Another Warning from the Grave

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New Book Claims Musharraf Threatened Benazir and U.S. Spied on Her

Ron Suskind, author of The One Percent Doctrine, claims in a new book that Pervez Musharraf gave an ominous warning to the late Benazir Bhutto in a September 2007 phone conversation, telling her: “You should understand something…Your security is based on the state of our relationship.”  [Benazir spoke to Musharraf on her cell phone, while in the late Congressman Tom Lantos' office.]

Suskind’s book, The Way of the World, was released today.  Particularly compelling portions have been reported on CNN.  Suskind’s reporting is controversial, though his sourcing is seen as meticulous.  He’s a Pullitzer Prize winner.

Update: 1:59AM (08/06) –

  • I purchased the book last night, wrote a brief summary, and provided a lengthy set of Pakistani-related excerpts.  Unfortunately, all that was lost and I’m not sure how.  So what follows is a crude reconstruction of what I originally produced.  In the end, you should read Suskind’s book yourself.  It weaves a beautiful narrative of the microcosmic struggles of real ‘characters’ to be human (who include Benazir and a young Pakistani working in DC) and with the more macrocosmic challenges of extremism/terrorism and U.S. hegemony.

Some Pakistan-related claims in the book:

  • The Bush administration’s Pakistan policy is the product of a rivalry between Vice President Cheney’s office and the State Department team of Condoleeza Rice, John Negroponte, and Richard Boucher.  Rice’s team came up with the Bhutto-Musharraf deal idea.  Cheney’s office refused to own it, describing Bhutto as “complicated and unpredictable.”
  • Bhutto’s aides proposed her return to Pakistan to the State Department in spring of 2006.
  • In the summer of 2006, Washington threatened to “constrain” or freeze (perhaps partially?) Benazir Bhutto’s assets.  Yet a year later, it showed no interest Bhutto’s request to do so to Musharraf’s cronies, including Ejaz Shah.
  • The State Department bought onto the idea of a Bhutto-Musharraf deal in the spring of 2007, with the rise of lawyers’ movement.
  • The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had been spying on Benazir Bhutto for months prior to her return. It listened to her phone conversation with son Bilawal in which “she told him about the secret bank accounts that hold the family’s fortunes.”
  • The NSA “has harvested a number of portentous conversations of Benazir Bhutto’s.”  This would let the Bush administration take a “carrots and sticks” approach to Benazir.  I would add this data likely serves as a restraint upon Asif Zardari.
  • Prior to Bhutto’s return to Pakistan, Asif Zardari believed that she could be best secured by surrounding her with bodies; her American advisers thought otherwise–but Bhutto turned down a $400,000/month proposal from Blackwater.
  • Musharraf called Benazir after the first assassination attempt on her.  After offering his sympathies, he tells her, “I’m not the enemy, Bibi.”
  • After the Karachi blasts, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson asked Bhutto to “tone down” her criticism of Musharraf.
  • Bhutto found out through sources days in advance that Musharraf would be imposing emergency rule/martial law.
  • Bhutto was “evolving” during “the last months of her life.”  This was not only due to Karachi assassination attempt and house arrests,  but also because she saw herself as not simply returning to the throne, but also playing a “wider historic role.”

Suskind presents a nuanced version of Benazir — her strengths and weaknesses.  But, interestingly, he concludes somewhat hagiographically.  Benazir, he seems to suggest, evolved into a messianic figure of sorts after she returned to Pakistan.  Flawed, humane, and a source of hope she was.  Her “evolution,” he writes, could have helped her “turn into the next great narrative of this period, capturing the imagination far and wide and turning it away from destructive certainty.”

He then cautions the reader with a reminder of Benazir’s past.  But still, Benazir at her death, for Suskind, internalized the hopes of her nation.  Meanwhile, Zardari (at least the Zardari he met on the Hill in September ’07) is disinterested, misplaced, and uninspiring.

Bhutto, during her return to Pakistan, alternated between populism and a Musharraf-accomodating pragmatism.  She was murdered at a moment in which she was tilted toward the former.  Whether she would subsequently re-tilt toward the latter or stay with the Pakistani public had she survived is unclear.  But myths can be an effective instrument of change.  The potential positive narrative that Suskind writes died with Bhutto remains alive in Pakistan.  Irrespective of its accuracy, it can serve as a means to manipulate elite activity, channeling it toward greater nobility.

