It will probably be a long time before any clue as to who murdered the opposition leader and the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (while she was leaving the political rally after addressing a gathering in Rawalpindi) is found. Were they the enemies of Bhutto in the intelligence agencies or were they the Islamic radicals? According to the hospital people, the government hadn’t permitted them to do an autopsy.
Pakistani Government claimed through its interior ministry spokesman Brigadier (retd.) Javed Iqbal Cheema that Benazir died not because of a gun shot or bomb shrapnel but when she tried to reach for a safety “the lever [of her SUV’s sunroof] struck near her right ear and fractured her skull!” For the bomb blast and the gun shots, Cheema said there was “irrefutable evidence” that South Waziristan-based Al-Qaeda leader Beitullah Mehsud is the central culprit. To further strengthen its case, the government also released the transcript of Mehsud’s telephone conversation, which it had intercepted, where he is congratulating a cleric on Bhutto’s murder. But the government hasn’t released the recording.
However Mehsud’s spokesperson Maulana Mohammed Umer denied the accusation. “The fact is that we are only against America, and we don’t consider political leaders of Pakistan our enemy. The suicide attack on Benazir Bhutto was not launched by us.” He further added, “I am clarifying our position after receiving instructions from Baitullah Mehsud.”
Usually, the militants, when they are involved, do accept responsibility for their action in order to enhance their base by creating more fear among the population. Or, perhaps, Mehsud is behind the attack but wants to avoid opening up a third front against Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). (The two fronts they are fighting on are the US and the Pakistani Government.)
Vice versa, it can be that PPP may have some suspicions about Mehsud or some other fundamentalist group but don’t want any entanglement at the present time.
Before returning from her self-exile, Benazir had told the Guardian that “I’m not worried about Baitullah Mahsud; I’m worried about the threat within the government.” Because in her opinion, “people like Baitullah Mahsud are just pawns. It is those forces behind him that have presided over the rise of extremism and militancy in my country.”
The PPP is also pointing a finger at the government. Its spokesperson Sherry Rehman said “there was a clear bullet wound at the back of the neck. It went in one direction and came out another.”
However, the US government suspects Mehsud’s group was behind Bhutto’s assassination. The FBI has offered to help but Pakistan has declined the offer. The FBI is good at extracting confessions.
(This author doesn’t know how to operate a gun or any such weapon and is not familiar with making bombs or conceiving terroristic plots. Nevertheless, if the FBI (or the CIA) were to pick him up and then torture and beat the hell out of him, he would confess whatever they would want him to; even to be the mastermind behind the 9/11. Torture usually does have the power to extract the truth; the one which the torturer would want to hear.
Whoever was behind Bhutto’s murder, one has to accept the fact that the real culprit cannot be anyone else but the Musharraf Government. Just in October, 148 people died during the welcoming procession in Karachi upon Benazir’s return after a long self-imposed exile. At that time, undoubtedly, it was a difficult task to provide adequate security due to the number of people (200,000) and the vast area involved and a number of other factors, including Bhutto’s own fault. But this time around, it was possible for the government to provide her with proper security as it was in a park, and that also not a big one, with less than 10,000 people, especially when the world was watching.
(As a last resort, filmmaker Oliver Stone should be asked to solve the mystery. He has done it once before in the Kennedy assassination case, though not very neatly, according to people familiar with history. But still what’s the harm.
Musharraf declared a three day mourning period and the flying of the flag at half mast. But this dramatic gesture doesn’t absolve him from culpability.
Cheema seems to be a nice person: “There are other people who are under threat and whenever we receive information we pass it on to the concerned people.” Nawaz Sharif, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Aftab Sherpao, Amir Muqam, and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed were the names he gave.
Or is it that the warner and the killer are one and the same?
Player Becomes a Pawn
Up until December 27, Bhutto was one of the central players in this US led game of power-sharing or transfer of power to a civilian administration in Pakistan. The minute she died, she became just a pawn in this cruel game of politics. The US media became hyperactive and it seemed as if Condoleezza Rice or Hillary Clinton had been murdered. It resembled somewhat to the eulogistic dramas played out during Lady Diana’s and Mother Teresa’s deaths. The only thing missing was the live telecast of the funeral ceremony; but that was because of the volatile situation in Pakistan. The Republican and Democratic presidential candidates blurted out, each according to her/his knowledge and understanding or lack of it on Bhutto’s assassination.
Bush paid tribute. Musharraf also said nice words. The other major opposition leader in Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, felt sad on losing his major opponent whom he called “sister.”
The worry which most bothers the ruling elite in the US is what will happen to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, estimated to be between 55 and 115, in case of that country’s failure. The United States never thinks that it is the US support of Pakistan’s armed forces in the first place that has brought that country on the brink of disaster. The news media has parroted this propaganda on a worldwide scale as if the nuclear bombs are some kind of M & M’s candies where 115 militants will each grab a candy and board the planes headed to 115 western cities. Once there, they’ll swallow their M & M candies and then blow themselves up and turn London, Paris, New York, Berlin, Los Angeles, and other cities into Hiroshimas and Nagasakis.
In the wake of 9/11, the Bush Administration invented this super speed brakeless train called The War on Terror Express and dragged Musharraf on it at the gunpoint. Once the train passes, the rail tracks melt down and so the train cannot go back. Every pupil has a plan which many a times is different than that of her/his guru. Musharraf has his own agenda, that of prolonging his life in power as much as possible, which is now clashing with that of Uncle Sam and so he has been pushed out of the compartment but has been allowed to hang onto the door. At the same time, a few others are running after the train to be pulled in. Now it is simply a matter of time when the Uncle Sam clamps his boot on Musharraf’s hand and extends his hand(s) to pull one or more of the puppets onto the War on Terror Express. The Bush people are learning the name of Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the vice chairperson of PPP, and are getting in touch with other politicians in Pakistan. They are familiar and friendly with the new head of the armed forces Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, a graduate of Fort Leavenworth military college in the US.
