Skip to comments.Pakistan's Peril--A Nuclear-Armed Jihadist State?--With Bhutto Gone. . . [3 articles]
Posted on 12/28/2007 6:59:25 AM PST by SJackson
By Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, December 28, 2007
Benazir Bhutto always insisted that she was ready to risk her life for democracy in Pakistan. Now the leader of Pakistans People Party (PPP) has been held to her word in a singularly tragic way. On Thursday, Bhutto was assassinated in an apparent suicide attack that claimed the lives of 20 bystanders and ended the iconic politicians campaign for democratic rule.
For good and ill, Bhuttos career recalled that of her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. As the founder of the nominally socialist PPP, the elder Bhutto demonstrated what a modern Pakistani politician could be. Educated at Oxford and skillfully conversant in the language of democracy, he naturally appealed to his counterparts in the West. His execution by the military regime of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in 1979 only cemented his reputation as a symbol of progress in a decidedly atavistic part of the world.
Yet he also played with peril. The proud father of Pakistans nuclear-weapons program, Bhutto preached the glories of Islamic revival, promising his religious supporters that they deserved an Islamic bomb to counter the might of the West. Today, when Islamic radicals like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claim that their countries have a legal right to a nuclear-weapons program, it is Bhuttos example that they emulate.
His daughters legacy is similarly compromised. Trained at the best American and European schools, including Harvard and Oxford, Bhutto, was a natural in appealing to the Western worlds hopes that the Middle East become a more modern, more tolerant place. Her election as prime minister in 1988 only improved her standing in the West, not least because it made her the first democratically elected female prime minister in an Islamic country. Here, at last, was a woman who could lead the Islamic world from its persistent dark age.
But Bhutto was not always what she appeared to be.
Under her leadership, Pakistan in the 1990s became one the leading patrons of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Even as she promised to take her country into the 21st century, Bhutto secretly provided military and financial aid to Islamic guerillas whose ideology placed them closer to the middle ages. Publicly, she rejected any affiliation with the Taliban. Behind closed doors, she subscribed to the view that they were a pro-Pakistan force that could help stabilize Afghanistan.
Duped by Bhuttos act was the Clinton administration and prominent Democratic Congressmen like Texas Rep. Charlie Wilson. As reporter Steve Coll noted in Ghost Wars, his detailed account of the rise of Islamic fanaticism in Afghanistan, when it came to supporting the Taliban, Bhutto had decided that it was more important to appease the Pakistani army and intelligence services than to level with her American friends.
Even then, there were those who cautioned that Islamic militants, once empowered, would prove impossible to control. Either out of naiveté or political calculation, Bhutto didnt listen. Like her father before her, she failed to realize the fanatical force that she helped unleash.
The price for that terrible error in judgment, it now seems, was her life. Of the leading suspects in yesterdays assassination the most likely would seem to be those Taliban and al-Qaeda forces who have grown increasingly powerful in Pakistans lawless northwestern territories. Indeed, just prior to her return to Pakistan after an eight-year exile, a number of death threats surfaced. Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud instructed Islamist cells in Karachi to kill Bhutto upon her arrival. His command was very nearly carried out in the October suicide attack in Karachi that killed 140 people, even as Bhutto escaped unharmed. Bhutto herself suspected the Taliban and al-Qaeda suicide squads were responsible for the bombing in October.
By then, the jihadists had ample reason to hate the woman in the white veil. Despite her initial support for the Taliban, Bhutto ultimately emerged on the right side of the War on Terror. In July, Bhutto backed the Pakistani security services siege of Islamabads Red Mosque after its capture by al-Qaeda affiliated militants. Not a few Pakistani politicians seized on the operation to vilify Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, but Bhutto maintained that it was necessary to send a signal that the government would not yield to Islamic extremists.
Bhutto again landed in the terrorists crosshairs when she expressed her support for allowing American forces to enter Pakistan in pursuit of al-Qaeda and other terrorist elements. And she angered more than just al-Qaeda when she promised in September to permit international interrogators to question A.Q. Khan, the rogue nuclear scientist whom Pakistanis revere as a national hero. It does not overstate the case to say that for Bhutto to support his questioning was tantamount to treason in Pakistan; it is a measure of her courage that she did it anyway. As if that were not enough, Bhutto also championed the cause of civilian democracy that Islamists have judged heretical.
