By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
& News Service Reports
Friday, December 28, 2007
The assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto exasperated tragedy on many levels. First, we see the tragic loss of a freedom fighter and dedicated advocate of democracy. The lady that aides and confidants called “B.B.” inspired confidence and delighted those seeking a better, more democratic Pakistan.
Then we have President Pervez Musharraf, who just a few weeks ago was still stubbornly holding on to the title “General” as well as “President.” He was General President Musharraf: a strange mixture for a man who said he was committed to a more democratic Pakistan.
Mr. Musharraf either failed to provide adequate security for rival Mrs. Bhutto or he helped engineer her assassination. Either prospect is chilling for an ally of the United States that has accepted billions in U.S. aid to fund his version of the war against terror — and has its own nuclear weapons.
Mrs. Bhutto had recently complained that President Musharraf blocked her request for additional radio frequency channels: channels that would have allowed a much better security cordon around her motorcades. And after a previous assassination attempt against Mrs. Bhutto, she complained that Pakistan’s ruler had appointed as an investigator a man complicit in the death of her husband.
And if President Musharraf did provide adequate protection for Mrs. Bhutto and if he did not plan her execution disguised as a terror attack, perhaps his loyalists in Pakistan’s Army, who are many, planned the attack.
Either way, President Musharraf, despite his nuclear weapons, is in a morass of difficulties with his own people, his number one ally the United States, and Russia, France, Great Britain, and about every other democratically-ruled law-abiding nation.
At least 10 were killed overnight in rioting in Pakistan.
Here a Pakistani cameraman take images of burning vehicles
on a street in Karachi. Former Pakistan premier Benazir
Bhutto was assassinated by a suicide bomber Thursday,
plunging the nation into one of the worst crisis in its history
and raising alarm around the world.(AFP/Asif Hassan)
And what was the depth of U.S. commitment to Mr. Musharraf? $130 million (USD) every month. And a deal that kept U.S. troops out of Pakistan – even out of the tenuously “controlled” tribal areas where Osama bin Laden and the Taliban are the rumored “guests.”
And Mr. Musharraf has been the beneficiary of some of the strongest verbal support the United States has ever doled out to an ally. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Tim Russert on Sunday, September 10, 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney expressed such strong U.S. Government support for President General Musharraf of Pakistan – that I thought at the time the words were clearly over the top.
Mr. Cheney expressed U.S. support for Musharraf as follows:
“President Musharraf has been a great ally. There was, prior to 9/11, a close relationship between the Pakistan intelligence services and the Taliban. Pakistan was one of only three nations that recognized, diplomatically recognized the government of Afghanistan at that particular time. But the fact is Musharraf has put his neck on the line in order to be effective in going after the extremist elements including al-Qaeda and including the Taliban in Pakistan.”
“There have been three attempts on his life, two of those by al-Qaeda over the course of the last three years. This is a man who has demonstrated great courage under very difficult political circumstances and has been a great ally for the United States”.
“So there’s no question in that area along the Afghan/Pakistan border is something of a no man’s land, it has been for centuries. It’s extraordinarily rough territory. People there who move back and forth across the border, they were smuggling goods before there was concern about, about terrorism. But we need to continue to work the problem. Musharraf just visited Karzai in, in Kabul this past week, they’re both going to be here during the course of the U.N. General Assembly meetings over the course of the next few weeks. We worked that area very hard, and the Paks have been great allies in that effort.”
“Pakistan, we’ve gone in and worked closely with Musharraf to take down al-Qaeda. Saudi Arabia, same thing. In all of those cases, it’s been a matter of getting the locals into the fight to prevail over al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-related tyrants.”
“Think of Musharraf who puts his neck on the line every day he goes to work, when there’ve been attempts on his life because of his support for our position. And they look over here and they see the United States that’s made a commitment to the Iraqis, that’s gone in and taken down the old regime, worked to set up a democracy, worked to set up security forces, and all of a sudden we say it’s too tough, we’re going home. What’s Karzai going to think up in Kabul? Is he going to have any confidence at all that he can trust the United States, that in fact we’re there to get the job done? What about Musharraf? Or is Musharraf and those people you’re talking about who are on the fence in Afghanistan and elsewhere going to say, ‘My gosh, the United States hasn’t got the stomach for the fight. Bin Laden’s right, al-Qaeda’s right, the United States has lost its will and will not complete the mission,’ and it will damage our capabilities and all of those other war fronts, if you will, in the global war on terror.”
Have you ever heard any President or Vice President of the United States express such unbridled support for anyone at any time?
I think not.
Pakistan’s President Musharraf
The Associated Press made this assessment:
“The assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has dealt a severe blow to U.S. efforts to restore stability and democracy in a turbulent, nuclear-armed Islamic nation that has been a critical ally in the war on terror.
