The much-awaited United Nations report on Benazir Bhutto's assassination has no answer to the question that has bothered Pakistan and the world since that wretched December day in 2007: who killed her? This was expected. The terms of reference of the three-man commission, appointed by the U.N. at the request of the Pakistan government, were to establish the “fact and circumstances” of Benazir's assassination. It was understood that the commission, headed by Heraldo Munoz, the Permanent Representative of Chile to the U.N., would not carry out a criminal investigation to ascertain the mastermind behind the gun-and-suicide attack that killed Benazir as she left an election campaign rally at Rawalpindi's Liaquat Bagh. But within the limited scope of its mandate, the commission has produced a valuable document. Its report is the first comprehensive, independent reconstruction of events before the assassination and after. It contains several new facts and insights about the fatally inadequate security provided to a former Prime Minister by the Musharraf regime, and the criminally shoddy investigation into her killing. The commission's conclusion, that the Musharraf regime was deliberate and discriminatory in not responding to Benazir's security requirements, and that the investigation into her killing was blocked at every stage, is a damning indictment of the government of the day.

This is the first time an official, public international document has raised questions about the invasive role of Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies in running the country, its links with the Taliban and the jihadist groups fighting India, and the adverse consequences all this has had for Pakistan. Daringly, the report calls for an investigation into the role of the dreaded “establishment… the de facto power structure that has at its core the military and intelligence agencies” in the assassination. For the Pakistan Peoples Party, which has built itself as the main opponent of the establishment as well as its victim since the times of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the report is a vindication. It is also a part explanation of why the PPP, despite taking office within four months of Benazir's killing, launched a proper investigation only in October 2009, after being goaded by the commission. It remains to be seen if this investigation can proceed along the lines urged by the commission in its report. But this seems doubtful, if the government's mysterious end-March request to the commission to delay the report by two weeks and, then, its attempts last week to withhold the document from public release are any indication. Given the nature of the Pakistani state, it is more likely that the truth behind Benazir's killing will never be known.

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