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What Behind Benazir's Assassination

What Behind Benazir's Assassination

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Published by Imran Ahmed
The Assassination of Benazir Bhuttoo was already planned by those who sent her Pakistan.
The Assassination of Benazir Bhuttoo was already planned by those who sent her Pakistan.

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Published by: Imran Ahmed on Aug 20, 2008
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What's Behind Benazir Bhutto'sAssassination?
January, 05 2008By
Junaid Ahmad
 Source: Left TurnBenazir Bhutto, the "life chairperson" of Pakistan's largest and most popular political party, the PakistanPeople's Party (PPP), is now dead. Her assassination took place while she was campaigning for nationaland provincial assembly elections, scheduled for January 8. After the assassination rioting ensuedthroughout the country, particularly in Karachi and Bhutto's native province of Sindh, which have beenaflame with protests and social unrest.The assassination and suicide bombing occurred in Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the Pakistanimilitary and supposedly one of the nation's most secure areas. In an even further twist of irony, the siteof the tragedy is also the place Pakistan's first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated in1951. It is also not far from the prison where Benazir's father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged byanother US-supported military dictator, General Zia ul-Haq.
Who's to Blame
As is typical with the Bush administration, before any evidence had been offered, and with importantfacts about the whole gruesome episode still in question, it unequivocally ascribed Bhutto'sassassination to Al Qaeda or a like-minded Islamist group. All President Bush seemed interested in wasreminding Pakistanis how significant the upcoming national elections were, since only those couldperhaps offer a way out for Musharraf's ongoing crisis of legitimacy. That the elections are being stage-managed by Musharraf and the military security establishment, is hardly a secret, even Bhutto herselfremarked that they would be rigged. But Bush insisted that Pakistan "honor Benazir Bhutto's memory bycontinuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life." After the assassination,Musharraf commented that this was a moment of national mourning and placed the culpability forBhutto's murder immediately and squarely on Islamic extremists.But questions are arising of the complicity of the government and its vast network of military-intelligence agency operatives in this crime. Even if the Musharraf regime is not directly implicated inthe assassination of Bhutto, a strong argument is being made that its blatant negligence engendered aresult it welcomed in private. When the first assassination attempt on Bhutto occurred on October 19,involving a massive bomb attack killing 140 people, she made it clear that she believed elements withthe military security establishment were responsible.Over the past few weeks, Bhutto incessantly complained that the government was completelyunaccommodating of her most elementary security requests, including providing her with an armoredcar with tinted glass windows, and the equipment to jam electronic bomb detonations. It seems thatBhutto herself, though cognizant of the grave danger to which she was making herself vulnerable,depended on her political importance (not least to the US) to protect her. Her miscalculation turnedout to be fatal.
The Elections
Bhutto's murder initially made it uncertain whether the military government headed by Musharraf asPresident will proceed with the controversial elections. However, now that Bhutto's political party, the
 
Pakistan People's Party (PPP), has declared its continued willingness to participate in them, it is likelythat elections will go on at some point in the very near future. The country's other main oppositionpolitical personality, Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz group (PML-N), reacted toBhutto's assassination by proclaiming that his party will renew the call for a boycott of the elections ifthe government insists on going along with them on January 8. The government, nevertheless, cancertainly be counted on to use this murderous act as an excuse to clamp down on any serious politicalcampaigning, particularly if it has a strong anti-Musharraf or anti-military tone to it.The desperate manner in which Washington continues to insist on these elections, despite the socialunrest and political turmoil in Pakistan, only reinforces how bizarre and orchestrated the whole affairis. Despite their choreographed (by Musharraf and the US) character, the elections are routinelypresented by the Bush administration and the US media as marking a momentous occasion in thecountry's "democratic transformation."
Musharraf and Military
Musharraf, who came to power in an October 1999 military coup and was the "General-President" untilrecently, was forced to finally - after many broken promises - abdicate his role of Chief of Army Staffand lift a repressive state of emergency on December 15. He had proclaimed emergency rule in thecountry so as to preempt and prevent all legal-constitutional obstacles to his reelection as president,particularly the challenge posed by a Supreme Court which had shown remarkable and unusualindependence in the face of dictatorship. However, the notion that the state of emergency and itsrepressive character has ended is a myth.The government continues to keep the media firmly under control by draconian censorship provisions.Opponents of the government can face trial by military courts. Election rallies and all anti-governmentdemonstrations are banned. And most importantly, the country's Supreme and High courts, which havethe final say on the legality of the elections, have been purged of judges perceived as "irresponsible,"i.e. unwilling to accede to Musharraf's ongoing theatrics.Because of the conspiratorial nature of the assassination, it cannot be unequivocally determined at thispoint who was behind Bhutto's murder. But a large segment of the Pakistani population considers theMusharraf-run military-security establishment responsible. Of course, during the past couple of monthsin which the US had accelerated its efforts at imposing on Pakistan the Benazir-Musharraf "marriage ofconvenience" - to borrow Tariq Ali's term - in order to supposedly render an iota of legitimacy to adeeply unpopular Musharraf regime, members of al Qaeda and various other groups did vow to targetBhutto. But this does not necessarily prove that some type of an Islamist group conducted thisoperation or, even if they did, that it was not spurred on by sections of the military-securityestablishment.Significant sections of the military and political elite have always held the PPP in contempt for havingmade rhetorical commitments to fighting poverty and inequality during the party's period of inception -a period characterized by a Pakistani population tired of dictatorship and elite domination. Thefounder of the PPP, Benazir Bhutto's father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Bhutto's, despite his many faults andmegalomania while in power, remains Pakistan's most charismatic and popular political leader. He washanged by the military regime of Zia-ul Haq in 1979 at the behest of what he himself called the twohegemonies over Pakistan, the internal one - the military and allied elites - and the external one - theUS.
Washington's Plan
Washington has worked assiduously since the summer of 2007 to push through a power-sharingagreement between Bhutto and Musharraf and, despite some turn of events since Bhutto's return to thecountry in mid-October which hampered such efforts, hoped that the January elections would solidify
 
