Dec 31, 2007 0
Just finished recording an interview on BBC Radio Five regarding Pakistan’s post-Bhutto predicament.
Dec 31, 2007 0
Just finished recording an interview on BBC Radio Five regarding Pakistan’s post-Bhutto predicament.
Dec 30, 2007 1
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari read the will of his mother, Benazir Bhutto, earlier today in Pakistan. It designated his father, Asif Zardari, as chairman of the party, who then reportedly declined the position, offering it to Bilawal. They will co-chair the party.
Sherry Rehman, a leading PPP figure, has been on the record stating that Bilawal will return to Oxford to continue his studies. Asif Zardari will run the party on a day-to-day basis, while Bilawal will nominally chair the party till he is completely ready to hold the reigns. Yusaf Raza Gilani, PPP senior vice chairman, said that Zardari will be the final decision maker in Bilawal’s absence.
As I have written earlier, Bilawal is the best bet to continue the Bhutto name. But as a 19 year old unable to speak Urdu and raised for much of his life out of the country, he’s thoroughly unprepared to lead the largest political party in a 160 million person country. At the same age, his mother sat as an observer in her father’s negotiations with Indira Gandhi at Simla. Bilawal’s had no such grooming.
The major development has been the sidelining of Amin Fahim. Does he remain as the party’s vice chair? Will he continue as a Bhutto loyalist, in spite of having a teenager selected over him as party leader? He will be the party’s candidate for prime minister. Zardari hasn’t registered for the elections. Bilawal is ineligible to contest. Fahim is a PM candidate by default. He could very well play the role of Turkey’s Abdullah Gul, holding the PM spot till Asif Zardari or Bilawal are ready (if ever).
And what of Asif Zardari? Will his control over the PPP last long? Does he have the energy and the party support? Will he serve as a placeholder for Bilawal — or will he reign over the party’s fragmentation? Remember, Benazir faced significant opposition during her rise to the party’s helm — and from non-family members as well. Her consolidation of power was indelicate, to say the least. Let’s see if party stalwarts remain loyal to Zardari, or whether they’ll slowly push him back to Dubai.
Dec 28, 2007 16
The murder of Benazir Bhutto has created a leadership vacuum within the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The populist, center-left party gained patrimonial colors after the execution of its founder, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, in 1979.
Party leadership passed on to his wife, Nusrat. However, their daughter, Benazir, would soon rise to center stage, eclipsing–quite aggressively–her mother and brothers. Benazir was effectively at the party’s helm for the past two and a half decades, becoming at some point its chairperson for life. The party has no internal elections and Bhutto’s competitors were shut out.
Filling her shoes will be no easy task. Not only did Bhutto wield an almost absolute command over the People’s Party, but her persona–very much tied to her father’s–made many willing, if not desiring, to accept her complete stewardship.
To top it off, Bhutto has been lionized since her passing. News anchors on Pakistan’s private channels now refer to her as Shaheed Benazir Bhutto; she is now a martyr. Within hours of her passing, the news channels ceased to use the word ‘death’ and instead term her passing as shahadat, or martyrdom.
No potential successor shares the unique set of characteristics as Bhutto: the ‘royal’ name; popular appeal in Pakistan; political instinct; and deep contacts and friendships with leaders and influencers in the West. Most likely, Bhutto’s void will be filled by multiple individuals. The probable candidates are listed below in order of importance.
As the vice chairman of the PPP, Amin Fahim is best positioned to assume leadership of the party. Fahim led the party in the National Assembly and was its presidential candidate in the faux polls held in October.
He is a feudal figure from Bhutto’s home province and political base of Sindh. Fahim has considerable name recognition nationally, but does not have the Bhutto name and the star power associated with it. His international connections are not strong, so he lacks Bhutto’s capacity to leverage an extensive network of foreign friends and supporters in order to challenge the U.S.-backed Musharraf.
Most eyes are naturally focusing on Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir Bhutto’s widower and closest adult relative with a political background. But Zardari is not a Bhutto; he did not marry “into” the family. His influence comes from two sources: one, like Bhutto and Fahim, he comes from an influential Sindhi feudal family; two, he was married to the daughter of Pakistan’s most popular politician post-Jinnah.
But Zardari is not viewed as the inheritor of the Bhutto mantle. And so it is highly likely that his political status will recede with the murder of his wife.
Zardari is a stained political figure. The PPP has, in recent years, sought to distance itself from him, who garnered the moniker “Mr. 10 Percent” as a result of his prolific corruption.
