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Bad news in Pakistan

December 27, 2007

“Sh*t!”, I exclaimed, reading BBC News Online. MrsDoF looked up from her newspaper; “What’s wrong?”

BBC Reports that former Pakistani prime minister and current opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated.  This is particularly bad news in a nuclear-armed country where she was the most important opposition to a dictator hanging on with increasingly brutal repression to his narrow margin of power against Islamist radicals.  Most likely it was they who carried out the attack, which killed 16 other people.  Musharraf has condemned the killings (well duh) and called for calm (double duh). 

In the wake of the assassination he will have to isolate himself behind ever more brutal rings of security and repression, but he assures the rest of the world that even if his enemies seized power, the Islamists couldn’t gain control of the country’s nuclear arsenal.  (Not very reassuring in a country where the top nuclear scientist sold nuclear secrets on the black market but is still regarded as a national hero. His picture can be found on shop walls and in taxicabs next to Bin Laden’s.)  And now of course, upcoming elections are in doubt – as if they were ever a certainty.

Bhutto is one of those political figures who would look very questionable if they weren’t the only ray of light in their unstable, armed-to-the-teeth country. SciBlogger Greg Laden has some personal remembrances of her: At Harvard where she studied with John Kenneth Galbraith and also posting a video where she talks about the first attempt.  (Her life story includes other such attempts, along with prison and constant danger and turmoil, as befits her country.)

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  1. Ted
    December 27, 2007 at 18:07 | #1

    Them’s the risks in these third world countries, er, budding democracies.

    She had plenty of enemies even if it wasn’t Musharraf. For one, the constant corruption charges didn’t help. For another, her chumminess with the state department and the Bush Administration put a big target on her relative to local nationalists and islamists.

    Trick essay question: How would knowledge of history have kept her from dying?

  2. Ted
    December 28, 2007 at 13:09 | #2

    Follow-up. As Ted would say, she was sacrificed to make Musharraf more acceptable.

    For Benazir Bhutto, the decision to return to Pakistan was sealed during a telephone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just a week before Bhutto flew home in October. The call culminated more than a year of secret diplomacy — and came only when it became clear that the heir to Pakistan’s most powerful political dynasty was the only one who could bail out Washington’s key ally in the battle against terrorism.

    It was a stunning turnaround for Bhutto, a former prime minister who was forced from power in 1996 amid corruption charges. She was suddenly visiting with top State Department officials, dining with U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and conferring with members of the National Security Council. As President Pervez Musharraf’s political future began to unravel this year, Bhutto became the only politician who might help keep him in power.

    “The U.S. came to understand that Bhutto was not a threat to stability but was instead the only possible way that we could guarantee stability and keep the presidency of Musharraf intact,” said Mark Siegel, who lobbied for Bhutto in Washington and witnessed much of the behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

    Color me shocked at the amount of truthtelling in these paragraphs (soon to be rewritten I think).

  3. December 28, 2007 at 22:48 | #3

    However you slice this, this isn’t going to end well. The pundits on CNN this afternoon were painting some doom and gloom and I’m have way tempted to believe them.

    I find it slightly ironic that the Pakistani administration blamed Al Queda for the killing.

    The throngs of pissed off people that have a nuclear detenator in their shed aren’t going to be thrilled when, as someone described, their JFK just got killed.

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