January 2, 2008

Musharraf Goes International On Bhutto Investigation

Apparently bowing to some harsh political realities, Pervez Musharraf has reversed course and allowed for an international investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The move comes hours after the Musharraf government apologized for its "official" version of events and acknowledged that Bhutto died from gunshot wounds in the assassination. Scotland Yard will come to Pakistan to conduct its own probe into the murder of dozens, including Bhutto:

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Wednesday that he had requested a team of investigators from Britain's Scotland Yard to assist in the investigation into the killing of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

"We decided to request a team from Scotland Yard to come. I sent the request to (British) Prime Minister (Gordon) Brown, and he accepted the request," Musharraf said, adding that the British team would assist local investigators.

"We would like to know what were the reasons that led to the martyrdom of Benazir Bhutto. I would also like to look into it," Musharraf said in a nationally televised address.

The speech intended to calm the anger and vitriol that has led to the deaths of dozens more in rioting against the Musharraf government over the last week. It was the first time Musharraf had addressed the Pakistani nation since Bhutto's assassination, and clearly he needed to build some credibility with his people. The wildly changing stories in the first few days after the events in Rawalpindi had shaken his regime to its base and left Musharraf's international partners with few choices but to put distance between themselves and the controversial leader.

Will this work? The Pakistanis will no doubt question how much access Scotland Yard will get in their investigation. Musharraf cast their role as assistants, which means that they may only have restricted access to the evidence and the witnesses. However, a half-baked international investigation may harm Musharraf more than it helps. If the British return home and start talking about lack of cooperation and an opaque process, Musharraf's international standing may get worse rather than better.

In the short run, it should help quell the violence in the streets. However, people will watch closely over the next seven weeks, when the delayed parliamentary elections will be held. The decision to acquiesce to global demands for an independent probe, even in a limited fashion, represents a serious change of heart for Musharraf and an indication of how badly Bhutto's assassination and his government's response has damaged him. If he really had nothing to do with the assassination, this is his only chance to convince anyone.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Please note that unverified Disqus users will have comments held in moderation. Please visit Disqus to register and verify your account. Comments from verified users will appear immediately.