At best, he will play the role of a figurehead in a post-Bhutto PPP. Not only is Zardari hampered by negative perceptions and the lack of a claim to the Bhutto name, he is also in poor physical health. And it’s also unclear as to whether he is emotionally prepared to play politics; Zardari has been extremely distraught in multiple appearances on national television since yesterday. He also has three teenage children to raise.
As a leading figure in the lawyers’ movement, Aitzaz Ahsan’s popularity–particularly with the middle and upper-middle class–has risen considerably this year. As a result, his relations with Benazir Bhutto cooled considerably; she was not happy, to say the least, with his commitment to Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and the judiciary’s cause.
Ahsan withdrew his nomination papers from the January elections; it’s unclear as to whether he had Bhutto’s endorsement, though it’s likely it was done against her will. His commitment to the judicial cause, while earning Bhutto’s anger, also gained points with the Pakistani public. Ahsan is seen as one of the few viable politicians who refused to consent to Musharraf’s subversion of the constitution. And so he can serve as a vehicle for restoring the public trust in the People’s Party as a popular, democratic front.
Unlike Bhutto, Ahsan is Punjabi, not Sindhi and so it’s difficult to see him alone holding up Bhutto’s popular base in Sindh. He could, to some extent, help propel the People’s Party in Punjab, but that would put the party on a more agitational course with not only the PML-Q, but also the PML-N — and it’s unclear as to whether the party wants to tussle with the latter.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
As Benazir Bhutto’s eldest child, Bilawal’s entry into politics would precede that of his younger sisters (aged 16 and 14 respectively), if he choses to enter this dangerous field. But he’s only 19 and barely speaks Urdu. Bilawal just began his studies at Oxford, after living in Dubai for eight years–almost half his life. While Benazir spent her adolescence and early adulthood as her father’s political apprentice–even accompanying him to the Simla negotiations with Indira Gandhi–Bilawal has had no similar training. Bilawal’s political career will begin, if ever, gradually and in a highly managed fashion
A long-time Bhutto loyalist and spokesperson, Babar will continue in his media relations capacity and providing counsel to the remainder of the party’s senior brass. He did not register for the January national and provincial elections and resigned from the Senate in 2006. If he returns to electoral politics, it’s more likely he’ll re-enter that body.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi
As head of the PPP in Punjab, Qureshi will continue to shape the party’s operations in the country’s largest province. A feudal and Cambridge graduate, he frequently comes on political talk shows on behalf of the party. Qureshi could increasingly become a power broker at the national level.
A graduate of Smith College, Sherry Rehman came from a similar cultural and ideological background as Benazir Bhutto. While she can help continue the party’s media campaign in both Pakistan and the West, odds are she will do little more.
A 25-year old Columbia graduate and daughter of Benazir’s slain brother, Fatima is perhaps the ultimate wild card in the post-Benazir PPP. Relations between she and her aunt were immensely hostile. Fatima accused Benazir of being behind the assassination of her father, Murtaza Bhutto–one of Benazir’s younger brothers. Fatima has been an active columnist and civil society advocate in Karachi. She has the name, the brain, and the brawns to play politics. In a potential step toward rapproachment with other Bhuttos and the Zardaris, she and her Lebanese stepmother, Ghinwa Bhutto–who runs her own PPP faction–attended Benazir’s funeral. That’s, however, a long way from mending ties with her late aunt’s inner circle. Though Fatima has been reluctant to assume any status seen as hereditary, she could come to see some utility in national politics. Will she and her stepmother rejoin Benazir’s PPP, or will they continue to remain separate, and even push for defections toward their camp? It’s all very much in the air.
Other Influentials: Raza Gilani; Jehangir Bader; Raza Rabbani; Babar Awan; Qaim Ali Shah; Enver Baig
Dec 28, 2007 3
Dec 28, 2007 6
My opinion piece, issued by Project Syndicate, has been picked up by a number of publications, including Pakistan’s Daily Times, Lebanon’s Daily Star, Miami Herald, the Scotsman, the San Diego Union-Tribune, and The Guardian’s Comment is Free.
Pakistan after Bhutto
By Arif Rafiq
With the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s state of turmoil has reached a new crescendo. As head of the nation’s most popular political party, Bhutto largely transcended Pakistan’s ethnic and sectarian divides. Her return from exile in October was seen as a step toward curbing the country’s dangerous fragmentation; her murder shatters those hopes. President Pervez Musharraf must take immediate steps – most importantly, the formation of a national unity government – to prevent Pakistan from tearing apart at the seams.