Perhaps, like the Marcos of the Philippines, Musharraf will end up in the US and give some tips to his son Bilal, who is always out to defend his Dad, as to what mistakes he should avoid in case he decides to enter politics.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was overthrown in 1977 by a military man Zia-ul-Haq and was hanged in 1979. In 1988, when Zia, along with the then US Ambassador, died in a plane crash-a mystery unsolved to this day-Bhutto’s daughter Benazir won the election. With the US blessing, she was handed the premiership when she promised not to interfere in the army matters. Now the PPP has chosen her 19 year old son Bilawal, a student at Oxford University, as the Party chairperson. <1>
Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said the PPP will be managed by his father while he completes his education. He announced “the party’s long struggle for democracy will continue with renewed vigour,” as “my mother always said, democracy is the best revenge.” (Bhutto was added to the name on the day he was officially declared Benazir’s political heir.)
In the US, two parties control the presidency, whereas in Pakistan (India, and many other countries) families control the premiership or presidency.
It was a smooth transition of power. Unlike the US, there were no primaries, no constant lies, no media pundits destroying your thinking cells day in and day out, no polls, no wastage of millions of dollars. <2>
PPP’s Prime Ministerial Candidate
Benazir’s husband, Asif Zardari (also known as Mister “ten percent” for corruption) is not to be PPP’s prime ministerial candidate. It is understandable. He is a single father now with the custody of three children so he’ll have to work hard to increase the percentage level. Instead it is Fahim; which is a great blunder. If it really wants to maintain any semblance of a liberal party then it should go for Ms. Rehman. Despite the faults of Benazir-as they were many-she was still a symbol of hope for millions of women. I am not speaking here about high society women-they have their role models in models, actresses, and glamour women- but the average and the poor women who are at the mercy of men and society. Sherry Rehman, a former editor of the English language monthly Herald, and a very articulate, intelligent, media savvy woman, can play an important role, and unlike Bhutto, could really deliver something.
About Fahim, back in 2002, Pakistani newspaper Dawn’s columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee wrote that “Faheem’s four sisters are married to the [Muslim Scripture] Quran – the custom that waderas [feudal lords or landlords] have in [the province of] Sindh to marry off their women in order to keep the family wealth intact. If this is true, it is appalling. It indicates the sick mindset typical of such waderas. How can we expect a man like this to be able to make progressive policies for the poor womenfolk of our country who desperately need uplifting? People need to know this. It is very disheartening to see the parade of illiterate bigots on our television channels, day and night, vying for slots in the government, each with his own agenda.”
Whether the Muslim fundamentalists belonging to Al-Qaeda, Taliban, or any other group had a hand in Bhutto’s death or not, there is no doubt that they must be celebrating the most as their aversion to women is well known through their deeds and statements.
Besides some of her political enemies and those in the establishment who hated her, the others who must be gloating in the sad demise of Bhutto are the Saudi Arabian rulers. They are number one enemy of women-not in bed, but outside where the women demand their rights. It may seem strange that the US was supporting Bhutto whereas the Saudis were for Sharif, who is soft with the religious fundamentalists. But at least the US allows its minions this much leverage.
Crisis Will Continue in Crisistan.
Since its birth, Pakistan has seen crisis after crisis and has gotten weaker and weaker as the armed forces have gotten stronger and stronger. It won’t look odd if the name Pakistan were to be replaced with “Crisistan,” as Bhutto’s death has created another crisis. <3>
While I was finishing this article, I heard on radio that Sharif warned that the postponement of elections will be protested out on the streets. The assassination crisis and violence is not over yet; another crisis is already brewing.
Sixty years ago, it was under the birth-crisis that Pakistan was created out of India amid great violence and misery. The great Faiz Ahmad Faiz wrote:
“This stained-splendor, this night-maimed dawn
The one we waited for, this is not that dawn”
Alas! That dawn never saw the morning light
Sixty-years gone, but more sad is its plight.
B. R. GOWANI can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. The mother country India’s political dynasty has faced tragedies somewhat similar to the Bhutto dynasty. In 1984, India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was murdered and her son Rajiv became the Prime Minister. Upon his assassination in 1991, his Italian wife Sonia (who later acquired Indian citizenship) became Congress Party’s President. She couldn’t become prime minister because Hindu religio/nationalist party BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) exploited her foreign-ness. Her son Rahul is in politics now and will probably one day become the prime minister.
(Indira’s father Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s first prime minister after the British departed in 1947.)
2. And it is not that after all this hoopla and burning of tens of millions of dollars-which by the time when the elections are over in November will run into hundreds of millions of dollars-you are going to get somebody like Dennis Kucinich. No. Not even John Edwards who, it seems, is genuine and constantly raises labor and poverty issues. It will be one or the other bullshitter with lots of money.
Mind you, the US political system is so rotten and corrupt that even if some decent candidate reaches the White House, the US Congress living on bribes from corporations would disrupt any drastic measures which could bring some meaningful changes in common people’s lives.
Mark Twain once said: “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”
3. The United States has played a central role in many of the crisis. Another country which has done the most damage to Pakistan is Saudi Arabia.
The US has done immense harm to many countries around the world through its overt, covert, and not so covert wars and violence in the name of “democracy,” “freedom of speech,” “human rights,” and other such rubbish. However, the Muslim countries have one other enemy too, the Saudi Arabia. The Saudi kingdom has through its petro-dollars exported the worst kind of Islam to Muslim countries. The result is that religious intolerance has reached an unbearable level in many Muslim countries and is creating more divisions among the people and families.