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A Warning from the Grave

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Benazir’s Handwritten Will

Provided above is a copy of what is said to be Benazir Bhutto’s handwritten will. Mark Siegel, Bhutto’s long-time confidante and DC lobbyist, tells Newsweek, “I know her style….She wrote this document.”

Arif Nizami, editor of The Nation, wrote three weeks ago:

“So far as the mini-controversy about the authenticity of Ms Bhutto’s will is concerned, it is genuine, since I have seen and read the one-page document in her handwriting and duly signed by her on October 16 2007, two days prior to her fateful departure for her homeland.”

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Scotland Yard Says Head Injury Killed Benazir Bhutto

The team from Scotland Yard investigating the assassination of Benazir Bhutto released their final report today. Its two major conclusions: head trauma caused by the bomb blast killed Benazir Bhutto and the suicide bomber and the gunman were the same person.

The report states:

“Ms Bhutto’s only apparent injury was a major trauma to the right side of the head. The UK experts all exclude this injury being an entry or exit wound as a result of gunshot.”

“…the UK Home Office pathologist…is unable categorically to exclude the possibility of there being a gunshot wound to the upper trunk or neck. However…the available evidence suggests that there was no gunshot injury….Dr Cary excludes the possibility of a bullet to the neck or upper trunk as being a relevant factor in the actual cause of death, when set against the nature and extent of her head injury.”

Dr. Nathaniel Cary, the UK Home Office pathologist, is quoted as stating:

“the only tenable cause for the rapidly fatal head injury in this case is that it occurred as the result of impact due to the effects of the bomb-blast.”

“in my opinion Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto died as a result of a severe head injury sustained as a consequence of the bomb-blast and due to head impact somewhere in the escape hatch of the vehicle.”

“All the available evidence points toward the person who fired shots and the person who detonated the explosives being one and the same person.”

The report’s conclusions are unlikely to satisfy a considerable number of Pakistanis, and in particular, People’s Party leaders and supporters who strongly believe an assassin’s blow took Bhutto’s life.

Rehman Malik, Benazir Bhutto’s security chief, stated on GEO TV that Scotland Yard had a “limited mandate” and did not produce “a conclusive report.” He seemed unprepared to deal with the report’s technical aspects, admitting that he did not read it in full, though he argued among the remaining questions is that of who financed the plot. Sherry Rehman, a senior PPP spokesperson, also did not read the entire report but maintained the party’s position that Bhutto died from an assassin’s blow.

If the People’s Party continues in its rejection of the report’s findings, it will find difficulty gaining international and institutional credence if it cannot rebut them on a technical basis. Its call for a Hariri-like UN investigation has gone ignored and there is little will among the major global powers to concede to one.  Should the People’s Party come to power after the coming elections, it can perhaps obtain a rival third-party report.  Otherwise, Bhutto’s assassination will remain a passively contested issue.

The Scotland Yard report can be seen as a victory for the Musharraf government, which has contended that head trauma associated with the blast, not an assassin’s blow, killed Bhutto. It will, however, not temper the skepticism of most Pakistanis toward the claims made by Musharraf and Britain, one of his Western benefactors.

[Full text of report]

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Musharraf: Elections Delayed till February 18; Britain to Assist in Investigation

In a national address this evening in Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf sought to legitimize the delay in elections announced earlier in the day. He attributed the polls delay–now slated for February 18–to the infrastructural damage in Sindh as a result of the violence following Bhutto’s murder. The election commission’s offices in the province, for example, were attacked and voters rolls were allegedly destroyed.

Musharraf announced the formation of a commission that would investigate the causes of and actors behind the post-assassination violence. The elections, he said, would be not only “free and fair,” but also “peaceful.” Toward this, the army and rangers will remain deployed in Sindh into and after the elections. Musharraf defended his use of the army for internal security, stating that he initially did not wish to add to its heavy burden, but was compelled to do so.

Clearly, Musharraf is most moved by the deterioration of law and order, which he sees ultimately as an attack on his power. The murder of a two-time prime minister near the seat of the army, in his view, is now a peripheral matter. If it was truly primary, he would announce an independent commission, formed in concert with the opposition, to supervise the investigation.