In deciding that her People’s Party would participate in the January parliamentary election, Bhutto threw a lifeline to Musharraf, who has been beset by multiple insurgencies, a nationwide terrorist threat, and rock-bottom legitimacy. Both Musharraf and his supporters in Washington hoped that mainstream parties’ participation in the election would end Pakistan’s governance crisis and provide popular support for a decisive confrontation with the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Now, however, the election will likely be postponed. Indeed, Musharraf might be compelled to impose emergency rule again, as he did in November, should Pakistan’s stability further deteriorate. There are reports of violence in cities across Pakistan. Karachi, a multi-ethnic metropolis, could erupt into full-scale chaos. During the 1990’s, violence there between Bhutto’s party and a local ethnic party – now allied with Musharraf – took thousands of lives.
In these circumstances, a state of emergency could be warranted. But, given Musharraf’s lack of legitimacy, such a move would further infuriate Bhutto’s supporters, whose street power Bhutto had contained since October. This could set the stage for a violent confrontation between the Pakistani masses and Musharraf’s regime.
The nightmare scenario envisioned by many in Pakistan – a nuclear-armed country actively targeted by al-Qaeda and the Taliban – could become a reality. But this need not be a foregone conclusion.
Musharraf, who regularly claims to act on the basis of a “Pakistan first” policy, must now let go of partisan objectives and form a national unity government led by a prime minister from the opposition. Any subsequent measures, including temporary imposition of emergency rule and full-scale war against the terrorists, require the complete support of the opposition parties. Musharraf and his political allies cannot be seen as benefiting from Bhutto’s assassination; nor can they afford the perception of a cover-up. His opponents must be incorporated into the decision-making process.
A national unity government must assume three major responsibilities. First, it must establish an independent commission to determine who was responsible for Bhutto’s murder. While political assassination is not unfamiliar – Pakistan’s first prime minister was killed in the same park where Bhutto was murdered – it is imperative that the culprits be apprehended and tried. Anything short of this would permanently taint Pakistan’s leadership and impede all attempts at political reconciliation.
Second, it must take necessary measures to ensure public safety and political stability, while paving the way for free and fair elections. It must offer Pakistan a consensual path toward winning back its tribal areas from the insurgents, end the wave of terror in its cities, and ensure the election of a new, legitimate government.
Finally, it must begin a dialogue with Musharraf and the military on a permanent, constitutional separation of powers. If Bhutto had not been assassinated and, instead, successfully became prime minister, she would likely have clashed with Musharraf over his arbitrary empowerment of the presidency at the expense of the premiership. The issue will not go away with Bhutto’s death.
Pakistan’s civil and military elite must create a broad consensus – perhaps with foreign assistance, but never with foreign meddling – on the constitutional roles of the prime minister, president, and the military. Ravaged by endemic elite discord since its founding, Pakistan desperately needs an elite reconciliation that includes all of the country’s major stakeholders. Otherwise, Pakistan’s terrorists, who feed off of political instability, will continue to gain, while the country’s poor and illiterate majority will continue to lose ground.
The murder of Benazir Bhutto need not result in the country’s demise. Pakistan’s elite have an opportunity to overcome their differences, unite in opposition to militants, and transform their failing state into a stable and prosperous democracy.
If they succeed in bringing about a national renewal, Bhutto, a monumental political figure in Pakistani history, will not have died in vain.
Arif Rafiq, a policy and communications consultant, edits the Pakistan Policy Blog (www.pakistanpolicy.com).
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2007.
Dec 27, 2007 3
“The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a tragic event for Pakistan and for democracy in Pakistan. Her murderers must be brought to justice and Pakistan must continue the path back to democracy and the rule of law. Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere — whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv or Rawalpindi — is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the Terrorists’ War on Us.”
“I am deeply troubled by the news accounts this morning of Pakistani opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in a suicide attack. This is devastating news for the people of Pakistan, and my prayers go out to them as we follow developments regarding this dire situation.
“The terrible violence surrounding Pakistan’s upcoming election stands in stark contrast to the peaceful transition of power that we embrace in our country through our Constitution. On this sad day, we are reminded that while our democracy has flaws, it stands as a shining beacon of hope for nations and people around the world who seek peace and opportunity through self-government.”