While not entirely dependent on Bhutto, recent Bush administration policy on Pakistan had focused heavily on promoting reconciliation between the secular opposition leader who has been dogged by corruption allegations and Pakistan’s increasingly unpopular president, Pervez Musharraf, ahead of parliamentary elections set for January.
In Washington and Islamabad, U.S. diplomats urged that Jan. 8 elections should not be postponed and strongly advised against a re-imposition of emergency rule that Musharraf had lifted just weeks ago.
The United States has poured billions of dollars in financial assistance into Pakistan since Sept. 11, 2001, when Musharraf made a calculated decision to align his government with Washington in going after al-Qaida and the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. That move is blamed for several unsuccessful assassination attempts on him.
But it was not immediately clear, however, what if any influence Washington might have or whether Bhutto’s death would drive the United States into a deeper embrace of Musharraf, whom some believe offers the best chance for Pakistani stability despite his democratic shortcomings.”
“This latest tragedy is likely to reinforce beliefs that Pakistan is a dangerous, messy place and potentially very unstable and fragile and that they need to cling to Musharraf even more than they did in the past,” said Daniel Markey, who left the State Department this year and is now a senior fellow at the private Council on Foreign Relations.
“The weight of the administration is still convinced that Musharraf is a helpful rather than a harmful figure,” he said.
Amid the political chaos and uncertainty roiling the country in the wake of Bhutto’s slaying, U.S. officials scrambled Thursday to understand the implications for the massive aid and counter-terrorism programs that have been criticized by lawmakers, especially as al-Qaida and Taliban extremists appear resurgent along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Underscoring the concerns, a grim President Bush interrupted his vacation to personally condemn Bhutto’s murder, demanding that those responsible be brought to justice and calling on Pakistanis to continue to press for democracy.
“We urge them to honor Benazir Bhutto’s memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life,” Bush told reporters at his Texas ranch, before speaking briefly to Musharraf by phone.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Bhutto’s assassination would “no doubt test the will and patience of the people of Pakistan” but called on the Pakistani people in a statement “to work together to build a more moderate, peaceful, and democratic future.”
Yet such calls could fall on deaf ears, experts said.
“The United States does not have a great deal of leverage where Pakistan is concerned,” said Wendy Sherman, who served as counselor to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
“And at the end of the day, the decisions are going to be made by the Pakistani people and by the leadership of Pakistan and not by the United States.”
Other analysts warned that Bhutto’s assassination might further damage Musharraf, whose democratic credentials have been seriously tarnished by growing authoritarianism, and have lead to widespread unrest.
“Legitimacy for Musharraf will be deferred if not impossible,” said Christine Fair, a South Asia expert at the RAND Corporation. “The U.S. likely does not have a plan for this contingency as Musharraf remains a critical ally and because Bhutto’s participation was hoped to confer legitimacy to the upcoming January elections.”
She also warned that the murder could embolden militants in Pakistan to seek out other high-profile targets.
Bhutto, who served twice as Pakistan’s prime minister between 1988 and 1996, was mortally wounded Thursday in a suicide attack that also killed at least 20 others at a campaign rally in Rawalpindi. She had returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile on Oct. 18 when her homecoming parade in Karachi was also targeted by a suicide attacker.
The attempt on her life added to U.S. concerns about the country that had already been heightened by the situation in Pakistan, largely ungoverned frontier provinces where a truce between Musharraf’s government and tribal leaders is credited with helping extremists regroup and reorganize.
In addition, Musharraf’s declaration of emergency this fall, along with a clampdown on opposition figures and judges, irritated the administration, which was criticized in Congress for lax oversight of the nearly $10 billion in U.S. that poured into the country since he became an indispensable counterterrorism ally after 9/11/.
Under heavy U.S. pressure, Musharraf resigned as army chief and earlier this month lifted emergency rule to prepare for the elections. Bhutto’s return and ability to run for parliament had been a cornerstone of Bush’s policy in Pakistan.
Congress last week imposed new restrictions on U.S. assistance to Pakistan, including tying $50 million in military aid to State Department assurances that the country is making “concerted efforts” to prevent terrorists from operating inside its borders.
Under the law, which provides a total of $300 million in aid to Pakistan and was signed by Bush on Wednesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also must guarantee that Pakistan is implementing democratic reforms, including releasing political prisoners and restoring an independent judiciary. The law also prevents any of the funds from being used for cash transfer assistance to Pakistan, but that stipulation had already been adopted by the administration.
At Peace and Freedom we share the concerns expressed by many. But our support for our brother Muhammad and the tribesmen over-rides many other thoughts. We shall continue to support, foster and plead for democracy and law and order in Pakistan.
If that means than Mr. Musharraf has to depart his beloved Rawalpindi, so be it.
Pakistan’s Bhutto: Investigator Replaced Amid Death Threat
Musharraf: He’s The Best Hope That Was Available At the Moment