UN Report on Bhutto Assassination May Actually Do Some Good

Pakistan’s all-powerful establishment has received a recent setback with the publication of the UN report on the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Some may wonder why the world should be interested in the publication of a report which does not point out the real assassin. However, the importance of the UN report lies in the fact that it indicts Pakistan’s establishment. Pakistan has a history of political assassinations over the years, starting with first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and continuing through the years. Unfortunately, none of these assassinations have ever received proper investigation, and Pakistan’s omnipotent establishment has never been held accountable for its actions and operates without fear.

A saying regarding the former German kingdom of Prussia noted that the Prussian state did not have an army, rather the Prussian army had a state. Many analysts have applied this saying to Pakistan as well. The Pakistani establishment has ruled the state for decades, sometimes behind the scenes and sometimes from the front. No civilian government has ever been able to challenge this establishment.

What comprises the Pakistani establishment? The UN report identifies “the de facto power structure that has as its permanent core the military high command and intelligence agencies, in particular, the powerful, military-run Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as well as Military Intelligence (MI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB).”

For the last two years analysts and writers alike have referred to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government in Pakistan as a "weak civilian government." The government attempted to seize the initiative on a couple of fronts -- for example, trying to bring the head of Pakistan’s intelligence services, ISI, under civilian control. The attempt failed. Most analysts have been writing off the civilian government. Conservative critics are claiming that President Zardari and the PPP-led government are too keen to build ties with Pakistan’s "so-called enemies" like India. And left-wing critics think President Zardari and the PPP have strayed from the left-wing ideology of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The UN report actually shows that the government -- and especially President Asif Ali Zardari -- is not as weak as it might seem. President Zardari may have proven smarter than most people think. Knowing that he could not openly challenge the establishment, President Zardari allowed a report by the United Nations to speak for him.