On that count, it must be said, Bhuttos reputation was not without blemish. On the one hand, she won widespread favor in the West with her mantra that extremism was alien to Pakistan, that military rule was responsible for Islamic terrorism, and that she could establish the modern, liberal democracy to which the country truly aspired. At the same time, critics, including her own niece, accused Bhutto of being a corrupt aristocrat who happily would make a deal with the devil -- in this case, General Musharraf -- if it meant placing her in power. Bhutto, they charged, was no ally of democrats.
Whatever the merits of such criticisms, Bhuttos graver sin was closer to the opposite: exaggerating her countrys readiness for democracy. Her assurance that the democratic process was the strongest weapon against domestic terrorism was directly belied by the evidence. For instance, a November poll by Pakistans Daily Times found that a majority of the country opposed sending Pakistani forces to combat Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the countrys north, while an overwhelming majority -- 80 percent -- opposed allowing foreign forces to do so. Not coincidentally, another poll found that some sixty percent of the country had sympathy for Islamist goals, including that Sharia should play a larger role in Pakistan law. The violent riots that swept the country in the wake of Bhutto's death are only the latest reason to think that Pakistan lacks a stable foundation for democratic governance.
Far from impeding the jihadist cause, the elections Bhutto urged for Pakistan may well have strengthened it. Just as her belief in the stabilizing potential of the Taliban proved fatally flawed, Bhuttos faith in democracy looks similarly misplaced. Her Pakistani supporters were not mistaken yesterday when they proclaimed her a martyr. But Bhutto was, among other things, a martyr to her own illusions.
A Nuclear-Armed Jihadist State?
By Robert Spencer
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, December 28, 2007
Al-Qaeda has claimed credit for the murder on Thursday of Benazir Bhutto: We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen. According to an Italian jihadist website, the hit was ordered by none other than Ayman Al-Zawahri, Al-Qaedas Number Two man. However, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel was cautious about such reports: Im aware that al-Qaida may have claimed responsibility. Im aware of news reports of that. But, he told reporters, I dont have any specifics for you on that. Whoever perpetrated this attack is an enemy of democracy and has used a tactic that al-Qaida is very familiar with, and that is suicide bombing and the taking of innocent life to try to disrupt the democratic process.
And disrupted it is. The remaining democratic opponent of the Musharraf regime, Nawaz Sharif, announced that his party would boycott national elections set for January: We have decided to boycott elections in honor of Ms. Bhutto, he said. Under the present circumstances and under Musharraf, neither is campaigning possible nor is a free election.
The only winner in these circumstances is likely to be the Pakistani jihadists, who have long despised Bhutto for her Western leanings and her stated determination to stamp out Al-Qaeda in the country. Whether or not Al-Qaeda actually carried out the murder of Bhutto, they had threatened to kill back in October, when she returned to Pakistan and resumed a role on the national stage. Mahmoud Al Hasan of Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen, a jihadist group allied with the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party, excoriated Bhutto at that time for saying she would join the U.S. in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Benazir Bhutto, he fumed, was totally talking like an infidel. What should be the reaction of jihadis? They should definitely kill her. She is an enemy of Islam. She is an enemy of jihadis. She is an enemy of the country.
It may be that the assassination of Bhutto is part of this jihad, and part of a larger effort to institute Islamic rule in Pakistan. That movement has broad popular support. According to a September CNN poll, in Pakistan bin Laden has a 46 percent approval rating. Musharrafs support is 38 percent. U.S. President George W. Bushs approval: 9 percent.
Musharraf earlier this year faced down the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, whose leaders were openly calling for the strict rule of Islamic law in Pakistan; the emergency rule he declared in November was a direct attempt to counter the growing power of the exponents of political Islam. Al-Qaeda, in response, called on Muslims to wage jihad against Musharraf. And just weeks after the imposition of emergency rule, jihadists were still gaining territory in the countrys northwest region, a hotbed of jihadist sentiment, at the expense of the federal government. Once in power, they instituted draconian Islamic laws reminiscent of the Taliban, shutting down video stores and schools for girls. But such measures dont appear to be unpopular in some areas of Pakistan. Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Righteous), another jihadist group there, collaborates with Al-Qaeda and may also be involved in actions against Western targets. The Los Angeles Times reported that U.S. counterterrorism officials say the groups status as a legal organization in Pakistan makes it difficult to oppose. It has thousands of loyal supporters and close ties to a government that has done little to rein it in.
