Benazir Bhutto's Assassination: A Tragedy Born of Military Despotism and Anarchy

Tariq Ali says, "It is assumed that the killers were jihadi fanatics. This may well be true, but were they acting on their own?" -- would it ever be known who were behind these fanatics who killed Benazir Bhutto? Or would it be like another "lone gunman" theory?

Another article in The Guardian observes aptly, "Even if a militant group did dispatch the bomber, were they operating alone or as pawns of more powerful figures? Even today, the one other infamous assassination in Pakistan's history, the killing of Zia in August 1988, remains the unsolved subject of many a conspiracy theory." Why call it "conspiracy theory" when even the "non-conspiracy" theory couldn't solve similar other murders, assassinations of political leaders and even mass murders of innocent civilians either remain unsolved or white-washed "investigation" staged by stooges. This morning, a political leader was assassinated in Pakistan, but the patterns of these killings are eerily familiar.

From The Economist the following salient points, though considered allegations, perhaps retain the key: "Miss Bhutto’s killer is alleged to have approached to within 20 yards of her car, carrying a gun, dressed in a police uniform. At the least, such a lapse in the security afforded to Mr Musharraf and his supporters would be unimaginable."

In all the outside appearance, Benazir's assassination means an "obstacle" removed for Musharraf, but did it really? The Washington Post article says, "Bhutto's assassination leaves Pakistan's future -- and Musharraf's -- in doubt, some experts said. "U.S. policy is in tatters. The administration was relying on Benazir Bhutto's participation in elections to legitimate Musharraf's continued power as president," said Barnett R. Rubin of New York University. "Now Musharraf is finished."

Author Ahmed Rashid observes, "Bhutto was killed leaving a political rally in Rawalpindi, just two miles from where her father, prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged by another military dictator 30 years ago. The tragedy of the Bhutto family -- her brothers also were killed, one poisoned, one shot, and her husband spent seven years in prison -- has become part of the saga and struggle by Pakistanis to create a viable democratic, modern state."

Teresita C. Schaffer draws attention to "tragedy" of Pakistani political leadership, "the tragedy of Pakistan is that the PPP and other major parties are family fiefdoms, built on personal loyalty, with no record of developing new leaders or permitting opposition within the ranks. This structure strengthens the tendency to view political office as a possession. Corruption and unaccountability are natural byproducts. Talented second-tier party members had no prospect of emerging from Bhutto's shadow."

Columnist David Ignatius comments on political engineering, "Bhutto's death is a brutal demonstration of the difficulty for outsiders in understanding -- let alone tinkering with -- a country such as Pakistan. The Bush administration attempted a bit of political engineering when it tried to broker an alliance between Musharraf and Bhutto and sought to position her as the country's next prime minister. Yesterday's events were a reminder that global politics is not Prospero's island, where we can conjure up the outcomes we want. In places such as Pakistan, where we can't be sure where events are heading, the wisest course for the United States is the cautious one of trying to identify and protect American interests. Pakistanis will decide how and when their country makes its accommodation with the modern world.

New York Times' editorial describes Benazir and her father in contemporary Pakistani political context, "Ms. Bhutto and her father and political mentor, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, were democratic, but imperfect political leaders — imperious, indifferent to human rights and, in her case, tainted by serious charges of corruption. The father was deposed by a military coup and then hanged. The daughter was twice elected and twice deposed. But both had one undeniable asset: electoral legitimacy — legitimacy that the generals and the Islamic extremists could only seek to destroy or, in Mr. Musharraf’s case, hope to borrow."

The Independent comments on Musharraf's desperation, "These will be perilous days for Pakistan. The return to civilian rule and the parliamentary elections, now less than two weeks away, are both surely threatened. Mr Musharraf's position is as shaky as it has been since he seized power. His call for calm "so that the nefarious designs of terrorists can be defeated" smacked of desperation, the national security card ever the last resort of the weak leader. And even if, as is probable, he had no part whatever in her death, there will be many among her supporters who will believe he did."

Pakistan is a place where conspiracies are played out too often, writes Andrew Buncombe in The Independent, "Should some official version of events be provided by the government, few in Pakistan will believe it. In a country which has experienced military coups, the suspicious death of one of its military leaders and the execution of another president and in which both the military and the shadowy intelligence services retain the dominant influence, people will be ready to believe any manner of fanciful ideas about who was behind Ms Bhutto's death. Pakistan is, after all, the place where conspiracies are played out all too often."