Archive for December, 2007

The knot of uncertainty tightens

December 31, 2007

Who knows? 

“Benazir Bhutto was so fearful for her life that she tried to hire British and American security experts to protect her,” The Sunday Telegraph reveals. Her entourage even approached Blackwater. They might have been able to protect her life but they would have destroyed her image. She was even directly receiving confidential U.S. intelligence about militant threats to her life. The intelligence was clearly inadequate.

Whenever a dramatic and unexpected event occurs, some journalists try and find out what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. Many more pick up the phone and hunt down some well-respected “expert” who’s only too happy to pump some certainty into a mighty void. Bruce Riedel, a former defense and intelligence official and currently senior fellow at the Brookings Institute is just such a person. The day Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, Riedel was quick to assert that this “was almost certainly the work of al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda’s Pakistani allies.” How did he know? He didn’t, but how many news editors would find fault in quoting the opinion of a Brookings sage? Three days later, many of the fast-talking experts are now starting to sound a bit foolish — Riedel’s own certainty quickly backed off into a “hunch” — so the only expertise still worth noting is that which underlines the uncertainty rather than makes the pretense of knowledge. Only now are the papers finding column space for a more considered and circumspect analysis. From an assassination which supposedly had “al Qaeda” written all over it, the signature is now acknowledged as being quite hard to decipher. As the Los Angeles Times notes:

Several analysts said the use of a handgun in addition to explosives is a departure for militant groups in Pakistan. “This is not by any means a signature killing by Al Qaeda,” security analyst Nasim Zehra said. “A targeted shooting, even in combination with a familiar suicide bombing, makes it look more like a political killing than one by some militant group.”

While facts remain hard to come by, a number of possibly useful observations can be made. Western politicians want to characterize Bhutto’s death in symbolic terms — this was an attack on democracy, an attack on the freedom and power of Muslim women, or some such pernicious act. But to see that as the effect is not to discern the intent. Much more likely this was first and foremost a successful attempt to prevent Bhutto becoming prime minister. This was indeed a political assassination and suspicion should fall first on those whose power is threatened rather than on those whose ambitions are expanding.

The jihadist signature was that the attackers gave up their lives, but it now seems unclear that that was the intent of the gunman. The fact that he wore dark glasses at least suggests that he might have entertained the hope that he was going to make a getaway. What his handlers hadn’t told him was that as soon as he completed his mission, a jihadist foot soldier — unknown to the gunman — was going to make sure that the assassin would never tell his tale.

As for what we can now say about the Bhutto family, the perpetuation of the dynasty and of the Benazir legend are upper most in their minds. The mystery surrounding her death provides yet more grist to their political mill.

Will we ever know the identity of the gunman in shades? Was he driven by dreams of an Islamic state or did he perhaps see himself as a latter day Carlos the Jackal?

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My heart bleeds for Pakistan. It deserves better than this grotesque feudal charade

December 31, 2007

The Independent, December 31, 2007

By Tariq Ali, Pakistan-born writer, boradcaster and commentator

Six hours before she was executed, Mary, Queen of Scots wrote to her brother-in-law, Henry III of France: “…As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him.” The year was 1587.

On 30 December 2007, a conclave of feudal potentates gathered in the home of the slain Benazir Bhutto to hear her last will and testament being read out and its contents subsequently announced to the world media. Where Mary was tentative, her modern-day equivalent left no room for doubt. She could certainly answer for her son.

A triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif Zardari (one of the most venal and discredited politicians in the country and still facing corruption charges in three European courts) and two ciphers will run the party till Benazir’s 19-year-old son, Bilawal, comes of age. He will then become chairperson-for-life and, no doubt, pass it on to his children. The fact that this is now official does not make it any less grotesque. The Pakistan People’s Party is being treated as a family heirloom, a property to be disposed of at the will of its leader.

Nothing more, nothing less. Poor Pakistan. Poor People’s Party supporters. Both deserve better than this disgusting, medieval charade.

Keep reading . . . 

Benazir Bhutto’s son Bilawal crowned head of political party and dynasty

December 30, 2007

From Times online, December 30, 2007

Newly-appointed chairperson of the PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speaks during a press conference as his father Asif Ali Zardari looks on

Bilawal Bhutto, right, at the Pakistan People Party press conference where his appointment as chairman of the party, with his father, left, was officially announced (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty)

He walked into the room as Bilawal Zardari, a fresh-faced 19-year-old history student who recently finished his first term at Oxford University.

He walked out as Bilawal “Bhutto” Zardari, the newly crowned head of the political party – and the dynasty – that his mother, Benazir Bhutto, led until her assassination on Thursday.

