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Friday, December 28, 2007

Bhutto's Death: The Day After

As the dust settles, the mourning begins, the geopolitical significance has more questions than answers. It is still unclear who was responsible though Al Qaeda appears to be the main suspect.

The attack yesterday at Rawalpindi bore the hallmarks of a sophisticated military operation. At first, Bhutto's rally was hit by a suicide bomb that turned out to be a decoy. According to press reports and a situation report of the incident relayed to The New York Sun by an American intelligence officer, Bhutto's armored limousine was shot by multiple snipers whose armor-piercing bullets penetrated the vehicle, hitting the former premier five times in the head, chest, and neck. Two of the snipers then detonated themselves shortly after the shooting, according to the situation report, while being pursued by local police.

A separate attack was thwarted at the local hospital where Bhutto possibly would have been revived had she survived the initial shooting. Also attacked yesterday was a rival politician, Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister who took power after Bhutto lost power in 1996.

A working theory, according to this American source, is that Al Qaeda or affiliated jihadist groups had effectively suborned at least one unit ofPakistan's Special Services Group, the country's equivalent of Britain's elite SAS commandos. This official, however, stressed this was just a theory at this point. Other theories include that the assassins were trained by Qaeda or were from other military services, or the possibility that the assassins were retired Pakistani special forces.

If Pakistani ISI was involved, that would come as little surprise to anyone who has been following the sitution. If they were it will be that much more imperative for Musharraf to confront Al Qaeda once and for all. If not, the next assassination in Pakistan will likely be his.

The geopolitical implications are as yet unsettled as I mentioned. Thus, let's look at some of the analysis. Let's look at the National Review first.

In the very short term, Pervez Musharraf is likely to declare another state of emergency or even martial law. Friends calling from the Pakistani capital tonight say that cars are being torched in the street as members of Benazir’s party, the Pakistani Peoples’ Party (PPP), express their anger and grief. This could easily grow into widespread civil unrest, especially in the wake of her funeral tomorrow.


Looking beyond the next few days it seems unlikely that an election will be held on the 8th of January (though both Benazir and Nawaz Sharif were both technically barred from standing for prime minister). As for Musharraf, he’ll be badly damaged at least in the short term.

While Benazir had plenty of enemies, including jihadis who detested the idea of a woman leader and who were furious at her newly robust pro-Western antiterrorist stance (she had said she would let U.S. troops hunt for Osama bin Laden within Pakistani territory...

I think it goes without saying that there will need to be a state of emergency and that elections will be postponed. Here is another...

The assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has dealt a severe blow to U.S. efforts to restore stability and democracy in a turbulent, nuclear-armed Islamic nation that has been a critical ally in the war on terror.

While not entirely dependent on Bhutto, recent Bush administration policy on Pakistan had focused heavily on promoting reconciliation between the secular opposition leader who has been dogged by corruption allegations and Pakistan's increasingly unpopular president, Pervez Musharraf, ahead of parliamentary elections set for January.

In Washington and Islamabad, U.S. diplomats urged that Jan. 8 elections should not be postponed and strongly advised against a reimposition of emergency rule that Musharraf had lifted just weeks ago.

One more...

Her killing also quashes hopes of Western governments that the charismatic, two-time former prime minister could team up with President Pervez Musharraf and galvanize Pakistan's fight against Taliban and al-Qaida militants after Jan. 8 elections.

"This assassination is the most serious setback for democracy in Pakistan," said Rasul Baksh Rais, a political scientist at Lahore's University of Management Sciences. "It shows extremists are powerful enough to disrupt the democratic process. Musharraf's major concern now will be to maintain law and order and make sure this does not turn into a major movement against him."

Michael Medved has some interesting thoughts...

The terrorist threat remains the most important issue confronting the next president. In the campaign so far, candidates have spent most of their time debating domestic issues -- health care, immigration, the weak dollar, abortion, Congressional earmarks, tax reform, US attorney firings, energy independence, sub-prime mortgages, environmental warming and so forth. The Pakistani crisis reminds us that none of this matters as much as very real terrorist threats


With all our complaints about the quirks our electoral system, the Bhutto assassination should renew our gratitude for our stable, honorable, and functioning democracy. The assassin gunned down Madame Bhutto as she left a campaign rally for parliamentary elections scheduled for January eighth (three days after our New Hampshire primary)...


The isolationist arguments of Ron Paul and leftist Democrats look ridiculous in the face of Pakistan’s agony. The “Blame America” school of international relations loves to ascribe any danger or setback to the failed policies of the Bush administration, the machinations of the CIA or the “neo-cons,” U.S. support of Israel, or...

Here is the gloomiest and most concerning analysis I found...

SLAIN opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was laid to rest in her family crypt last night as the shock of her assassination drew angry crowds on to the streets of Pakistan for riots that threatened to push the country into civil war.

With al-Qa'ida claiming responsibility for a murder that has provoked the most serious crisis in the 60-year history of the nuclear-armed country, President Pervez Musharraf was under intense pressure from Washington to ensure
Pakistan returned to democracy through elections scheduled for January 8.

But Mr Musharraf, who has become a key ally in the war on terror, was facing a furious backlash from his own people, with mobs chanting "Killer Musharraf, go" as they set fire togovernment offices, shops and cars.

If Pakistan, a key ally, and a nuclear power heads into civil war, then that is the worst case scenario and the likely hope of the killers themselves.

Finally, the reaction from both sides of the blogosphere is so obscene. I won't link to any of it. It ranges from stepping on her grave, to political opportunism of all sorts. If ever there was a time to put petty things like that aside it was now, but unfortunately such decorum isn't found in the blogosphere.

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