Benazir Bhutto Assassinated (Updated)

Initial reports are coming in and SM will certainly pass on the message. First, CNN Reports

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (CNN) — Pakistan former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was targeted in a deadly suicide bombing Thursday. Media reports quote her husband saying she suffered a bullet wound to the neck in the attack.

…The attacker is said to have detonated a bomb as he tried to enter the rally where thousands of people gathered to hear Bhutto speak, police said.

Some first guesses at implications..

While President Pervez Musharraf has promised free and fair parliamentary elections next month, continued instability in the tribal areas and the threat of attack on large crowds has kept people from attending political rallies and dampened the country’s political process.

Campaigners from various political groups say fewer people are coming out to show their support due to government crackdowns and the threat of violence.

Today’s violence come less than two weeks ahead of January parliamentary elections and as many days after President Pervez Musharraf lifted a six-week-old state of emergency he said was necessary to ensure the country’s stability.

Stay tuned.

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Updates:

  • Getty’s image archive of the event makes for some powerful browsing..
  • MSNBC: “A party security adviser said Bhutto was shot in the neck and chest as she got into her vehicle, then the gunman blew himself up.”
  • Sky: “Sky News correspondent Alex Crawford said from Pakistan the country’s upcoming January elections would “most likely be postponed or cancelled” because of the attack.”
  • “What’s worse, that Musharaff may have had a role in this or that he was powerless to stop it?”
  • CNN’s obit on Bhutto
  • State Department – “It demonstrates that there are still those in Pakistan who want to subvert reconciliation and efforts to advance democracy.”
  • Very informative blog entries from NBC’s correspondant in Pakistan-
    But if you are any one of the 99.9 percent of the rest of the 165 million Pakistanis, you hardly notice the emergency law anymore….But most Pakistanis don’t feel it. Musharraf wants it that way…Most analysts here say Musharraf has damaged his reputation, perhaps critically. But so far, he hasn’t pushed people to the streets. Shops are open. Banks are open. Markets are full. Prices are the same as before emergency law. [link]
    With her white veil, bejeweled blouses, flawless English and flair for drama and theatrical timing, Benazir Bhutto has painted herself as lady liberty, a lone woman willing to risk all and stand up to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and his emergency rule…. But Pakistan is not Myanmar, and Bhutto is no Aung San Suu Kyi [link]
  • Excellent NYT article on Bhutto’s dark side
    Ms. Bhutto, 54, returned to Pakistan to present herself as the answer to the nation’s troubles: a tribune of democracy in a state that has been under military rule for eight years, and the leader of the country’s largest opposition political party… But her record in power, and the dance of veils she has deftly performed since her return — one moment standing up to General Musharraf, then next seeming to accommodate him, and never quite revealing her actual intentions — has stirred as much distrust as hope among Pakistanis.
    …”She believes she is the chosen one, that she is the daughter of Bhutto and everything else is secondary,” said Feisal Naqvi, a corporate lawyer in Lahore who knows Ms. Bhutto … her view of the role of government differed little from the classic notion in Pakistan that the state was the preserve of the ruler who dished out favors to constituents and colleagues..
  • World Reaction including India –
    In India, which has long had a thorny relationship with its neighbors in Pakistan, an Indian Congress Party spokesman told the Press Trust of India, “… we must express our deep concern at anything that disrupts and disturbs the even keel of democratic governance in Pakistan… it is not only anti-democracy but also generates instability.”
  • Belmont Club
    …meaningful elections can occur only when the armies — in this case the Pakistani Army and the armed Islamic militants — are committed to the processes of democracy. When every group under arms within a society is determined to settle the question of power by combat the role for the ballot is small indeed. The next few days will show whether the Pakistani Army — for it will surely not be the Taliban — can rededicate itself to electoral democracy. Pakistan needs its George Washington. Unfortunately it only has its Pervez Musharraf.

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Some of Vinod’s thoughts -

  • Both Musharaff and Bhutto are considered Pro-US / Pro-West / Secular leaders
    • Especially relative to the Islamists
    • And importantly, relative to the general population
    • Bhutto moreso than Musharraf
  • So, Jihadist forces (who are both anti-Musharraf and anti-Bhutto) are a likely culprit
    • To them, Bhutto was a powerful ally to Musharraf (rather than a rival) and potentially more dangerous in the long run
      • Knocking out an important ally wins them almost as much “cred” as taking out Musharraf directly
      • Bhutto was “more dangerous” because she was even more vocally Pro-West as well as a woman
    • “Pro-Musharraf forces” are getting the initial blame by some … but my gut leans skeptical
      • The jury is still out on whether this is a net gain or net loss for Musharraf’s interests
      • It certainly feeds the perception that he’s not in control of the country
  • Given their similarities, what are the substantive differences between Musharraf and Bhutto?
  • One key difference was their respective views of the general Pakistani population; Musharaff was a bit more of a “realist” ; Bhutto presented herself as an “idealist”
    • Musharaff feared that the populism writ large would lead to an illiberal democracy
    • Bhutto was more willing to turn to the electorate to ..
      • lead the country to more democracy (if you think she has Good Intentions)
      • secure more power / perks for herself (if you think she has Bad Intentions despite the lofty rhetoric)
    • By contrast, Musharraf feared that Bhutto’s push for “more democracy” would backfire, leading to “less liberalism” rather than realizing her (stated) intentions…
    • Perversely, Bhutto’s assassination is a perfect example of illiberality that gives Musharaff the license to enact repressive, authoritarian policy.
    • Given these similar goals but different assessments of the starting line, Musharraf sees himself as a Kemal Atatürk ; Bhutto saw herself as Indira Gandhi or Joan of Arc
  • Another difference stems from background – Musharraf came up to national leadership via the military while Bhutto through politics
    • If you believe the best hope for the country is to follow the “Turkish Model” [more info...] , the Pakistani military is comparatively more professional and a modernizing force relative to the rest of the civil service
    • So, arguably, Musharraf is potentially a more effective, less corrupt manager than a career politician.
      • of course, a “manager” and a “national leader” are 2 very different things
      • … as are “how well” you deploy power vs. “what you do with it”

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