“Factually Correct, Not
PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN: A TWO-PART SERIES
PART ONE: A TRAGIC DAY FOR PAKISTAN, AND FOR U. S. FOREIGN POLICY
WHO KILLED BENAZIR BHUTTO?
(CHICAGO)(December 28, 2007) When a friend suggested going to see the new film "Charlie Wilson's War," I readily accepted. I had been in Afghanistan with the Mujaheddin, and was familiar with operations at both ends of the country. One of my best friends, an Afghan refugee to the United States, was later killed by the Northern Alliance. But before I could see the movie, tragedy struck in Pakistan yesterday.
My own connections to Pakistan go back to the early days of my life, when I met Pakistani students at a prep school in England. Who were all of these people, and where did they come from? I soon learned. I became very close with my Paki pals. And thus I was familiar with the area when I ended up in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion. In Iran I teamed up with my Afghan buddy and we slipped into Afghanistan from the west, starting in Meshad, Iran. For two decades I was probably the last American to enter Afghanistan in that manner. We linked up with the Mujaheddin.
In the meantime, in the east, Pakistan was being overrun by Afghan refugees fleeing into Peshawar, a city that became a living version of a film noir. Every warlord had his refugee group, and their followers marched through the streets claiming they were ready to take on and takeout the Soviet Union. The Red Army was slaughtering the Afghans, trying to break the back of resistance to the Soviet invasion.
Simultaneously, Pakistan was being undermined by its military dictator, Zia al-Huq, who appears in the movie. Zia killed the elected leader of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto's father, and installed Muslim holy law, or Shariah, to tamp down the free spirits of secular Pakistanis. The last thirty years have been a disaster for Pakistan, and for us.
So who killed Benazir Bhutto? I believe that Pakistani intelligence will try to on the assassination on "Islamic militants." But this is probably one time when the fundamentalists are not guilty.
The current military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, who styles himself a president, and was once known as "Busharraf" because of the mutual fawning between himself and President Bush after 9/11, is most likely at fault for this murder. Ironically, the dictator's brother lives in the Chicago area, quietly, where he is a respected doctor.
While neighboring India has firmly planted democratic roots in recent years, Pakistan remains a military dictatorship. India has become a leading nation of the world. Pakistan is a basket case. When British India was divided in 1947, most people would have wagered that it was Pakistan, not India, which would eventually prosper and succeed. Because the British had favored the Punjabis, the dominant group in Pakistan, Pakistan received most of the combined region's managerial and military class. A solid social structure was in place.
Because Pakistan was Muslim, but only nominally so, a free society could have developed. Sadly, under military dictatorships, Pakistan has become a disaster. The United States has welcomed India into the expanding circle of influential nations while Pakistan has become more and more unstable.
Musharraf has been under relentless pressure to end his military dictatorship. He has come under increasing scrutiny for misdirecting and squandering $10 billion in American military and economic aid. And Senator Barack Obama has even suggested we bomb Pakistan "tribal areas" if we find Osama Bin Laden and the Pakistanis are reluctant to act.
Musharraf grudgingly made a deal with Bhutto, under U. S. pressure, and then reluctantly readmitted her rival for power Nawaz Sharif into Pakistan after initially deporting him. But Musharraf has kept recalcitrant Pakistan Supreme Court Judges and lawyers under house arrest. All in all, Musharraf faces a very untidy and potentially explosive situation.
Why does Pakistan matter? Of today's Islamic countries, Pakistan still has more potential to become a beacon of Islamic moderation and stability than any other nation. Americans probably passed over the pictures of Pakistani judges and lawyers protesting Musharraf's recent repression and his bogus "state of emergency." But there, in public, was proof positive that despite all of the chaos of the past 30 years, Pakistan still had the infrastructure, and superstructure of a civil society in place. Pakistan is still a place where the future holds great promise both for Islam and for freedom.
The demonstrating judges and attorneys were crying out for our help. Once again we choose to back the dictator Musharraf and ignore cries from the Pakistani people. Although Pakistan is vastly more unstable and radicalized than it was in my era 30 years ago, Pakistan is still worth saving and must be saved. The nation has nuclear weapons
So why do I believe Musharraf killed Bhutto? First, the killing looks suspicious. The way the attack unfolded, with firearms first and explosions second, leads me to believe the detonations were designed to cover up the killing and indeed to create chaos as a cover for escape of the perpetrators. The bomb explosions were incidental to the murder of Bhutto. Assassins planning to use a bomb do not shoot first and bomb second.
Second, I see the security situation around Bhutto as incredibly lax and ineffective. When Bhutto landed in Pakistan several weeks ago, another bombing attack led to massive death. She had virtually no protection moments before yesterday's attack. Either she was incredibly foolhardy, or she had been poorly advised to unnecessarily expose herself.
One of the failings of military dictatorships is that the military ceases to be the servant of the state, and becomes its oppressor. And having arrogated power to itself, Pakistan's military is not anxious to see a restoration of civilian control. And so, the easiest way to derail a return to civil society was to kill the emissary of future democracy. Benazir Bhutto.
Sadly, her death will likely create even more unstable conditions. American foreign policy stands on the brink. We have banked on Musharraf, but his bank is bankrupt. His military has swallowed our billions with very little to show, and he lacks any future. He has lost the people. The tribal areas have become a Taliban suburb. His regime is likely to become increasingly despotic, as he tries to blame "Islamic fundamentalists" for Bhutto's death.
Musharraf probably believed his rule would be cemented in place by the death of Bhutto. I believe he was very wrong. And I think it would be wrong to blame the fundamentalists for Bhutto's death. Potentially, they stood to gain if Bhutto became a growing threat to Musharraf. I would not rule out a fundamentalist plot, but right now I believe Musharraf is the guilty party.
So where do we go from here? The United States must (i) conduct its own independent investigation into Bhutto's death. Such an investigation will not be easy, because we will receive no cooperation from Pakistani intelligence services, all of which are still loyal to Musharraf. (ii) We need to inventory the Pakistani nuclear weapons stockpiles as best we can, and be ready to seize them if the government falls. (iii) As distasteful as it will be to the State Department, we need to begin a new opening to Nawaz Sharif, who remains the only civilian leader likely to stem the collapse of this nation.
None of these options is pleasant, and all of them involve more and more risk, but right now we have to double up, or we will surely be doubled down by the unfolding events in Pakistan.
Tomorrow: my review of the movie, "Charlie Wilson's War."
Chicago-based Internet journalist, broadcaster and media critic Andy Martin is the Executive Editor and publisher of ContrarianCommentary.com. © Copyright by Andy Martin 2007. Martin covers regional, national and world events with forty years of experience. He has almost forty years of experience in the Middle East, and is America’s most respected independent foreign policy and intelligence analyst. Andy is currently a candidate for U. S. Senator from Illinois. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law. Columns also posted at ContrarianCommentary.blogspot.com; contrariancommentary.wordpress.com. Comments? E-mail: AndyMart20@aol.com. Media contact: (866) 706-2639. Web sites: ContrarianCommentary.com.