Patterico's Pontifications

12/27/2007

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated (Updated)

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 7:08 am



[Guest post by DRJ]

Pakistani People’s Party opposition leader and former PM Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today in Rawalpindi following a political rally:

“Pakistan’s charismatic leader Benazir Bhutto was shot dead on Thursday when gunmen opened fire at her vehicle just before a suicide bomber blew himself up at a election rally addressed by her in Rawalpindi, killing more than 20 people and injuring several others.

Reports said that five bullets were fired, one of which pierced her neck. The 54-year-old leader of Pakistan People’s Party was rushed to Rawalpindi general hospital, where she was pronounced dead.”

This is tragic for Bhutto and her family. In addition, she was a strong supporter of democracy in Pakistan, resolute against Muslim extremists, and a very brave person. Her death is a blow to democracy in Pakistan and to all who support democracy in the region.

International coverage has focused on the threat that Bhutto posed to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, both as a supporter of democracy and as a female leader. However, I suspect Pakistanis will also question whether members of Pervez Musharraf’s government, especially the ISI, played a role in Bhutto’s assassination.

When she first returned to Pakistan in October, Bhutto narrowly escaped death in bombings that marred her homecoming rally (discussed in this post). At that time, Bhutto’s husband blamed the intelligence services in Musharraf’s government and Bhutto herself had questions:

“Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, told Aryone World Television in Dubai that the Pakistani government itself was to blame: “It is the work of the intelligence agencies.”

Bhutto herself didn’t go that far. But in a press conference Friday, she asked why the street lights had gone off as her convoy moved through Karachi. “If there had been street lights on the road, our security volunteers would definitely have nabbed the suicide bombers,” she said. ”

I think many Pakistanis will question the role of Musharraf’s government in Bhutto’s assassination. I hope he promises and follows through with a full, reliable and neutral investigation … and I hope that investigation shows he wasn’t involved.

UPDATE 12/27/2007The Australian adds something interesting:

“Ms Bhutto, who returned to Pakistan from exile two months ago, had planned an earlier rally in the city, but Mr Musharraf forced her to cancel it, citing security fears.”

— DRJ

36 Responses to “Benazir Bhutto Assassinated (Updated)”

  1. Eerily similar to the Aquino killing in the Phillipines many years ago. Who was close enough to shoot her?

    voice of reason (10af7e)

  2. AQ has already claimed credit…

    I suspect this will end up as a pooch-screw for AQ though. It will be hard as hell for Musharraf to ignore/refuse US requests to move freely over Pakistan’s boarders when tracking AQ now…

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  3. In any conspiracy you have to ask yourself, “Que Bono”. I don’t think the Jihadists derive NO benefit, just that Musharaff gets more.

    Semanticleo (9307d6)

  4. DRJ — what kind of evidence/investitation coming out of Pakistan would satisfy you that Musharraf wasn’t responsible?

    For me, I’m not sure that there is any.

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  5. Unless I’m behind the times and the situation has radically changed recently, ISI is firmly in the camp of the extremists. Musharraf, himself, is in danger from them. Maybe Bhutto’s assassination will give him the popular support he needs to unleash the army on them.

    nk (c87736)

  6. Considering that Musharraf needs US support one way or another, he’d have been nuts to take the chance. Watch as the MSM raise a mighty howl to have him taken down – no need of an investigation, just hang him today.

    Over where the antiAmerican left and the Muslim extremists join together, all that remains as an obstacle to cementing control of first Afghanistan and then Pakistan is Musharraf and the Army. And Musharraf’s head today is a little looser on his shoulders than it was yesterday – the ‘volunteers’ for committing murder and mayhem must be encouraged beyond belief.

    Insufficiently Sensitive (b0db09)

  7. With the AQ honcho from Afghanistan taking credit for assassinating Bhutto, Musharraf may be able to reconcile with Bhutto supporters and go after AQ and the border tribes that support AQ.

    PCD (b50035)

  8. “This is tragic for Bhutto and her family. In addition, she was a strong supporter of democracy in Pakistan, resolute against Muslim extremists, and a very brave person. Her death is a blow to democracy in Pakistan and to all who support democracy in the region.”

    She was also corrupt. Corruption is not good for democracy.

    blah (fb88b3)

  9. Oh give me a blog where there is no blah
    To crap on a post every possible way.
    Where the comments all make sense and there is no pretense
    That he/she is not parroting what Al Qaeda would say.

    nk (c87736)

  10. semanticleo (#3) that’s “cui bono”, not “que bono”.

    drj, i had to laugh at the last sentence of your post positing a full, reliable and neutral investigation from the pakistani government which will end up exonerating musharraf. c’mon, you’re old enough to know how this works.

    assistant devil's advocate (9dbe39)

  11. There are different degrees of reliability for an investigation. (Of course, even a completely neutral investigation won’t convince everyone. Even in America, people like Rosie O’Donnell still doubt why the Twin Towers fell.) Nevertheless, I’m sure there are people in Pakistan who could handle an investigation and gain the trust of many citizens. I don’t expect Musharraf to appoint the Supreme Court Chief Justice he recently deposed but he needs to choose someone who isn’t in his debt and who has popular support. I hope he also includes someone from Bhutto’s family.

