x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Pakistani expats in UAE split as Musharraf is charged over murder

Pakistanis in the UAE are either sad or satisfied the former military leader has been charged on three counts over the murder of Benazir Bhutto.

Pakistan’s former president, Pervez Musharraf, in Dubai in March. He returned to his homeland that month after four years of exile in the UAE to prepare for his homeland’s forthcoming May elections. Satish Kumar / The National
Pakistan’s former president, Pervez Musharraf, in Dubai in March. He returned to his homeland that month after four years of exile in the UAE to prepare for his homeland’s forthcoming May elections. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // Pakistani expatriates are divided by the news that former president Pervez Musharraf has been charged over the murder of Benazir Bhutto.

The opposition leader was killed during a gun and bomb attack at a political rally in December 2007.

An anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi yesterday charged Mr Musharraf on three counts - murder, criminal conspiracy for murder and facilitation for murder.

The news was met with dismay from his supporters in the UAE.

"We are all really disappointed the court has charged Mr Musharraf for Benazir Bhutto's death," said Tabish Zaidi, a member of the central working committee of Mr Musharraf's All Pakistan Muslim League party in Dubai. "There is no logic to the action taken by the court because no evidence has ever been brought forward to say he was connected to Mrs Bhutto's death."

Mr Zaidi said investigations by the United Nations, Pakistani police and intelligence services could find no link between Mr Musharraf and the assassination.

"At the time he was president he had no responsibility to provide security for her," he said.

"That wasn't his job, it was the interior ministry's, who at the time was being run by members of her Pakistan People's Party."

The case against Mr Musharraf is politically motivated and a way to distract the public from the real problems facing Pakistan, according to Mr Zaidi. "The attack was carried out by the Taliban and they must be laughing at the way he is being treated now," he said.

The blame for Bhutto's death was placed on the late Pakistani Taliban chief, Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement. He was killed in a US drone attack in 2009.

"There are recordings of him saying he was behind the attack and yet they are blaming Mr Musharraf," Mr Zaidi said.

But some of his compatriots have welcomed the news Mr Musharraf is being charged.

"It's the right step because as president you do have to take some responsibility for what happens," said Farhan Ali, a health and safety manager in Abu Dhabi. "Whether he had a direct role in killing Benazir Bhutto I'm not so sure. If it was the interior ministry that was responsible for her safety then whoever was in charge there at the time should also be held accountable."

Mr Ali said many Pakistanis were unsatisfied that it had taken so long to investigate Bhutto's death properly.

"What we as Pakistanis want to see is the justice system not being influenced by politicians or the military," he said. "It's really important that Mr Musharraf gets a free and transparent court case and can defend himself properly."

Mehmood Salif, an accountant, welcomed the charges against Mr Musharraf but said he respected the former leader's time in office.

"If he has done something wrong then he should face the consequences," he said. "When he took power he did a lot of good things for the country.

"A lot of Pakistanis have given up on politicians because they are all so self-interested and don't think about what is good for the country, but only for themselves."

Mr Musharraf returned to Pakistan at the end of March, to prepare to contest elections in May, after four years of self-imposed exile.

He was initially banned from taking part by the courts and is under house arrest on charges that he unlawfully detained judges in 2007.

The Pakistan Taliban has also made death threats against him.

Bhutto was twice elected prime minister of Pakistan. She was assassinated after campaigning for elections that were eventually won by her Pakistan People's Party in February 2008.

There was no public claim of responsibility for her murder.

Mr Musharraf came to power in a military coup in 1999. He was president from 2001 until 2008.

nhanif@thenational.ae