Pakistan’s former military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, was indicted last week on charges of murdering former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and for treason. Never before has a former Pakistani military ruler been tried for serious charges.

Benazir was killed during a bomb attack on her convoy in Rawalpindi during an election rally in December 2007. She had just returned from exile in Britain and Dubai, and was campaigning to regain power as PM at the head of her powerful Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

I had known Benazir for many years, and was horrified and shaken by her death. I also knew General Musharraf, making this a very personal case for me.

Though I had been a frequent critic in the past of Benazir and her corruption-embroiled relatives, in recent years, I had drawn close to the embattled leader at a time when she was down and out in exile. Some of my readers in Pakistan accused me of being “bewitched” by Benazir. Not bewitched, just deeply impressed by this brilliant, intense, regal woman.

I had just finished drawing up a proposed new political platform for PPP that emphasised independent policy, an end to feudalism, and reconciliation with tribal and Islamic militants on the Northwest Frontier (today Khyber Pakhtunkwa).

Two days before her killing, we had been exchanging emails in which I warned her not to appear in public, except behind bulletproof plexiglass, as do India’s leaders. We discussed various types of body armour. “Eric, I have got to appear before my supporters. That is the way we do it in Pakistan,” she replied, brushing off my warnings.

Over the phone, she told me: “If I am killed, the murderers will be the Chaudhry brothers from Punjab.” Chaudhry Shujaat and Chaudhry Pervaiz were two of Musharraf’s most important backers and wealthy political barons. Since Benazir’s murder, no evidence linking the Chaudhrys to her murder has emerged. But she was emphatic in naming them to me.

Interestingly, Benazir and I were in London with her son Bilawal shortly before her ill-fated return to Pakistan. I asked her about the assassination of another Pakistani leader I had known well and admired, President Ziaul Haq. She dismissed my question and said: “We’ll never know who killed him - but who cares? He is dead and gone.”

Ironically, her murder may also remain a permanent mystery. I find it hard to believe that Musharraf orchestrated Bhutto’s death despite the fact that she had outfoxed this not very bright general. The discredited Musharraf seemed destined to be a powerless figurehead, while the US-backed Benazir resumed leading Pakistan.

Musharraf may have ordered the deaths of many tribal and religious militants. Also, he had too eagerly allowed the US military to occupy parts of his country and involve it in the Afghan conflict. But it is difficult to imagine that Mush ordered the killing of the wildly popular Bhutto when an assassination could easily have failed and backfired. Such a plot would have exposed him to the anger of his patron, the US, which had been promoting a Bhutto-Musharraf duumvirate.

Though I don’t see Musharraf guilty of murder, he seems open to charges of treason for overthrowing the government of Nawaz Sharif and opening Pakistan to foreign domination. However, his cronies and supporters in Punjab should fall under suspicion, as Benazir asserted. The idea that she was killed by tribal militants from Waziristan lacks credibility. A UN investigation found that Benazir’s murder could have been prevented had the government (i.e. Musharraf) provided proper security.

Nevertheless, Musharraf has a lot to pay for, including the killing of the most prominent Balochi tribal chief. The US drone campaign that now ravages Pakistan was approved by him. It seems that some of generals are outraged by the trial of one of their own, but this time they should allow what passes for justice in Pakistan to take its course. That would be a final gift from Benazir.

The writer is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles appear in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Gulf Times, Khaleej Times and other news sites in Asia. He is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, Lew Rockwell and Big Eye. He appears as an expert on foreign affairs on CNN, BBC, France 2, France 24, Fox News, CTV and CBC.