OPINION: Replacing Bhutto

The dangerous void left behind

[Benazir Bhutto’s] longest-running battle was not with the extremists but with the army, whose leaders never trusted her. She was too secular, too worldly and perhaps too wise. Bhutto was killed leaving a political rally in Rawalpindi, just two miles from where her father, prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged by another military dictator 30 years ago. The tragedy of the Bhutto family — her brothers also died violently, one poisoned, one shot, and her husband spent seven years in prison — has become part of the saga and struggle by Pakistanis to create a viable democratic, modern state.

Yesterday, her party’s stalwarts were on the streets, accusing Musharraf and the military of perpetrating the latest murder of a Bhutto. That is extremely unlikely, not least because last night the government itself was in despair.

The classic use of a sniper to cut her down as at least one suicide bomber blew up her vehicle bore the hallmarks of a Pakistani suicide squad expertly trained by the al-Qaeda terrorists who are ensconced in northwest Pakistan.

Her death only exacerbates the problems Pakistan has been grappling with for the past few months: how to find a modicum of political stability through a representative government that the army can accept and will not work to undermine, and how to tackle the extremism spreading in the country.

If the elections are canceled, it is imperative that Musharraf drop his single-minded desire for power and establish a national government made up of all the country’s leading politicians and parties. Together, they may agree on how to conduct an orderly election while trying to beat back the specter of extremism that is haunting this benighted land. But Musharraf may not survive the fallout of Bhutto’s death. His actions have not been honorable, and none of the political opposition is willing to sit down with him. It is unlikely that they will accept Musharraf’s continued presidency.

If rioting and political mayhem worsen, if the opposition refuses to cooperate with Musharraf and the United States finally begins to distance itself from him, then the army may be forced to tell Musharraf to call it a day. If that happens, it will be even more imperative that the world supports a national government, elections and a speedy return to civilian rule — and not another military dictatorship. [complete article]

Editor’s note: The following two articles were published a week before Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.

Aitzaz Ahsan replacing Benazir Bhutto in Washington?

The United States is silently patronizing another candidate for the post of Prime Minister or Senate or opposition leader in the next Pakistani parliament.

aitzaz-ahsan.jpgHe is Washington’s ‘back up man’ in Pakistan. He can replace Benazir Bhutto in case she tumbles on the way due to any reason. Aitzaz Ahsan is the next horse Washington and the CIA are betting their future on in Pakistan.

He has so far shown the required defiance to President Musharraf and is well projected within the U.S. administration as well as in the media and liberal society in the country.

Why a ‘back up man’ for Mrs. Bhutto is becoming a necessity for Washington?

The answer is simple.

Mr. Musharraf has scuttled the “conspiracy” to throw him out of power, in which at least the U.S. media played a crucial role. Washington also exerted unbelievable pressures to ease Mr. Musharraf’s supposed replacement, Benazir Bhutto, in power in Islamabad. But that entire plan has been scuttled. And Mr. Musharraf is in fact consolidating his power. He might even end up having enough majority in the next parliament to change the constitution and transform Pakistan into a presidential democracy. From the American standpoint, Musharraf needs to be restrained, since his ouster does not seem possible for the time being.

Mr. Ahsan’s ambitions have extremely offended Mrs. Bhutto and her frustration is so obvious that it is even being noted on the streets. Mr. Ahsan remains part of PPP but the party leader continues to feel seriously threatened by him as he is now the next U.S. candidate to replace her in case she fails to deliver. [complete article]

Can a democrat like Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan answer these questions?

Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan, a Pakistani politician turned rights activist, is successfully pandering to an American audience that knows zilch about Pakistan, or about Mr. Ahsan’s own history. He can wow the Americans all he wants, but only we, the ordinary Pakistanis, know Mr. Ahsan’s undemocratic history within his own political party. Welcome again to Pakistan, where the hero-of-the-month is just another feudal politician fighting for his pie. [complete article]

See also, Anti-Bhutto army factions behind murder? (B. Raman), Sharif’s party to boycott elections (AP), and Nawaz Sharif holds Musharraf responsible for Bhutto killing (Indo-Asian News Service).

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