Getting Away With Murder


Getting Away With Murder –
Benazir Bhutto’s Assassination and the Politics of Pakistan
By Heraldo Munoz
Norton & Company – £20.00

          ”I’ll only protect you if you’re nice to me,” Musharraf allegedly told Bhutto               before she returned to Pakistan from her self-imposed exile, according to                 Ambassador Hussain Haqqani.

To say that Pakistan is a volatile place, would, in most quarters, undoubtedly be considered something of a colossal understatement. One need only think of last month’s appalling terrorist attack in the north-western city of Peshawar – where the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) murdered 145 people (of whom 132 were school children) at an Army Public School – to remind ourselves that there unfortunately appears to be no end in sight, to such reckless and ridiculous, unfathomable carnage.

Then again, one need only read the overtly considered and meticulously well researched, Getting Away With Murder – Benazir Bhutto’s Assassination and the Politics of Pakistan, to be reminded of the country’s sickening and dire escalation of territorial terrorism.

Written by Heraldo Munoz (whose previous books include A Solitary War and the award-winning The Dictator’s Shadow), this book’s nine chapters convey all that is currently wrong with the country. And it does so in such a profoundly coherent and honest manner, that one cannot help but wonder if Pakistan will ever find its way (again). For just like Israel, Pakistan is so wrapped up within a relentless trajectory of tortuous turmoil – a great deal of which is self exasperated, admittedly – that a political, let alone a coherent solution, seems almost impossible.

Might this be due to the country’s seemingly loaded, powder-keg of a relationship with the United States? A relationship which again, just like Israel, more than irks its immediate neighbours to say the least. Or might this be due to the political nature of Pakistan’s high-octane, dense religious dogma? So much of which is regularly distorted way beyond the realm of any realistic understanding whatsoever – by the both the Afghan as well as the Pakistan Taliban might I add. Hence the aforementioned TTP’s terrorist attack in Peshawar.

Along with the horribly futile assassination of the book’s prime protagonist, Munoz addresses all the above issues by way of cool headed investigation and clear cut clarity. All of which is substantiated by countless hours of dialogue with many of the key players.

A succinct synopsis of which is clearly brought to bear in chapter eight. Simply entitled ‘Whodunit?,’ Munoz sums the whole sticky situation up by way of writing: ”Al-Qaida gave the order; the Pakistan Taliban executed the attack, possibly backed or at least encouraged by elements of the Establishment; the Musharraf government facilitated the crime by not providing her with adequate security; local senior policemen attempted a cover-up; Benazir’s lead security team failed to properly safeguard her; and most Pakistani political actors would rather turn the page than continue investigating who was behind the assassination.”

Along with trying to fathom who was ultimately responsible for Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, the author also outlines the event’s lasting, all prevailing negative consequences; in particular, US-Pakistan relations.

Might it be said that so much of the driving force behind Pakistan’s bilateral relations with the United States, is its inexorable stand-off with that of its immediate neighbour, India. As a result and as is probably well known, Pakistan has for years, aligned itself with anti-communist Western ideology in exchange for that of a powerful ally and regular military hardware. While in exchange, the US has continued to overlook Pakistan’s ever growing nuclear arsenal and human rights abuses; particularly those committed in Kashmir.

A grotesque situation if ever there was one.

Very pertinent and very readable, Getting Away With Murder places a lot of Pakistan’s tempestuous thorny issues into translucent perspective. By way of being predominantly non-judgemental, Munoz is frustratingly resigned to the fact that Bhutto’s murder could forever be mired in conspiracy and cover up: ”It may well be that Benazir Bhutto’s assassination will be another unresolved case in the long history of impunity in Pakistan and that the controversy surrounding her assassination will endure as much as her memory.”

David Marx


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