Saturday, December 29, 2007

Coming To Grips

Pakistani authorities are now talking about the possibility of exhuming Benazir Bhutto to conduct an autopsy. Are you kidding me. The time to have conducted a thorough examination was before she was buried so that the myriad of questions surrounding her death could be examined by top experts.

Instead, with the various theories and Zapruder-style films of her last moments coming to light, we've got nothing but a bunch of conjecture about her cause of death.

This all comes at a most delicate time for the Pakistanis who have to decide whether to let the Islamists rule the roost or whether they want to fight for a Western leaning government.

Even Bhutto's rivals, Nawaz Sharif, is blaming the Musharraf government for her assassination. But, one can't say that Bhutto was blind to the threats posed by the Islamists and various tribal interests arrayed against her. The US briefed her on the threats.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani government is hinting that the ongoing rioting and chaos could delay the elections, which are scheduled for January 8. This is a no-win situation for Musharraf, who is damned if he sticks to the originally scheduled date, or delays the elections. If he delays, the usual suspects will complain that he's thwarting the democratic process, while if he sticks to the schedule, he's again thwarting the democratic process because it will not give opposition groups including Bhutto's party the time to find a credible replacement.

The death toll from the rioting is now up to 38 and is expected to rise further.

Musharraf is promising to take firm action against the Islamists, but I fear he's going to do only enough to maintain his power, and nothing more. He's been the target of multiple assassination attempts by the Islamists, and yet he's done only the bare minimum to fight the Islamists who rule the roost along the border provinces with Afghanistan. The Islamists know this, and know that they can skip across the border and regroup, all while infiltrating all aspects of the Pakistani government apparatus.

If Musharraf were truly serious about fighting the Islamists, he must bring the full force and effect of the Pakistani military against the Islamists, instead of using secondary level forces that are less capable of dealing with an ongoing threat. The deal nearly 60 years ago that left the border regions outside the sphere of influence in Islamabad must end if the Islamist threat is to be defeated.

It appears that Benazir's son will take on his mother's mantle. He's 19 years old, which might be good if you're thinking about a dynasty, but not so much if you think he's got the skills and experience to lead a troubled country.
A senior official of Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) told TIME late Saturday that the slain former prime minister's 19-year-old son, Bilawal, will likely be named as her political heir and the new party leader on Sunday. PPP members are due to meet to discuss the party's future and to give Bilawal, a student at Oxford, a chance to read his mother's last will and testament.

A Pakistani television news channel also carried reports that Bilawal will be made the new leader, which the channel said accorded with Benazir Bhutto's wishes. If confirmed, the teenager will become the third leader of the 40-year-old center-left party, one of Pakistan's most powerful. Bilawal will follow his grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who founded the PPP in 1967, led Pakistan as Prime Minister for four years in the mid 1970s and was hanged in 1979 by a military government, and Benazir, who took over from her father and was killed in a shooting and suicide bomb attack two days ago.
Some are pushing for Benazir's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, to take the reins of the party, and that could still happen.

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