Here’s an excerpt on Pakistan from Huckabee’s essay in January/February 2008 Foreign Affairs:
“TOUGH LOVE FOR PAKISTAN
Whereas our failure to tackle Iran seems to be leading inexorably to our attacking it, our failure to tackle al Qaeda in Pakistan seems to be leading inexorably to its attacking us again.
When we let bin Laden escape at Tora Bora, a region along the Afghan-Pakistani border, in December 2001, we played Brer Fox to his Brer Rabbit. We threw him into the perfect briar patch, under the direct protection of tribal leaders who do not consider their land part of Pakistan and under the indirect protection of the Pakistani government, which believes that it is. On September 12, 2001, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf agreed to sever his relationship with the Taliban and let us fight al Qaeda inside Pakistan. But distracted by Iraq, we have since allowed him to go back on his word.
Despite the Bush administration’s continued claims that the U.S. military will pursue “actionable targets,” according to a July 2007 article in The New York Times based on interviews with a dozen current and former military and defense officials, a classified raid targeting bin Laden’s top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in Pakistan was aborted in early 2005. Then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called off the attack at the very last minute, as Navy Seals in parachutes were preparing in C-130s in Afghanistan, because he felt he needed Musharraf’s permission to proceed. Why did Rumsfeld, instead of President Bush, call off the attack? Did he ask for Musharraf’s permission or assume he would not get it? When I am president, I will make the final call on such actions.
This missed opportunity was especially costly because in September 2006 Musharraf agreed to a cease-fire with frontier tribal leaders (which lasted until last July), allowing al Qaeda and the Taliban to gain strength and operate more easily and freely. With that, Pakistan’s halfhearted efforts against the terrorists in the region bordering Afghanistan stopped altogether.
Iraq may be the hot war, but Pakistan is where the cold, calculating planning is going on. If al Qaeda strikes us tomorrow, the attack will be postmarked “Pakistan.” And the American people, not understanding why a supposed U.S. ally refused to help and our government put up with it, will justifiably be outraged that bin Laden and his top people got away. In fact, we almost did suffer that next attack: the plot to blow up ten airliners over the Atlantic that the British government foiled in 2006 was hatched in Pakistan, as was an attack against U.S. targets in Germany that was planned to coincide with the sixth anniversary of 9/11.
Rather than wait for the next strike, I prefer to cut to the chase by going after al Qaeda’s safe havens in Pakistan. As commander in chief, the U.S. president must balance threats and risks in calculating how best to protect the American people. We are living on borrowed time. The threat of an attack on us is far graver than the risk that a quick and limited strike against al Qaeda would bring extremists to power in Pakistan.
To be sure, Pakistan is an inherently unstable country that has never had a constitutional change of government in its 60 years of existence. It has alternated between military and civilian rule, punctuated by assassinations and coups. Even during times of nominal civilian rule, the army and its affiliated intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, were the country’s most powerful institutions. But in the name of stability, the U.S. government has erred on the side of protecting Musharraf. We have an unfortunate tendency to confuse leaders with their countries and their citizens and to back them for too long, with too few questions asked and too few strings attached. As the Bush administration scrambled to cope with Musharraf’s state of emergency last November, it became clear that we had no Pakistan policy, only a Musharraf policy.
Musharraf’s top priority is not the United States’ survival but his own, physical and political. Musharraf has done his best to convince the Bush administration that the United States’ destiny and his are inextricably interwoven — after him, the deluge. But this is not true. He has not kept extremists from seizing power in Pakistan; they have not seized it simply because they have not had the strength or the support to do so. He claims that he declared the state of emergency because of the threat of extremism to Pakistan. In fact, he was responding to a threat not to the country but to himself and not from extremists but from Pakistan’s Supreme Court, which was about to invalidate his recent reelection.
This puts into sharp relief what a waste, what a setback the United States’ Pakistan policy has been over the last few years. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have grown stronger; Pakistan’s native extremists have expanded east from their frontier strongholds and spread to the cities; the moderate secular parties led by former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have languished. Musharraf has spent far more energy and enthusiasm sidelining the moderate Pakistani forces we must strengthen than he has going after religious extremists and terrorists. As of this writing, he is arresting the people who share our values and whom we need to empower: leaders and supporters of moderate parties, judges, lawyers, human rights activists, and journalists. He is on a collision course with his own people and with us.