such an imperial partnership. The Bush administration has made it crystal clear that despite all itspretenses to supporting democracy in Pakistan, it will rely on Musharraf and the military to be theprincipal bulwark of its interests in the region.The elimination of Bhutto has precipitated an internal crisis for the PPP, which by all accounts isconsidered to have the largest support out of any political party in the country. Despite the party'shorrible performance when in power under the two terms of Benazir Bhutto as prime minister, the PPPhas retained some of its political appeal because of the memory of Benazir's "martyred" father and theparty's putative commitment to the slogan of roti, kapra, and makaan - "bread, clothing, and shelter."Bhutto's exit from the picture has been, at least initially, comforting for Musharraf and others in themilitary who were becoming increasingly anxious of the powerful political role she was assuming, aswell as her closer (than themselves) relationship to Washington. However, the contradiction is thatBhutto and her party were supposed to be the very instruments used to bolster a Musharraf militaryregime losing any and all vestige of credibility.In the developments that led to this great political and human tragedy, the role of the US has beencentral. The US has a history of supporting a succession of military dictatorships in Pakistan, andWashington's firm commitment to Musharraf's autocratic regime right up to the present has been nodifferent. The Bush administration has given at least $10 billion to Pakistan since 9/11 and the invasionof Afghanistan, the overwhelming majority of it in the form of military aid for the services of thePakistani military in its waging of the "war on terror" and providing crucial support to the US-NATOoccupation of Afghanistan - this despite the periodic claims by sections of the US establishment thatMusharraf is "not doing enough." Throughout the recent period of emergency rule imposed on thecountry, the US continued to back Musharraf as long as he remained loyal to the American project ofinstalling yet another pro-American leader at the helm of Pakistan's politics in the person of BenazirBhutto.
Real Democracy
The movement for democracy in Pakistan, as the senior analyst for the Real News Network Aijaz Ahmadpoints out, did not begin with Benazir Bhutto nor will end with her demise. Maintaining a social statusquo of extreme wealth disparity, political marginalization of the population at large, and subservienceto imperialism has been the primary motivation for the military and elite politicians to be "partners incrime" rather than any serious antagonists of each other. The wave of anti-dictatorship protests andreal calls for participatory democracy that were sweeping the country from the late spring of 2007essentially were contained and channeled into safer directions by the main national political parties,rather than allowed to spread and present a real challenge to the system.Bhutto, despite claims to the contrary from most of the Western media who have been incessantlypraising her and what she stood for, also participated very skillfully in restricting the level ofconfrontation with the military she would permit her party to engage in.The hope is that the PPP would be able to reorganize itself into a more democratic and participatorymodern political party that may possibly take some of its progressive rhetoric seriously. But the party'sannouncement that it has appointed Benazir's 19-year old son as the new chairperson is notencouraging. This move not only demonstrates the unfortunate continuation of a dynastic leadership ofthe party, but also effectively empowers the husband of Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari, who is notorious forhis legendary corruption and feudal, mafia-like gangsterism. Ultimately, it is precisely the call for realdemocracy with both an egalitarian socio-economic component as well as an affirmation ofindependence from foreign domination which frightens both the military and the elite politicians alike.
 Junaid Ahmad is the President of National Muslim Law Students Association ( www.nmlsa.org) and alongtime activist on issues related to corporate-led globalization, HIV/AIDS, gender justice, militarism

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