Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Reflections on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto

Why does the CBC insist that no one has taken responsibility for the assassination of Benzair Bhutto?

Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Asia Times bureau chief for Pakistan, reports from Karachi on December 29, two days after the assassination that al-Qaeda had claimed responsibility.

”We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat mujahideen.” These were the words of al-Qaeda’s top commander for Afghanistan operations and spokesperson Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, immediately after the attack that claimed the life of Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto on Thursday (December 27).

Al Qaeda doesn't commonly claim responsibility.

In an article from Karachiu published on December 6, investigative reporter, Ahmed Quraishi, wrote about speculation that the US was getting ready to destabilize Pakistan as a prelude to exercising their other options.

For instance, in November, the NYT published an article on Pakistan by Fred Kagan of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute and Michael O’Hanlon of the more liberal Brookings Institute. The article, entitled "Pakistan collapse, our problem" spells out the basis of American intervention as follows:

“The most likely possible dangers are these: a complete collapse of Pakistani government rule that allows an extreme Islamist movement to fill the vacuum; a total loss of federal control over the outlying provinces, which splinter along ethnic and tribal lines; or a struggle within the Pakistani military in which the minority sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda try to establish Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

Kagan and O'Hanlon lay out two alternate "scenarios" for US intervention. (Not intervening is, of course, not an option. ) The first scenario consists of a full-scale occupation requiring a milion troops. Impossible they say. Instead they propose a Special Forces operation to seize control of Pakistani warheads and nuclear materials.

Bill van Auken at the World Socialist Web Site believes that the NYT "the real aims and methods of the American ruling establishment—Democratic and Republican alike—emerge clearly in the Kagan-O’Hanlon article." Van Auken quotes a couple more paragraphs:

“So, if we got a large number of troops into the country, what would they do?” the article asks. “The most likely directive would be to help Pakistan’s military and security forces hold the country’s center—primarily the region around the capital, Islamabad, and the populous areas like Punjab Province to its south.”

It adds: “If a holding operation in the nation’s center was successful, we would probably then seek to establish order in the parts of Pakistan where extremists operate. Beyond propping up the state, this would benefit American efforts in Afghanistan by depriving terrorists of the sanctuaries they have enjoyed in Pakistan’s tribal and frontier regions.”

This sounds more and more like Afghanistan--propping up the central government, then going on to win hearts and minds.

Meanwhile, Quraishi notes that some Pakistani analysts believe that "chatter" in the US media about Musharraf disappearing or being removed "could be an attempt to prepare the public opinion for a possible assassination of the Pakistani president."

"Another worrying thing is how US officials are publicly signaling to the Pakistanis that Bhutto has their backing as the next leader of the country. Such signals from Washington are not only a kiss of death for any public leader in Pakistan, but the Americans also know that their actions are inviting potential assassins to target Bhutto.

"If she is killed in this way, there won't be enough time to find the real culprit, but what's certain is that unprecedented international pressure will be placed on Islamabad while everyone will use their local assets to create maximum internal chaos in the country. A dress rehearsal of this scenario has already taken place in October when no less than the UN Security Council itself intervened to ask the international community to 'assist' in the investigations into the assassination attempt on Bhutto on October 18. This generous move was sponsored by the US and, interestingly, had no input from Pakistan which did not ask for help in investigations in the first place.

"Some Pakistani security analysts privately say that US 'chatter' about Musharraf or Bhutto getting killed is a serious matter that can't be easily dismissed. Getting Bhutto killed can generate the kind of pressure that could result in permanently putting the Pakistani military on a back foot, giving Washington enough room to push for installing a new pliant leadership in Islamabad.

"Getting Musharraf killed isn't a bad option either. The unknown Islamists can always be blamed, the military will not be able to put another soldier at the top, and circumstances will be created to ensure that either Bhutto or someone like her is eased into power.

"The US is very serious this time. They cannot let Pakistan get out of their hands. They were kicked out of Uzbekistan last year, where they were maintaining bases. They are in trouble in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran continues to be a mess for them and Russia and China are not making it any easier. Pakistan must be "secured" at all costs."

Quraishi currently hosts a weekly political talk show titled Worldview From Islamabad, which he created for state-run PTV News, Pakistan's largest television network. See

Pollster Angus-Reid notes that

"In a survey by the International Republican Institute, the Sharif and Bhutto parties garnered the support of 64 per cent of respondents—hardly an endorsement of the current government’s policies. The D3 Systems study for Terror Free Tomorrow gave Musharraf an approval rating of 39.1 per cent, with 61.1 per cent of respondents claiming Pakistan is headed in the wrong direction."

The International Republican Institute has been polling in Pakistan since 2002.

The IRI is one of a suite of American pseudo NGOs that have promulgated non-violent or nearly non-violent regime change in Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and probably Uzbekistan.

D3 was the data collection agent for a recent poll in Afghanistan.

Christina Lamb's review of a book entitled Deception: Pakistan, the United States and the Global Nuclear Weapons Conspiracy by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, Atlantic, 586pp adds some interesting detail to the nuclear picture.

“Pakistan’s nuclear programme was started by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, one of the country’s few democratically elected leaders, who pledged, “we will eat grass if we have to” in order to build a bomb. He was ousted in 1977, and the project was taken over by the military, in particular ISI, the military intelligence. When Bhutto’s daughter Benazir became prime minister in 1988, it was on condition that the military retained full control of the nuclear programme.

“If Bhutto was in the dark, Washington was not. In 1979, when the Russians invaded Afghanistan, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, decided that it was more important to defeat the Soviets (with Islamabad on side) than to worry about Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation. This book makes clear that every subsequent administration has turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions and trading – even when it involved the offer of nuclear warheads to Iraq, Iran and Saudi and Osama bin Laden. Worse, those who tried to tell Congress the truth were discredited, including the Pentagon analyst Richard Barlow who saw his career and marriage destroyed when he was falsely labelled an alcoholic and a spy. Whenever Washington comes near to confronting Pakistan, something happens to make Pakistan’s friendship crucial. So it was after 9/11, when Musharraf convinced the West that he was their greatest ally in the war on terror. [Sidelining, bullying and monstering of intelligence officials undermined NPT as one of three top international agreements, I.e., “the gold standard of government.” -jlt]

“It was not until 2002 (when an Iranian exile group revealed that Iran had been building two secret nuclear sites including an advanced facility to enrich uranium to weapons grade) that intelligence known to the CIA for more than a decade was forced into the open. The Iranian plant had been kitted out by Pakistan, which was also sending teams to Pyongyang – despite claiming to have ceased this trade. Even then the Bush administration helped Musharraf finesse the scandal, blaming it all on Khan....

“One of the most astonishing episodes was in 1993, when Benazir was prime minister for the second time and agreed to visit North Korea to ask for Nodong missiles, at Khan’s request. She stammered with nerves as she requested “a favour” from President Kim over a state banquet of chestnuts and steamed fish. She left with a bag of computer disks to pass on to her military.

“Deception paints a picture of a duplicitous country where civilians have no control. Yet when I spoke to a senior Pakistani official who I thought would be annoyed by the book, he replied, “No, it made me proud.”

“For anyone who worries about the future, this really is a volume to keep you awake at night” (Summary by Christina Lamb Times Online Oct 7 07).

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