Friday, December 28, 2007

The Perilous Vote

Yesterday, Islamists voted with gunfire and a suicide bomber. They assassinated Benazir Bhutto in the hopes of eliminating a threat to their entrenched comfort in Pakistan and the lawless border regions with Afghanistan. Bhutto's followers also voted yesterday - in rioting and standing firm in their convictions, they too sent a message. They will hold fast against Musharraf and the Islamists. Her supporters believe that Musharraf was behind her assassination, whether by actively engaging in the plot, or by not doing nearly enough to insure her security.
In Jacobabad, protesters set fire to shops belonging to the family members of interim premier Mohammedmian Soomro. Protesters torched buildings, trucks and shops, blocked roads and uprooted railway tracks. Shots rang out in a number of cities.

Banks and train stations were set ablaze, officials said.

Violent mobs burned 10 railway stations and several trains across Sindh province, forcing the suspension of all train services between Karachi and Punjab province, said Mir Mohammed Khaskheli, a senior railroad official.
A section of the track leading to the Indian border was also uprooted, he added.

A mob in Karachi looted three banks and set them on fire, police said.

About 7,000 people in Multan ransacked seven banks and a gas station and threw stones at police, who responded with the firing of tear gas shells. In Islamabad, about 100 protesters burned tyres in a commercial quarter of the city.
While al Qaeda has taken responsibility for the attacks, it almost doesn't matter which Islamist terrorist group was responsible because they're all cut from the same cloth. Indeed, there's a laundry list of groups that sought her death. They are all misogynist in nature, all seek to force all others to submit to their brand of Islam, and will commit heinous crimes and slaughter civilians by the score to achieve their goals.

Bill Roggio notes the following about al Qaeda and their purported responsibility:
"It is believed that the decision to kill Bhutto, who is the leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP), was made by al-Qaeda No. 2, the Egyptian doctor, Ayman al-Zawahiri in October," Mr. Shahzad also reported. "Death squads were allegedly constituted for the mission and ultimately one cell comprising a defunct Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Punjabi volunteer succeeded in killing Bhutto."

Mustafa Abu al Yazid has long been the leader of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In May, Yazid was officially appointed al Qaeda's military commander in Afghanistan.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangavi and other indigenous Pakistani terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammned and Lashkar-e-Taiba (which is now Jamaatud Dawa) essentially serve as muscle for al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Based on the sophistication of the Bhutto assassination, al Qaeda and the Taliban were very likely assisted by infiltrators and sympathizers in the Pakistani military and Inter Services Intelligence agency.
This latter issue has been the key problem for Musharraf all along. The military and ISI has been penetrated by the Islamists for years, and there's been little done to reverse that trend. It's extremely worrisome given Pakistan's nuclear capabilities.

The New York Times provides analysis that is little more than stating the obvious (gee, you think that his future appears as anything but troubled?). Musharraf has been skating on thin ice for years, and has been playing a dangerous game with the Islamists by alternatively appeasing and cracking down on various groups. He's done just enough to remain in power, which is likely to be his continued modus operandi. If the Lal Masjid episode didn't spur Musharraf to finally and thoroughly crack down on the Islamists, despite their direct threat to Musharraf, assassinating a rival in Benazir Bhutto isn't going to change things either.

Bhutto was buried in Sindh, in the family's mausoleum, next to her father.

As of now, the January 8 elections are still on. Musharraf for his part says that he's going forward with the elections. What other choice does he have? Damned if he does, damned if he cancels them.

Arnaud de Borchgrave, a journalist who was close to Bhutto, had this to say about the situation:
The more chaos the better for these people. Benazir Bhutto knew that we could not possibly succeed in Afghanistan until that border between Afghanistan and Pakistan was brought back under government control. It is now under al-Qaida and Taliban control, with the army in effect having been defeated there. They’ve lost over 1,000 with 3,000 injured — it was a very unpopular campaign in the federally administered tribal areas on the border because they’ve always been free of any kind of army interference ever since independence.

Sixty years ago it was agreed that the army would stay out of the federally administered tribal areas.

On both sides of the border these tribes are the same: Pashtun tribes on both sides of the border. They don’t recognize the Durant line which is the artificial border created by British colonialism in 1893. That border is not recognized by an awful lot of people — mostly political religious fundamentalist extremists.
The situation in Pakistan is sure to spill over into Afghanistan, which is something that Bhutto recognized, and which will continue to threaten the US mission in Afghanistan. The lawlessness along the border goes back to the founding of Pakistan, which means it's an entrenched issue that pits tribal alliances on both sides of the border with the Pakistani government, which has thus far been incapable of dealing with the Taliban and Islamist threat emanating from the region.

Jammie has more on the possibility that rogue military forces were involved in the assassination.

Pakistanis living in New Jersey are justifiably concerned about the events in Pakistan. The death toll is now 19 from the ongoing rioting.

Yesterday definitely wasn't a good day for the Bush Administration as Sec. State Rice was behind brokering the deal that enabled Bhutto to return to Pakistan in the first place. The thinking was that she would provide a bulwark against the Islamists in the NWFP, Swat, and Warizistan, and do far more against the Islamists than Musharraf had been capable of doing. Wishful thinking at best.

Andy McCarthy pulls no punches on the situation in Pakistan.

Ralph Peters doesn't pull punches about Bhutto. The Pakistanis have announced that they've intercepted communications that link al Qaeda to the assassination, although the group that actually carried it out is Lashkar e-Jhangvi, who received congrats from Taliban thug Mehsud.

Meanwhile, questions will swirl about Bhutto's cause of death. While there was speculation and reports that she was killed by gunfire, today's reports suggest she was killed by blunt force trauma - not gunshots. No autopsy was conducted.

Let's just say I'm not totally comforted when I hear the Pentagon claim that the Pakistani nuclear weapons are secure.
Pakistan's nuclear weapons arsenal is secure despite political turmoil after the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, the Pentagon said on Friday.

"Our assessment is that the Pakistani nuclear arsenal is under control," said Pentagon spokesman Col. Gary Keck. "At this time, we have no need for concern."
Our intel has been wrong on so many issues in the past few years, that they could be wrong here as well. I'll remain concerned, unless we learn that the US has operational control of those weapons and that the jihadis can't get their grubby hands on them.

Keep that in mind as Sec. Def. Gates says that al Qaeda has regroups along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Meanwhile, a new video has surfaced of the assassination. Bhutto's followers aren't buying the latest official version and cause of death, so expect the conspiracy theories to persist even as media outlets go over the videos as if they were the Zapruder film. To my eye, it looks like there's a muzzle flash just moments before the bomb blast as the video ends, which would confirm reports of gunfire preceding the bomb.

The Pakistanis have released photos and xrays claiming to show the some of the injuries sustained by Bhutto, along with the condition of the vehicle in which she was riding (via HuffPo). Hot Air has more, including more analysis on the varying accounts of what happened.

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