Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto's Assassination

Reports now blame Al Qaeda, and possibly the Taliban, for the death of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. Here are some excerpts.

Al-Qaeda claims Bhutto killing by Syed Saleem Shahzad Dec 29, 2007:

KARACHI - "We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat mujahideen." These were the words of al-Qaeda’s top commander for Afghanistan operations and spokesperson Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, immediately after the attack that claimed the life of Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto on Thursday (December 27).


"This is our first major victory against those [eg, Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf] who have been siding with infidels [the West] in a fight against al-Qaeda and declared a war against mujahideen," Mustafa told Asia Times Online by telephone.


Bhutto was the only Pakistani leader who regularly spoke against al-Qaeda.

Taliban, al-Qaida blamed in Bhutto death by ASHRAF KHAN, Associated Press Writer:

"We have the evidence that al-Qaida and Taliban were behind the suicide attack on Benazir Bhutto," Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz said.


Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said that on Friday, the government recorded an "intelligence intercept" in which militant leader Baitullah Mehsud "congratulated his people for carrying out this cowardly act."

But, does that make sense?

Main suspects are warlords and security forces by Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent, December 28, 2007:

The main suspects in the assassination are the foreign and Pakistani Islamist militants who saw Ms Bhutto as a Westernised heretic and an American stooge, and had repeatedly threatened to kill her.

But fingers will also be pointed at the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, (ISI) which has had close ties to the Islamists since the 1970s and has been used by successive Pakistani leaders to suppress political opposition. Ms Bhutto narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in October, when a suicide bomber struck at a rally in Karachi to welcome her back from exile.

Earlier that month two Pakistani militant warlords based in the country's northwestern areas had threatened to kill her.

One was Baitullah Mehsud, a top militant commander fighting the Pakistani Army in South Waziristan, who has ties to al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taleban. The other was Haji Omar, the leader of the Pakistani Taleban, who is also from South Waziristan and fought with the Afghan Mujahidin against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

So the Islamist militants are certainly implicated, and that's not surprising. After all, "Bhutto was the only Pakistani leader who regularly spoke against al-Qaeda."

Ms Bhutto said after the attack that she had received a letter, signed by someone claiming to be a friend of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, threatening to slaughter her like a goat. But she also accused Pakistani authorities of not providing her with sufficient security, and hinted that they may have been complicit in the Karachi attack.

She indicated that she had more to fear from unidentified members of a power structure that she described as allies of the "forces of militancy".

Analysts say that President Musharraf is unlikely to have ordered her assassination, but that elements of the Army and intelligence service stood to lose money and power if she became prime minister. The ISI includes some Islamists who became radicalised while running the American-funded campaign against the Soviets in Afghanistan and were opposed to her on principle. Saudi Arabia is also thought to have frowned on Ms Bhutto as being too secular and Westernised and to have favoured Nawaz Sharif, another former Prime Minister.

Agreed that Mushy "is unlikely to have ordered her assassination," and tellingly true "that elements of the Army and intelligence service stood to lose money and power if she became prime minister."

As we learned in The Islamic Bomb, Part 1, Musharraf basically shut down the inquiry into A. Q. Khan's nuclear black market network.

What would have happened if Bhutto had come back into power?

Not only would there presumably have been some real fighting against the Islamist militants -- Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their allies in the Pakistani military -- but perhaps this nuclear black market might have finally come under some scrutiny.

As it is, we know Mushy is trying to have it both ways, seemingly doing enough about Al Qaeda to keep Western public opinion quiet, but not enough to seriously jeopardize Pakistan's ties with Al Qaeda, and thus Al Qaeda's use of Pakistan as a base.

Bhutto's assassination, apparently at the hands of Al Qaeda, serves multiple purposes:

1) Al Qaeda is once again in the news as the boogey man;

2) Democratization can be seen as playing into the hands of the militants, empowering Mushy to crack down again -- not on the terrorists, but on those who call for democratization; and

3) No significant change in power in Pakistan means Khan's nuclear network will continue to work the backroom deals so vital to keeping the Islamic world armed and to keeping Pakistan in good graces with Saudi Arabia.

Again from Al-Qaeda claims Bhutto killing by Syed Saleem Shahzad Dec 29, 2007:

Bhutto returned to Pakistan in the face of death threats from Islamist militants. Within 24 hours of landing in Karachi on October 18, she narrowly escaped with her life when two bombs were detonated near her motorcade, killing at least 130 people.

Addressing a press conference the following day, a defiant Bhutto pointed to the involvement of Pakistan's intelligence agencies in the attack.

Pakistan's ISI was behind this one. Al Qaeda was probably a bunch of witting dupes, and Mushy is likely a dupe-after-the-fact.

A snip from Al-Qaeda's New Terror Tactic? by BRUCE CRUMLEY/PARIS, December 28, 2007:

"Going after a well-protected leader or politician is harder, so the situation has to be just right," says a French intelligence official. "That usually means ambient chaos, possible help from within security forces, and good chance of success."

All those elements may have been in place ahead of the attack on Bhutto. The problem is determining exactly who exploited them. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban had both previously threatened her for her pledges to modernize Pakistan, and promises to allow U.S. forces to hunt down jihadists on Pakistani soil. Military and intelligence forces in the country also considered her a threat. (Members of both Pakistani agencies have long been accused of ties with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.) Even members of the Musharraf government viewed Bhutto with hostility in the run-up to the Jan. 8 elections.

"So many people had a motive for killing her it's impossible to know who was responsible despite the theories and claims now being made," says the intelligence official. "There is so much scheming and double-dealing in Pakistan that the country is the analyst's worst nightmare. We may never really know what group was responsible, and what kind of help it got."


JAGS said...

Even if the evidence that al qaeda/taliban are behind Bhutto's attack is credible, it is crucial that we realize that many of the extremist groups have ties to Pakistan's political establishment, including elements of the government loyal to President Pervez Musharraf, as well as close ties to the military and its intelligence agencies.

And, indeed, Bhutto herself had openly talked about and criticized these links many a time. While we may never know for sure who was behind Bhutto's assassination, its very plausible that the answer to that is not as simple as the media and leaders may purport it to be.

keshav said...

check out this link

It clearly shows that the Monster created by US and Pakistan has come back to haunt them.
Its high time USA rethinks its foreign policy.The cold war is over.Now instead of turning the present situation to a religious war, they should think of resolving the Isreli/Palestine issue and douse the fire of terrorism.