After an emotional four-hour meeting in the Bhuttos’ ancestral home, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) announced that Bilawal, Ms Bhutto’s eldest child and only son, would succeed her as official chairman of the party. But he would return to Britain to continue his studies at Christ Church, Oxford, and his father and Ms Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, would run the party as co-chairman until he graduated in three years’ time, the PPP said.

The PPP also declared that it would participate in parliamentary elections’ scheduled for January 8, despite the chaos the has engulfed Pakistan since Ms Bhutto was killed in a suicide and gun attack at an election rally near the capital, Islamabad.

Continued . . .

Pak TV station shows Bhutto shooter, contradicts govt

December 30, 2007

Khaleej Times online, 30 December 2007

ISLAMABAD – A Pakistani television station released footage early Sunday claiming that opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was shot dead by an assassin before an accomplice detonated a suicide bomb, contrary to official government claims.

The new, exclusive images from the Pakistani-based DawnNews TV show a young gunman, wearing sunglasses and dressed in a light-brown sports jacket, firing at Bhutto as she stood atop the sunroof of her white security Range Rover following an election campaign rally in the city of Rawalpindi on Thursday.

The footage clearly shows Bhutto collapsing into her vehicle before the suicide blast, contradicting official government claims that she recoiled only after the blast and cracked her skull on the sunroof.

The government’s official version, which included only partial footage of the attack, has been met with widespread derision. Bhutto’s senior aides inside the vehicle are adamant that she was shot.

On Saturday night, Pakistan Interior Ministry officials again had insisted that Bhutto died after cracking her skull off a lever of the vehicle’s sunroof following a recoil from the bomb blast.

Teenage son to take on Benazir Bhutto’s legacy

December 30, 2007
From
December 30, 2007
The son of slain former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Bilawal, centre, daughters Bakhtawar, right, Asifa, second right, and her younger sister Sanam Bhutto, third left, pray at her graveside at the Bhutto mausoleum in Ghari Khuda Baksh (Aamir Qureshi/AFP)

BENAZIR BHUTTO’S 19-year-old son Bilawal will be thrust into a dangerous spotlight today as Pakistan’s most powerful political dynasty prepares to pass the baton to the next generation.

Bilawal, a first-year undergraduate at Oxford University, is the heir to a blood-soaked legacy. He lost his mother to an assassin on Thursday; his uncles both died in suspicious circumstances; and his grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in 1979 after being deposed from power.

Last night Britain’s foreign office confirmed that Benazir Bhutto met David Miliband, the foreign secretary, shortly before she returned to Pakistan from exile in October and warned him of a plot against her life. Bhutto and Miliband had spoken regularly on the telephone since that meeting and her concerns about her safety were passed on to the Pakistani authorities.

At 3pm today Pakistan time Bilawal will read out his dead mother’s political testament to leaders of the Pakistan People’s party (PPP), which his grandfather founded and the family has always controlled.

“They have to show his face to reassure the party that there will be another Bhutto leader in the future,” a diplomat said.

Keep reading . . .

Yes, Extremists Killed Benazir Bhutto. But Which Extremists?

December 30, 2007

War In Iraq, December 29, 2007
Winter Patriot

Whenever there’s a public death in one family or the other, the parallels between the Bhuttos in Pakistan and the Kennedys in America seem even more striking.

Start with wealth, power, public service at the national level, and violent death in the course of same. Add dashing men and gorgeous women; inspiring leadership and the most amazing cruelty; brilliance and incompetence; valor and corruption; and now, another violent public death.

But let’s not overdo it. Benazir Bhutto’s tale was her own, and it came to a sudden end on December 27 in Rawalpindi. Reports from Pakistan said she was leaving a rally in which she had appeared before thousands of people when she was shot twice from very close range, apparently by a suicide bomber who then detonated, killing himself as well as Benazir and another 20 or so.

Security had been described as very tight and multi-layered, so it’s difficult to imagine how the attacker could have come so close to his target. Due to the nature of the attack, such questions may never be answered. It’s the sort of murder that drives conspiracy theorists crazy.

The shooting-bombing has been universally ascribed to “extremists”; this scribe is too cold to argue. Nobody but an extremist would blow himself up to accomplish a political assassination. But what the press accounts universally fail to point out is that there are extremists on more than one side — indeed, in this case, there are extremists on all sides.

Continued . . .

There Hasn’t Been a Day in My Life When I Haven’t Learned Something

December 30, 2007

Counterpunch, Weekend Edition, December 29 / 30, 2007

Address to the Cuban National Assembly, 12/28/2007

BY FIDEL CASTRO

Comrades of the National Assembly:

You have no easy task on your hands. On January 1st, 1959, surrounded by the accumulated and deepening grievances that our society inherited from its neo-colonial past under U.S. domination, many of us dreamed of creating a fully independent nation where justice prevailed. In the arduous and uneven struggle, there came the moment when we were left completely alone.

