Pakistan's 10% Solution
by Eric Margolis
by Eric Margolis
Benazir Bhutto's murder increasingly resembles an Agatha Christie whodunit in which all the potential suspects look guilty as hell.
Pakistan's now civilian dictator, President Pervez Musharraf, pleads innocent. But his henchmen ordered the crime scene hosed down, destroyed evidence, and forced doctors who examined Benazir's body to make the preposterous claim a fall, not bullets, killed her.
On 23 Oct., days after the first attempt to kill Ms Bhutto in Karachi, she told me she "suspected" the chief of a government security agency staged the bombing. She repeated to me accusations that two other high-ranking Punjabi government officials, one a chief minister, were out to kill her.
On 25 Oct. Benazir told me her phones and e-mail were being tapped by Musharraf's security services. So they knew her every move. A week later, she e-mailed me, saying she feared imminent arrest. A week before her murder, she repeated by phone that Musharraf's supporters were gunning for her.
On 30 Oct., I sent a long e-mail to Benazir that outlined a new political strategy for her People's Party. In it, I concluded, "for your public appearances, follow India's security measures for its prime minister. They are very tight. Consider new, lightweight body armor, "Dragonskin." By phone, I warned her of snipers.
The government accuses tribal militants belonging to Pakistan's Taliban. But they strongly deny involvement. Al-Qaida's Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri claimed authorship of the assassination. My hunch says it was al-Qaida.
Benazir's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, refused an autopsy on his wife's body, ordering it buried with haste, in keeping with Muslim custom. But an autopsy would have determined the true cause of death and exposed government's lies.
President Musharraf got national parliamentary elections postponed to 18 Feb., hoping sympathy for the slain Benazir would diminish. He called in Britain's Scotland Yard to investigate her murder, but only after all evidence was destroyed.
Ironically, when Benazir Bhutto became prime minister after the assassination of her family's bitter foe, my old friend Gen. Zia ul-Haq, she ordered the ongoing investigation of his murder quashed and evidence destroyed.
Washington still backs Musharraf as the man to wage its war in Afghanistan. Though few westerners yet understand it, the 2001 US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, and spreading resistance, ignited the current explosion in Pakistan. The Bush White House must keep spending billions in secret payments to Pakistan's Army and intelligence services — dispersed by paymaster Musharraf — to help fight its war in Afghanistan and growing regional rebellions in two of Pakistan's four provinces.
Meanwhile, Benazir's bereaved People's Party just elected her 19-year-old son, Bilawal, and husband, Asif Ali Zardari, as co-chairman — using a fake will, charge disgruntled family members. I met Bilawal in London in October. He is a highly intelligent young man who shows lots of the Bhutto fire. But he's far too young to sit in parliament, and 16 years too young to become prime minister.
In the interim, papa Zardari will rule the party as regent. Whether he will run for prime minister is uncertain. Known to all as "Mr. 10%" from his time as a government minister in charge of contracts and procurement, Zardari is dogged by grave corruption charges and three ongoing investigations in Europe. His even more venal father was called "Mr. 15%." The Bhuttos are believed to have amassed a large fortune stashed away in Europe. This great feudal landowning family of southern Pakistan considers the People's Party as their own family business, a legacy to be passed from one generation to the next.
Musharraf's popular support is down to 10%. So to win February elections, he must rig them. The US appears ready to assist his disgraceful farce.
The best solution for Pakistan is a coalition between the People's Party, Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League, the incorruptible Imran Khan's small party, and Muslim Parties. If they do not hang together, Musharraf will surely hang them separately.
And now, just when things could not seem to get worse, Washington is abuzz with rumors that the US is planning attacks into Pakistan. Sheer madness. More about this soon.
January 8, 2008
Copyright © 2008 Eric Margolis