    It helps that Al Qaeda takes responsibility but there still may be complicity by members of the ISI.

    DRJ (8b9d41)

  12. ADA,

    I agree it’s unlikely there will be a transparent investigation. I don’t agree that it’s clear Musharraf was involved, even though I think it’s likely elements in the intelligence services were.

    DRJ (8b9d41)

  13. and I hope that investigation shows he wasn’t involved.

    Regardless of the truth, I am absolutely sure that will be the outcome.

    Justin (747191)

  14. Assume, for the sake of argument, that the Musharraf is not only involved, but responsible, and that that’s known — the CIA has, say, him on tape saying to the head of ISI, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent woman?”

    What are the chances that the US administration would throw him under the bus? And — here’s the awful part — isn’t it at least arguable that throwing him under the bus and having him replaced by the Islamofascists is the wrong thing to do?

    Yucko. Be nice if there were bullet-resistant small-d democrats in Pakistan, wouldn’t it?

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  15. Uh, isn’t the idea that a transparent ‘investigation’ be held in Pakistan a bit of cultural projection? Even in this country, the ‘investigation’ mounted by the 9/11 Commission was severely marred by partisan politics, and here there are swarms of journalists and lawyers and courts with some kind of access and control over the process.

    In Pakistan, investigating is not only hazardous to the health of investigators, but the chances are far greater for the elimination of witnesses, the altering or destruction of records, and the verdict in favor of the most capable thug. On top of that, the MSM would exploit the process in order to steer public opinion in the directions it prefers, and those directions are unlikely to promote harmonious civil governance in Pakistan under its present conditions.

    Insufficiently Sensitive (b0db09)

  16. I just don’t see the dynamic for Musharraf having a hand in Benazir’s death. They are both part of a small ruling class sitting precariously at the top of a very big pile of unruly people. Short-term rivals, maybe, but long-term allies. Maybe they would cultivate chaos among the lower classes but not among themselves. Musharraf would have to be a very bad strategierist to trouble his own house this way.

    nk (c87736)

  17. “having him replaced by the Islamofascists is the wrong thing to do?”

    I hear a lot of talk from Righty Blogs suggesting that Mushy will be more compliant toward Bush desire to cross the Afghan border to hunt down Jihadists.

    Do you really think if Bush wanted to he would not have already done so? Just think; ‘Busharraf’.

    Semanticleo (9307d6)

  18. Yes, I think that the Bush administration has been very reluctant to defy Musharraf’s pandering to nativist sentiment, for fear of weakening him and having him replaced by somebody worse.

    I’m not even sure that they’re wrong. The only thing with regard to Pakistan that I’m sure that they’re utterly wrong on is trying too hard to rein in India.

    India is the democracy that’s on-site there, with the most at risk; I think that when it comes to the question of Pakistan, the US should be deferring to Indian opinions, particularly if and when they reluctantly conclude that “radioactive rubble don’t make no trouble,” as they may well do before this is all over.

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  19. Unfortunately, in part this occurred as a result of US pressure on Musharref to hold open elections and allow Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  20. the US should be deferring to Indian opinions, particularly if and when they reluctantly conclude that “radioactive rubble don’t make no trouble,” as they may well do before this is all over.

    So we stand by and tacitly encourage an Islamic-Hindu regional war? Do you really think Iran wouldn’t jump at the chance to be the leader of the Islamic Defense group?

    voice of reason (10af7e)

  21. VoR — how could that be? As we all know, while both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons, Iran’s nuclear program is solely for the purpose of generating electricity, and has nothing to do with any militaristic tendency, as such things are alien to such peace-loving folks.

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  22. I’m saddened, but not surprised. I’ve been of the opinion that Bhutto didn’t have the ruthlessness to take on AQ, and that she’d survive Musharref by days at most. Seems I was too optimistic. Mark Steyn has a similar take.

    So, I don’t take this as “Archduke Ferdinand”, but rather as a chimera revealed.

    While Musharref seems to benefit, he doesn’t really. What he gets is a far less stable Pakistan, where is is forced now to choose sides utterly — something he has manage to resist up to now. It is not clear that he will choose “our” side. He has two choices: becoming a front for AQ (with nukes), or crushing the living daylights out of the tribal areas (see Sherman, William Tecumsah). There is no middle ground left.

    Watch India.

    I just wonder how long it will take folks on DU or similar to develop the “Bush did it” theory.