Since 9/11, the United States has given Pakistan about $10 billion, including some $5.6 billion to pay for counterterrorism activities against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Less than $1 billion has gone to projects that directly help the Pakistani people by providing them with schools, food, or medical aid. The lack of schools creates demand for the madrasahs that produce terrorists. We have wasted money on counterterrorism that has not happened and spent precious little on projects to win hearts and minds.
Much of the aid is made up of cash transfers that are not monitored by any U.S. government agency; we must improve transparency and accountability in this area. If we consider cutting aid to Pakistan, we must distinguish among different kinds of funds. We should not cut money for projects that alleviate poverty. Money designated for counterterrorism must be spent for that purpose and with quantifiable results. Money designated for weapons not suited to fighting terrorists should be used as a carrot to reward the Pakistani government for demonstrated progress in strengthening moderate forces, improving its citizens’ quality of life, and fighting terrorism.
It is not enough for Musharraf to appoint a caretaker government, give up his post as army chief, and hold elections in early January, as he has promised: such elections cannot possibly be free and fair with the state of emergency still in effect, opposition politicians and their supporters under arrest, the media censored, assembly forbidden, and the judiciary packed. Opposition party leaders rightly threaten to boycott such sham elections, which would have no legitimacy in the eyes of the Pakistani people. Bhutto and Sharif must be allowed to move freely about the country. Whatever happens in Pakistan next, the country’s policy toward the United States is unlikely to change significantly. General Ashfaq Kiyani, the deputy chief of staff of the army and Musharraf’s most likely successor, is a moderate who wants the military less involved in politics. As prime minister, Sharif would sound more anti-American, and Bhutto more pro-American. But in any event, our problems with al Qaeda and the Taliban will not be magically solved for us. They are our problems, and we must face up to them.
I will assure the Pakistanis that we are with them for the long haul. When the Russians left Afghanistan in the late 1980s, we quickly lost interest in Pakistan. Many Pakistanis fear the same will happen when al Qaeda and the Taliban are no longer around to keep us engaged. They should not. Pakistan, like Iraq, is a regional problem rather than an isolated one. We must use our friendly ties with India to encourage and help it improve its relationship with Pakistan and to push for increased trade and cooperation between the two countries, all to bring greater stability to the South Asian region.
“The process will not be quick,” Ambassador Crocker told Congress of the progress in Iraq last fall. “It will be uneven, punctuated by setbacks as well as achievements, and it will require substantial U.S. resolve and commitment.” Does this sound familiar? To me, the statement could also have applied to the American Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I, or World War II. We paid a heavy price in each of those conflicts, but we prevailed. And we will prevail now. Our history, from the snows of Valley Forge to the flames of 9/11, has been one of perseverance. I understand the threats we face today. When I am president, America will look this evil in the eye, confront it, defeat it, and emerge stronger than ever. It is easy to be a peace lover; the challenging part is being a peacemaker.”
“I was deeply saddened today to learn about the death of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. My deepest condolences go out to the family and supporters of this remarkable woman, an individual who paid the ultimate price for her embrace of moderation and rejection of extremism.
“The death of Benazir Bhutto underscores yet again the grave dangers we face in the world today and particularly in countries like Pakistan, where the forces of moderation are arrayed in a fierce battle against those who embrace violent Islamic extremism.
“Given Pakistan’s strategic location, the international terrorist groups that operate from its soil, and its nuclear arsenal, the future of that country has deep implications for the security of the United States and its allies. America must stand on the right side of this ongoing struggle.
“In my numerous visits to Pakistan – to Islamabad, to Peshawar, even to the tribal areas of Waziristan – I have seen first hand the many challenges that face the political leadership there, challenges so graphically portrayed by today’s tragedy. There are, in Pakistan, brave individuals who seek to lead their country away from extremism and instability and into the light of a better day. America, I believe, must do all we can to support them.“
“We are still learning the details of today’s tragic events in Pakistan, but this is a stark reminder that America must not only stay on high alert, but remain actively engaged across the globe. Pakistan has long been a key part in the war against extremism and radical jihadists. For those who think Iraq is the sole front in the War on Terror, one must look no further than what has happened today. America must show its commitment to stand with all moderate forces across the Islamic world and together face the defining challenge of our generation – the struggle against violent, radical jihadists.
“At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers go to the family of Benazir Bhutto, and to all the people of Pakistan who are fighting against extremist forces that would commit such heinous acts as the whole world has witnessed today.”
