The Express Tribune reports
Only a day after the PPP decided to move against Musharraf and others mentioned in the UN report, media reports suggested that the government wanted to initiate a criminal case against Nadeem Ijaz and former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Ijaz Shah.
But the same day Army chief Ashfaq Pervaz Kayani met with President Asif Ali Zardari and Gilani. Though little details of the meeting were made available to the media, experts believe the meeting was linked with the development. They believe the powerful military would never allow anybody to embarrass any of its attached agencies.
So Gillani responded to General Kayani’s chastisement by coming up with the 3-member committee that will determine within 7 days whether or not ex DG MI Naedeem Ijaz Ahmed was involved in the order to hose down the crime scene.
Secretary Cabinet Division Abdul Rauf Chaudhry will head the committee, comprising two civilian and one military official. The other members are Maj-Gen Sajjad Ghani, the Vice Chief of General Staff, and Fayyaz Tooru, the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Peshawar.
This reminds me of the events leading to the dismissal of Muhammad Khan Junejo’s goverment by Zia in 1988. At the time, due mainly to Junejo’s bold stance on the matter, two separate reports had been commissioned on the Ojhri Camp explosion. The first was by a military committee headed by a serving general and the second was by a parliamentary committee (note the ever-present “parallel investigation” mentioned by the UN report) Like the probe on Benazir Bhutto’s murder, the work of this committee was controversial and inconclusive:
Controversy surrounded the findings of this committee. The members could not reach a consensus on who was responsible for the Ojhri tragedy. In his remarks, the head of the committee, Aslam Khattak concluded, “No one was responsible. It was an act of Allah.”
However, the minister of state for defence, Rana Naeem Mehmood, a hawk in the Junejo cabinet and a die hard proponent of democracy, prepared a non paper which was signed by three of the five members of the political inquiry committee. The paper recommended the court martial of senior Generals and laid the blame on General Akhtar Abdul Rehman. “Many believe that this paper cost Junejo his government,” reports The News.
The Junejo government was dismissed before the parliamentary committee could even conclude its report, although the military committee had already submitted its report to the President.
According to one of the members of the committee, Rana Naeem Ahmed, who claimed that the ISI had physically seized the report from his office the day after the government’s dismissal, the report – like the UN report on Benazir’s murder – was ostensibly inconclusive but created a strong case for Gen Akhtar Abdul Rehman, the then chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, being directly responsible for the incident.
Years later, Musharraf was said to have refused to make the contents of the report public because it contained information “against the national interest”.
Returning to the present situation, it seems that the Prime Minister – by appointing senior bureaucrats and a recently promoted senior military official to this committee – has displayed far less courage than a Prime Minister who was considered to be a powerless dummy.
There is a very slim chance that the military will allow Nadeem Ijaz Ahmed to be the fall guy for this report in order to save the army, as an institution, from blame. But to be honest, I considered that the military’s back up plan if there was any sort of pressure on it. Since the PPP has not exerted much pressure regarding the pursuit of serving military officials named in the report, the army will be under no compulsion to pick any scapegoats from within its ranks.
Anyway, according to Dawn:
Informed sources told Dawn that soon after the release of the UN Commission’s report on Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, senior army officials had asked the prime minister to form a high-level committee to dig out the truth behind the erasure of potential evidence.
“As the naming of a senior military official in the report was something embarrassing for the top army command, it sought formation of a body to determine if the former DG MI had a role in the episode or not,” they said.
It will be a rare case of probe into the possible role of a senior military officer in a crime.
So this committee can be interpreted as either the army pre-empting any possible investigations into Nadeem Ijaz Ahmed (sort of like CJ’s suo moto over the Swat flogging case which quickly concluded that the video was a fake) or deciding, of its own volition to offer Nadeem Ijaz Ahmed up as a scapegoat In either case, it’s the army and not the PPP that decides what happens from now onwards.