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  23. As we all know, while both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons, Iran’s nuclear program is solely for the purpose of generating electricity, and has nothing to do with any militaristic tendency, as such things are alien to such peace-loving folks.

    Joel,
    I’m saddened you seem to believe that. I’d recommend you find some different reference material.

    voice of reason (10af7e)

  24. The reality is that the question is not which direction Musharref will chose, but which direction the Pakistan Army will choose. That is the base of Musharref’s power and if he can’t keep it from splintering further, he’ll fail to stay on the back of that tiger.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  25. suspect Pakistanis will also question whether members of Pervez Musharraf’s government, especially the ISI, played a role in Bhutto’s assassination.

    I’m not Pakistani, but that was my first question. The Pakistanis calling the BBC call-in show i was listening to while walking to work didn’t seem to be going there. But there may be a ‘yet’ attached.

    AQ has already claimed credit

    There’s a long tradition of terrorist groups claiming credit for acts carried out by others; it makes them look stronger and more effective if they can succeed in claiming credit.

    There’s not really enough evidence one way or the other to say for sure who is responsible right now; I just want to note that a terrorist group claiming credit for something doesn’t necessarily mean they did it.

    Corruption is not good for democracy

    There’s something to that, but in this case the alternatives were worse. We should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    It helps that Al Qaeda takes responsibility but there still may be complicity by members of the ISI

    I also wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was carried out by allies of Sharif with the intent of pinning the blame on Musharraf. Pakistan’s just the place for that kind of complexity.

    I just don’t see the dynamic for Musharraf having a hand in Benazir’s death

    Me neither. There’s very little political upside for him. Even if it does allow a return to emergency rule.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  26. Good points, aphrael.

    It may be wishful thinking but there is another slim possibility. Musharraf could use the apparent Taliban/Al Qaeda’s claim of responsibility as an excuse to take more public action in the tribal areas. At the same time, he could marginalize sympathizers in the intelligence services who support extremists and opposed Bhutto. Presumably Bhutto’s PPP would support an action that, on its face, is aimed at bringing to justice those responsible for her assassination. Navaz Sharif would probably have to sign on, too, and this could open the door for Musharraf, Sharif, and whoever takes over the PPP to work together. The ball is in Musharraf’s court.

    DRJ (09f144)

  27. For me the big thing here is to follow the coverage and wait till things get sorted out. Reaction with very little to go on really doesn’t accomplish a whole lot.

    First reports tend to be proven wrong.

    She is dead, that fact will not change. Waiting to try to have a better picture to figure out what happened won’t alter the fact she is dead either but a least you tend not to head off on chasing up dead ends that really won’t make a difference in this situation.

    daytrader (ea6549)

  28. Musharraf will be the next assassination victim I suspect. He is in big trouble with his series of concessions to the tribal areas. AQ is heavily infiltrated into the ISI and the problem is that Pakistan has the Bomb. There was no chance that Bhutto would be accepted by the radicalized Pakistani population again as PM. Her family, especially her husband, was involved in major corruption when she was in office before. It was foolish to encourage her to go back and it cost her life.

    I see no reasonable solution to Pakistan’s problems. We are already heavily leaning toward India that past 20 years since the government changed and gave up on socialism and Soviet meddling. If Pakistan didn’t have the bomb we would care a lot less about their troubles.

    There s a good discussion here.

    Mike K (6d4fc3)

  29. Mushariff’s relationship with the ISI is not unlike that between the White House and the CIA – they are both battling with elements within their governments that would like to see them gone, and their policies changed.

    It is possible that Mushariff can utilyze this event to parlay public support into an assertion of central government control in the Northwest Frontier/Wazeristan.

    A black truth of this is that if Bhutto had won the upcoming election, her assassination has precluded the Army from having to remove her from office for corruption for the third time.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  30. A few points.
    India would not be in the position- of strength- if it had not stayed outside the us orbit.blathering about socialism and the Soviets is useless.not bowing to free trade strengthened India

    Comparing the isi to the CIA is just as silly.
    For all its faults the CIA is more consistently realist in outlook than musharraf or bush.

    blah (6fe527)

  31. Is this the Archduke Ferdinand moment neocons have prayed for?

    steve (35d5f7)

  32. Is this the Archduke Ferdinand moment neocons have prayed for?

    Are you really that sick, steve?

    Paul (d07d56)

  33. blah, your understanding of India’s economics is completely wrong and backwards. Its economic growth increased after the BNP broke the domination of the I-Congress party and its failed socialism. It is of a kind of your usual misunderstanding of the world.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  34. “Are you really that sick, steve?”

    Yes. He is.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  35. I’m saddened you seem to believe that. I’d recommend you find some different reference material.

    VoR, Joel was sarcastically quoting the people who oppose any measure stronger than a stern letter to stop Iran from getting nukes. He certainly is aware of Iran’s intent.

    Rob Crawford (8578d9)


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