“It is a tragedy, of course. It reminds us that things can happen in faraway places of the world that can affect the United States. I think this should be of great concern to us. It is almost a perfect storm in a very bad sense because two forces are operating against each other that are both desirable. One is democracy: they were making progress in that regard in that country. Former prime minister Bhutto was an important part of that process. But the other is stability. Pakistan is a nuclear country, and we cannot afford to let nukes fall into the hands of dangerous Muslim radicals. We are hoping those two things can be balanced out. We can see the continued progress toward a democratic society but also maintain stability in the country, which seems to be very much in doubt right now….”
“I am profoundly saddened and outraged by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a leader of tremendous political and personal courage. I came to know Mrs. Bhutto over many years, during her tenures as Prime Minister and during her years in exile. Mrs. Bhutto’s concern for her country, and her family, propelled her to risk her life on behalf of the Pakistani people. She returned to Pakistan to fight for democracy despite threats and previous attempts on her life and now she has made the ultimate sacrifice. Her death is a tragedy for her country and a terrible reminder of the work that remains to bring peace, stability, and hope to regions of the globe too often paralyzed by fear, hatred, and violence.
“Let us pray that her legacy will be a brighter, more hopeful future for the people she loved and the country she served. My family and I extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to the victims and their families and to the people of Pakistan.”
“I am shocked and saddened by the death of Benazir Bhutto in this terrorist atrocity. She was a respected and resilient advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world.”
“Benazir Bhutto was a brave and historic leader for Pakistan. Her assassination is a sad and solemn event, and our hearts go out to her family and to the Pakistani people. But we will not let this contemptible, cowardly act delay the march of progress in Pakistan for a single second.
“I have seen firsthand in Pakistan, and in meetings with Prime Minister Bhutto and President Musharraf, the instability of the country and the complexity of the challenges they face. At this critical moment, America must convey both strength and principle. We should do everything in our power to help bring the perpetrators of this heinous act to justice and to ensure that Bhutto’s movement toward democracy continues.”
“This is a terrible day. My heart goes out to Benazir Bhutto’s family, friends and followers.
Like her father before her, Benazir Bhutto worked her whole life – and gave her life – to help Pakistan become a democratic, secular and modern Muslim country. She was a woman of extraordinary courage who returned to Pakistan in the face of death threats and even after an assassination attempt the day of her return, she did not flinch. It was a privilege to know her these many years and to call her a friend.
I am convinced Ms. Bhutto would have won free and fair elections next week. The fact that she was by far Pakistan’s most popular leader underscores the fact that there is a vast, moderate majority in Pakistan that must have a clear voice in the system. Her assassination makes it all the more urgent that Pakistan return to a democratic path.
This fall, I twice urged President Musharraf to provide better security for Ms. Bhutto and other political leaders – I wrote him before her return and after the first assassination attempt in October. The failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered.
I know that Benazir’s followers will be tempted to lash out in anger and violence. I urge them to remain calm – and not play into the hands of the forces of destruction. I urge Pakistan’s leaders to open a fully accountable and transparent investigation. We must find out who was behind this and bring those responsible to justice. And the United States should offer any assistance necessary, including investigative teams, to get to the bottom of this horror.
The way to honor Benazir Bhutto is to uphold the values for which she gave her life: democracy, moderation and social justice. I join with the Pakistani people in mourning the loss of a dear friend.”
“Benazir Bhutto was a courageous woman. Her death, and the deaths of so many of her supporters, is more than just a tragedy. It is a testament to the will of the Pakistani people to see democracy restored. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who died today.
“Ms. Bhutto knew the dangers to her safety. But she would not be intimidated. We also must not be intimidated.
A leader has died, but democracy must live. The United States government cannot stand by and allow Pakistan’s return to democracy to be derailed or delayed by violence.
We must use our diplomatic leverage and force the enemies of democracy to yield: President Bush should press Musharraf to step aside, and a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties, should be formed immediately. Until this happens, we should suspend military aid to the Pakistani government. Free and fair elections must also be held as soon as possible.
It is in the interests of the US that there be a democratic Pakistan that relentlessly hunts down terrorists. Musharraf has failed, and his attempts to cling to power are destabilizing his country. He must go.“
Dec 27, 2007 14
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto died at 6:16PM PST (8:16AM New York) today after suffering fatal wounds from an assassination attempt while leaving Liaquat Park in Rawalpindi.