There is a great deal more evidence of jihadist sympathizers at the highest levels of the Pakistani government. Also in November, then-Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer declared: Weve been concerned about some elements of the Pakistani intelligence services and their links to the Taliban. This should not be surprising, considering that Bhutto herself aided the Taliban during her tenure as prime minister: an exercise in realpolitik that her followers may be regretting today.
Given such a political climate, it should not be surprising if Bushs call to Pakistanis to honor Benazir Bhuttos memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life, if followed through with free elections, results in the installation of an Islamic regime in Pakistan. Then a nuclear-armed state dedicated to the jihad ideology and Islamic supremacism will alter the uneasy status quo in the Islamic world and the world at large, forever.
With Bhutto Gone. . .
By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, December 28, 2007
Frontpage Interviews guest today is Steve Schippert, co-founder of the Center for Threat Awareness and managing editor for ThreatsWatch.org.
FP: Steve Schippert, welcome back to Frontpage Interview.
Schippert: My pleasure.
FP: What does the assassination of Bhutto mean for Pakistan going forward? What perils now lie ahead?
Schippert: Benazir Bhutto's assassination Thursday is a devastating blow for Pakistan and a great loss as such for the West. For all her faults readily pointed out by her critics - rightly or wrongly - she remained the best hope for a representation of reasonable and moderate Pakistanis within their own government.
Now, the only significantly popular alternative is another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. And he has advocated a Pakistani position of unceremonious distancing of Pakistan from the United States and cozying up to the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance of terrorists and insurgents nested in Pakistan's tribal regions. He is also said to have benefited from a significant contribution in his failed first run for prime minister from none other than Usama bin Laden - to the tune of $3 billion rupees. For the West, he is not a trustworthy ally at all against al-Qaeda in his midst.
The elections slated for January 8th will almost certainly be delayed by Musharraf, who can be expected to announce another phase of emergency powers if violent street protests do not abate - effectively enacting a state of emergency with the constitution suspended and martial law in place.
It should be noted that instability and disunity are a requirement of any successful insurgency campaign, and an insurgency is exactly what the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance has been executing - albeit in a remarkably patient, methodical 'Death by a Thousand Cuts' fashion. Their goals are two-fold: Establish Pakistan as the base of their envisioned restoration of a caliphate and the acquisition of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, providing them with both horrifying means of attack as well as a newfound deterrence.
FP: Al-Qaeda is likely responsible, like it has boasted it is, right? Bhutto's supporters have thus far blamed only Musharraf.
Schippert: Bhutto's supporters are understandably distraught and - to be honest - have reason to distrust Musharraf's government if not Musharraf himself. After the first assassination attempt on Bhutto, she wrote a letter and named names of those within Musharraf's government who wanted her dead. But at the same time, there is also a difference between individuals within the government potentially conspiring against her and Musharraf's complicity in her assassination. In ways - depending on the individual - it would be almost like ascribing guilt to Ronald Reagan for the acts of Aldrich Ames or to Bill Clinton for the acts of Robert Hanssen. Almost, but not quite.
Al-Qaeda has taken credit for the attack. At least that is the claim of al-Qaeda's military commander in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid. While we all wait for a more definitive (more authoritative, if you will) claim of al-Qaeda responsibility, al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the failed coordinated attempt on her life last month in Karachi when she returned to Pakistan. That failed attack was a carbon copy of the one executed successfully Thursday - sniper fire followed by a suicide bomber blast near her vehicle. The difference this time was that the attackers closed on their target while she was still standing with her head and torso outside the sunroof of her armored vehicle, not after she had gone inside its protection. She was shot multiple times in the neck and chest and later died of massive blood loss.
Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid apparently conveyed to well-connected Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad that Ayman al-Zawahiri gave the orders himself in October to prepare cells for her assassination after her plans to return in a power-sharing arrangement with Musharraf was announced. In such a case, an over-riding strategic order for multiple al-Qaeda terrorist cells squares with consistent ground tactics in the two attacks.
FP: So what of Bhutto's supporters' claims that Musharraf is responsible?
Schippert: There is a point of unspoken synergy among the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance and supporters of both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif: They all seek the end of Musharraf's days in Pakistan. And this is a most unfortunate reality, as the discontent of Bhutto's supporters feeds al-Qaeda's need for disunity and unrest in order to carry their insurgency to the next level. This has always been the case and is potentially nearing a tipping point now. The next few days will be telling in this regard, and critical to observe.