Nearly 50 years since the triumph of the Revolution, we can justifiably feel proud of ourselves, as we have held our ground, for almost half a century, in the struggle against the most powerful empire ever to exist in history. In the Proclamation I signed on July 31, 2006, none of you saw any signs of nepotism or an attempt to usurp parliamentary powers. That year, at once difficult and promising for the Revolution, the unity of the people, the Party and State were essential to continue moving forward and to face the declared threat of a military action by the United States.

Continued . . .

Cheney Impeachment: Mainstream Media Wakes Up to Push for Hearings

December 29, 2007
Global Research, December 27, 2007
Philadelphia Inquirer
In the last days, we have made real progress:
The mainstream media has awakened to this movement and to the extraordinary support you have given it. Your calls, letters, and emails have clearly made a difference. Already 140,000 people have joined us in demanding impeachment hearings for Vice President Dick Cheney by signing up at WexlerWantsHearings.com.

The power of these combined voices are already shaking up the established order on Capitol Hill and throughout the mainstream media:

This week, the Miami Herald printed an article on our efforts that was syndicated in papers across the country, including the Detroit Free Press, Philadelphia Inquirer, Fort Worth Telegram, Contra Costa Times, Sacramento Bee, Houston Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, NC News & Observer, and others. (Click HERE to read the article.)

In addition, CBS4 in Miami became the first station we know of to run a television segment about the call for hearings. Video of that can be found HERE.)

Perhaps most importantly, just this morning the Philadelphia Inquirer courageously ran the full editorial I drafted along with my fellow Judiciary Committee members Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (R-WI). (View it HERE.) Congratulations to the Inquirer for their willingness to publish a viewpoint that is so widely held by Americans – yet one that other leading national newspapers refused to publish.

We have come so far in just a few weeks. No longer can the mainstream media ignore our efforts and dismiss this cause as only part of the fringe left.

Already we are seeing tangible results from our combined effort. As you already know, Congress is well behind the American people on this issue. This is an uphill battle, but it’s one that has to be fought. It should not be the whole agenda, but it needs be *on* the agenda.

When Congress reconvenes in January, I plan to present a list to my Judiciary Committee colleagues of every single person that signed up at WexlerWantsHearings.com. I will go to more of my colleagues and ask them to join a letter in support of hearings. We will build on the momentum you have given us.

Last week, I spent an hour on Blog Talk Radio outlining thoughts and answering questions in regards to this work. So many people hit their site that their servers temporarily went down. If you’d like to hear the archived audio, please click HERE.

Let’s do our best to further spread the message so that list will be up to a quarter million. Please continue to blog, email friends, and insist that your family and friends sign up!

Thanks for your commitment.

Congressman Robert Wexler

P.S. I have been running online ads to make more people aware of our impeachment campaign. If you are interested in making a contribution to this effort you can click here.

http://www.wexlerforcongress.com/news.asp?ItemID=224

Pakistan government skips autopsy, shifts story on how Bhutto died

December 29, 2007
  • Posted on Friday, December 28, 2007

Protesters burn tires in Rawalpindi

Anjum Naveed / AP

Protesters burn tires in Rawalpindi. Benazir Bhutto’s supporters rampaged through cities Friday, ransacking banks and setting train stations ablaze. | View larger image

LARKANA, Pakistan — Violence and recriminations grew Friday over the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, as Pakistan’s government changed its account of how she died while her supporters charged that the government withheld personal protection she’d requested.

As deadly protests continued to rage on Pakistan’s streets, the country’s Interior Ministry said that Bhutto — buried Friday without an autopsy — had died after she was thrown against the lever of her car’s sunroof, fracturing her skull.

Initially, the government had said that flying shrapnel killed Bhutto, 54, after a shooting and suicide bombing as she left a political rally in the city of Rawalpindi.

The new version of events fueled ever-present conspiracy theories in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation that’s on the front lines of President Bush’s war on terrorism and risks sliding further into political chaos.

Continued . . .

Nawaz Sharif also at risk: Pak govt

December 29, 2007

The Times of India, December 29, 2007

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interior ministry said on Friday that opposition leader Nawaz Sharif is one of several politicians under threat of attack following the assassination of Benazir.

“There are other people who are under threat and whenever we receive information we pass it on to the concerned people,” ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema said.

Asked to give examples, he named Sharif as well as Islamist leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman and former ministers Sheikh Rashid and Aftab Sherpao.