Moreover, if he truly believes that Baitullah Mehsud is responsible for the murder of a former Pakistani prime minister, shouldn’t he have announced that the army would make a renewed, aggressive attempt to apprehend Mehsud, try him before a court of law, and–if convicted–execute him? Is not the murder of a former prime minister, in effect, an act of treason?

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Bhutto Was to Give U.S. Senator “Secret” Document on Day She Was Slain

CNN reports that Benazir Bhutto was to give U.S. officials a “secret” document on the day she was killed. The document details measures by which Pakistan’s intelligence services would allegedly rig the elections. Bhutto intended to give the dossier first to Sen. Arlen Specter then to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The choice of these American politicians is interesting. It suggests that Bhutto believed they would be more effective than elements in the Bush administration. Specter, who was in Islamabad ready to visit Bhutto later Thursday evening, often diverges with the Bush administration despite being a Republican. Clinton and Obama are leading Democratic contenders who would relish an opportunity to throw a blow at the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Pakistan provides such an opportunity given the perceived success of the Iraq surge and its integrality to the Afghanistan problem — the primordial post-9/11 U.S. national security issue.

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Bilawal and Asif Zardari to Co-Chair the PPP

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.

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After Bhutto: Who Will Lead the Pakistan People’s Party?

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.


Amin Fahim
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.


Asif Zardari
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.


Aitzaz Ahsan
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


Farhatullah Babar
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.


Sherry Rehman
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.


Fatima Bhutto
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

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The Day After: Friday Round-Up

  • Benazir Bhutto laid to rest near her father in Garhi Khuda Baksh
  • Javed Iqbal Cheema, Interior Ministry spokesperson: Baitullah Mehsud Responsible for Bhutto’s Killing
    • Claims intelligence services intercepted Mehsud conversation at 9:15 AM PST today (Thursday, 11:15PM New York) in which he congratulated a person referred to as Maulvi Sahib (a title, not a name) on Bhutto’s murder who tells him “They were our men.”
      • Interestingly, Mehsud asks Maulvi Sahib, “Who were they?” If the transcript is accurate (translated from Pashto into Urdu and then English), it means that Mehsud did not know the identity of the attackers. In fact, he probably was not aware of the plot’s specifics as Maulvi Sahib tells him, “I will give you more details when I come.”
      • But, Maulvi Sahib congratulates Mehsud first, who then returns the pleasantry. So Mehsud, if the transcript is real and accurate, likely issued the attack but delegated planning and management to a subordinate–Maulvi Sahib. And so though it’s unclear when Maulvi Sahib says, “They were our men,” whether “our” includes Mehsud, it most likely it does. Mehsud issues an order to Maulvi Sahib afterwards: “Do not inform their family presently.” So Maulvi Sahib is an manager working under Baitullah Mehsud.
    • Blow to head, not bullets or ball bearings, killed Bhutto
    • Transcript of conversation, external postmortem of Bhutto, and video of gunman firing at Bhutto released
    • People’s Party rejects Interior Ministry’s findings; Farooq Naik of PPP: “It is a pack of lies.”
  • Government to hold All Parties Conference to discuss elections [Link]
  • Violence across Pakistan
    • Karachi: Plastics factory set on fire, killing 6;
    • Rioting in Karachi causes major telecom outage [Link]
    • Liaquat Ali Jatoi’s home set on fire
    • Banks, gas stations, rail cars, and shops set on fire
  • Army sends battallions to major cities in Sindh: Hyderabad (2 batallions), Mirpurkhas, Jamshoro, Badin, Thatta, Tandoallah Yar, Nowshero Feroz, Dadu, Shakarpur, Khairpur, Larkana, Shahadad Kot, Ghotki, Kashmore, and Karachi (Orangi, Malir, Sahfora Chowk, Bin Qasim, SITE Area, and Steel Mills Colony).
  • Government earlier claimed ball bearings from blast, not bullet, killed Bhutto; Murder scene hosed off with water soon after assassination
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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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Arif Rafiq regularly appears on the John Batchelor Show Friday nights from 09:30-10:00pm Eastern Time. Tune your dial to 770AM in New York or 630AM in DC. The show appears on affiliates in other cities. Listen live online at WABCRadio.com.
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