At the end of the day, Islamists within Pakistani intelligence and military circles likely had a hand in Bhutto's assassination. But let's keep in mind that these same circles also had hands in the multiple al-Qaeda assassination attempts on Musharraf as well, including in the very same garrison city of Rawalpindi, home to Pakistan's army and military intelligence (ISI) headquarters.
FP: What does this tragedy mean for the region?
Schippert: Again, the loss of Bhutto is not only a loss for Pakistanis, but also for the rest of the world hoping Pakistan can stabilize and modernize and lose itself one day of the threat of an al-Qaeda which strengthens and grows on its fertile grounds.
Her assassination comes at particularly high cost for Afghanistan and Hamid Karzai, who was in Pakistan attempting to build upon the strained, angry relations between the two countries. For every measure of instability within Pakistan, there is an equal measure of violent attacks into Afghanistan from within the Taliban-al-Qaeda Pakistani lairs. Recall that Musharraf's ceding of the Waziristan Agencies in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas was based on a written agreement that cross-border attacks into Afghanistan would be halted. They rose 300% overnight. An even weaker Pakistan ripped and distracted by internal unrest beyond the tribal areas spells trouble measured in blood for Afghanistan.
Equally concerned is India. Should al-Qaeda gain control of Pakistani nuclear weapons, the first target will not likely be New York, Tel Aviv or Baghdad, but rather New Dehli. If al-Qaeda can successfully decapitate the whole of India's political class, an insurgency by Indian Muslims could be successfully and swiftly launched, breaking India up into pieces while simultaneously and successfully resolving the Kashmir conflict - which is still teeming with al-Qaeda-aligned terrorist groups. Any Indian retaliatory strike can be plausibly acceptable considering the gains and the dutiful expansion of a new caliphate.
FP: What then does this mean for the United States and the West?
Schippert: For the US going forward, we may be approaching a time where the US needs to determine if it is going to continue to support Musharraf wholly and stay largely out of Pakistan or confront the danger full-on and unleash a full assault on the tribal regions held by al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Perhaps a recognition that at the end of the day there truly is no defeating al-Qaeda within Pakistan by Pakistan, and that it will require American boots on the ground and assets in the air - whether convenient or not, pleasant contemplation or not. We may be nearing that crucial decision point.
Also keep in mind that, if history is a guide, the decision may be made for us. Consider the recent history of Pakistani leaders who have appointed a new Chief of Army Staff - such as Musharraf did in appointing General Kiyani to take his place. It would not be a stretch of the imagination to contemplate Kiyani overthrowing Musharraf thinking him too divisive for his country to survive. Recall the unspoken synergy of mutual anger held both by Bhutto supporters and al-Qaeda for Musharraf. With her assassination, it could be a perfect storm brewing for al-Qaeda in Pakistan - one that could eclipse the synergistic anger that manifested after Lal Masjid assault and the arrest of Supreme Court Chief Justice Chaudhry.
Recall also that Musharraf himself was appointed Chief of Army Staff by Nawaz Sharif. General Musharraf dispatched of him in short order in a bloodless coup shortly after.
History can tell us many things. But what it cannot tell us is often more troubling. We are now in uncharted waters with an increasingly unstable nuclear power while a bloodthirsty international terrorist organization thrives within its borders. Not even the fall and breakup of the Soviet Union can compare in potential perils.
The coming week is critical, and all events in Pakistan warrant the closest attention.
FP: Steve Schippert, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Schippert: Thank you Jamie.
Benazir Bhutto: As Corrupt As They Come
Not surprising that Bhuttos act duped the Clinton administration and prominent Democratic Congressmen like Texas Rep. Charlie Wilson...as well as the USDoS+GWB!
Wth were these fools thinking, that Bhutto was some sort of Angel? The US had better get smart on Pakistan and Kosovo ASAP!
Only an idiot would think that Bhutto had real control over Pakistan’s policy on Afghanistan & nukes.It was the army’s terrain.
What we should do is define our boundaries, the lines other countries cannot cross, and when they do we need to send a message that can't be misunderstood. It is not our place or within our power to change who they are. That is up to them. We need to set rules and not rules for them but rather rules for us. For our benefit. The first rule should be you never attack the U.S.. Not here or anywhere else in the world. If you kill one of ours we will kill 1,000 of yours. If you do it again we kill 10,000.
The second rule should be you get no help whatsoever until you stop the BS. "We're working on it" just doesn't cut it. Your criminal problem is not going to be our problem. If your criminals attack us then we will attack YOU! If your criminals are still attacking us after you are gone then we will deal with them.