaganda within the world of the Islamic State. FARAHNAZ ISPAHANI is Senior Fellow, South and South East Asia Action Team at Religious Freedom Institute also.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s