Bhutto, after completing her address at the party rally and entering a bomb and bulletproof vehicle, reportedly opened the vehicle’s sunroof and shook hands with her supporters through it, exposing the top half of her body. An assassin, perhaps briefly preceded by a suicide blast nearby, fired three to five shots at her; one struck Ms. Bhutto in the head and the other in her neck. The assassin then blew himself up.
Rehman Malik, Bhutto’s chief security adviser and Naheed Khan, a close Bhutto friend are critically injured. Over thirty others have been killed.
Dawn reports in today’s paper (before the blast) that Islamabad (adjacent to Rawalpindi) was under high alert and heightened security due to threats from Baitullah Mehsud. Nusrat Javed of Aaj Television states that the suicide attacker went through three rings of security to reach Ms. Bhutto.
Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in Rawalpindi — at the same park– on October 16, 1951. Bhutto’s father was also hung in Rawalpindi in 1979.
Ms. Bhutto joins the list of assassinated family members: her brother Shahnawaz died from poisoning in France in 1985 and her other brother Murtaza was shot to death by police at close range in 1996.
UPDATE – 09:56AM – GEO reports of gunfire and blasts near Bilawal House, the Bhutto home in Karachi.
UPDATE – 10:05AM – An immensely distraught Asif Ali Zardari, husband of the late Benazir Bhutto, just spoke briefly on GEO Television. On his way from Dubai to Karachi, he said, “We will see what has happened. We don’t believe all of what’s been said. We will see then we will believe it.”
UPDATE – 10:38AM – Pervez Musharraf has appealed to the people of Pakistan to cooperate with the security forces to maintain calm as violence grows across the country. The extent of the turmoil is unclear at this point, but GEO is reporting significant violence in Karachi.
UPDATE – 10:45AM – GEO reports that there will be a three days of mourning in Bhutto’s home province of Sindh. Bhutto’s body will be transported from Rawalpindi to Karachi, but it could be temporarily placed at Zardari House in Islamabad.
UPDATE – 10:58AM – Former Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence Hamid Gul states on GEO that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto demonstrates the “failure” of Pervez Musharraf’s government and calls for a “consensus government.”
UPDATE – 11:05AM – GEO has shown the image of the gun believed to have been used to fire upon Bhutto.
UPDATE – 11:21AM – Pervez Musharraf just completed a national address on Pakistan television. He has announced a three day national mourning period. Musharraf attributed the attacks to the terrorists the country is waging a war against and vowed to continue the fight till they are vanquished.
George W. Bush earlier made an address from Crawford, Texas, urging Pakistanis to “honor Benazir Bhutto’s memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life.”
UPDATE – 12:50PM – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has announced that they will boycott the elections.
UPDATE – 1:02PM – Nawaz Sharif is giving a speech now explaining his boycott of the elections, stating that neither free and fair elections nor security can be provided with Musharraf as president.
UPDATE – 1:05PM – The body of Benazir Bhutto is at Chaklala Air Base in Islamabad. It will be transported to Bhutto’s hometown of Larkana, where she will be buried at the family mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Baksh.
Dec 21, 2007 1
Former Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Sherpao was the target of yet another assassination attempt this morning in Pakistan. Sherpao was unhurt, but his son and two grandsons were injured.
The attack took place at a mosque in Charsadda, Sherpao’s hometown, while he and approximately a thousand others were gathered to perform the prayer for Eid ul-Adha, which is being celebrated in Pakistan today.
The former interior minister was the target of an assassination attempt in the same town earlier in April of this year. He heads a faction of the People’s Party that split off from Benazir Bhutto’s wing in the mid-90s. A former major in Pakistan’s army and chief minister of the NWFP, Sherpao fled Pakistan on corruption charges after Musharraf’s coup and returned only after making a deal with the military.
Sherpao’s enemies are many and include individuals such as Baitullah Mehsud as well and figures within Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment.
Dec 18, 2007 3
Benazir Bhutto recently blamed Pakistan’s intelligence services for the fractures emerging in her party’s elite. The former prime minister is highly concerned with cohesiveness of the PPP, making party members take loyalty oaths on the Qur’an. Though the intelligence services have previously and will continue to cause defections from her party, Bhutto alone bears responsibility for the PPP’s current internal challenges.
In late November, Masood Sharif Khattak–head of the intelligence bureau under Bhutto and PPP member for over 20 years–resigned from the party, possibly due to objections over Bhutto’s hardline stance against the insurgents in northwest Pakistan (he is a Pathan) and her dealings with Pervez Musharraf.
Earlier this month, Naseerullah Babar–Bhutto’s long-time national security adviser–rejected offers for a PPP ticket in the upcoming elections, citing his opposition to her talks with Pervez Musharraf.
Last week, Aitzaz Ahsan withdrew his nomination papers after Bhutto rejected his proposal that election candidates take an oath that they will earnestly work for the restoration of the pre-November 3rd judiciary when the new parliament convenes. She said that Ahsan’s proposal– a reasonable compromise that permitted both electoral participation and commitment to the pro-judiciary cause–was his “personal point of view and the PPP has nothing to do with it.” After Ahsan’s withdrawal, Bhutto stated that he must decide whether he’s with the PPP or the chief justice. On Friday, she also stated that the pre-November 3rd judiciary was not independent. As I’ve written earlier, Bhutto never had much fondness for Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and his colleagues. In Dubai, prior to her return to Pakistan, Bhutto accused the court of a historic bias in favor of Punjabis. [Video]
This week, Naheed Khan–one of Bhutto’s closest friends and political allies–also withdrew her nomination papers, albeit for more personal reasons. Khan opposes Bhutto’s proximity to Husain Haqqani, the architect of her U.S. lobbying campaign, and offering of an election ticket to his current wife. Haqqani was previously married to Khan’s sister. While Haqqani is currently a professor at Boston University and a fellow at the neo-conservative Hudson Institute, there are reports Bhutto could offer him a Senate seat when one becomes available. Soap opera drama aside, Nahid Khan’s withdrawal is significant as she had previously been the medium by which people communicate to Bhutto. However, it should be noted that she remains as Bhutto’s political secretary.
What does this all mean? The PPP isn’t necessarily in a state of crisis, but it could be if Bhutto & Company fail to shape up. Rather than blaming the intelligence services for causing splits in her party, these particular developments are the product of Bhutto’s authoritarian hold over the PPP.
Bhutto needs to improve her capacity to channel differences of opinion and multiple dominant personalities within the party into a reasonable mean. Over the course of more than a decade, Bhutto has failed to demonstrate much of an ability to do so; recall how she pushed out her mother and late brother out of the party. The challenges the PPP faces today is the result of her overpersonalization of the party’s decision-making structure and an overaggressive lobbying campaign in the U.S.
Gone is the era in which one could make statements in Washington and not have them reach Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad. Bhutto’s statements in Washington regarding giving the IAEA access to A.Q. Khan, for example, made their way to Pakistan instantaneously. Farhatullah Babar, a senior PPP leader and Bhutto loyalist, was compelled to deny that Bhutto had made the comments attributed to her, despite the video recording. The discord between her discourse in the West and in Pakistan has been telling.
Rather than asking Aitzaz Ahsan whether he’s loyal to the PPP or Chief Justice Chaudhry, she should ask herself what is the People’s Party to begin with? Is she the chairperson of the People’s Party or, effectively, the Bhutto’s Party? And has she, in her quest for another premiership, pulled the party too far from its populist, anti-military rule roots?
Instead of pointing fingers elsewhere, now is the time for introspection for Bhutto, for by the time her son Bilawal finishes his studies at Oxford and learns a modicum of Urdu, Pakistan’s first mass political party might be in tatters.
Dec 14, 2007 0
In an interview with BBC Urdu, the South Waziristan neo-Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud says that the assortment of militant groups in Pakistan’s seven tribal agencies and neighboring Malakand region of the NWFP (including Swat) have united under a new umbrella named the “Taliban Movement of Pakistan” (TMP) or Tehreek-e Taliban-e Pakistan.
The movement is led by Mehsud as amir and Maulvi Omar as spokesperson. TMP consists of a 40 member shura (advisory) council and was formed in a meeting of 20 representatives of the neo-Taliban, concluding a month or so of continuous talks.
Mehsud said the new organization’s objective vis-a-vis the government is to unite the neo-Taliban’s disparate, localized groups so that it can deliver the next government a “complete response” to “set its mind straight.”
Maulvi Omar stated that the TMP provide a unified council that would engage or oppose the government on behalf of all member groups. This would bring an end to the localized and discordant neo-Taliban dealings with the government, noting that the government is crushing the neo-Taliban in Swat, while there are talks being conducted in Bajaur, and accords have been made in Waziristan.
He gave the Pakistani military a ten day ultimatum to:
Omar added that his group’s fundamental goal has been to oppose or impede the U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan, but because of the Pakistani government’s “incorrect policies”, it was compelled to wage a “defensive jihad” within the country.