Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pakistan's Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto Dead Following Terrorist Attack

Pakistan's opposition leader Benazir Bhutto (54) was shot and killed as she left a political rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan following a homicide bombing that early reports claim killed about 20 and injured about 40. Bhutto was hoping to become Prime Minister after the January 8, 2008 elections.

The killer shot Bhutto with an AK-47 and them blew himself up.

FOX News commenters say that she was an enemy of the Taliban and Al Qaeda because she was for women's rights and democracy. She was educated at Harvard and Oxford. She was the Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1988 to 1990 and from 1993 to 1996. The New York Times (12-28-07) reports some of the controversy about her leadership.

Benazir Bhutto was the leader of the PPP Party and the first woman Prime Minister of a Muslim country. Some of her supporters are blaming Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf for her death. I think it is more likely that it was jihadists loyal to the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, but Musharraf wasn't able to protect her. Many people in the security forces have ties to the Islamic terrorist organizations.

Here is Bhutto's Wikipedia. Here is her BBC obituary. Here is the Times account of her death. The Times reports:

Islamic militants have vowed to kill Ms Bhutto, anathematising her as a supporter of Washington's war on terror, a proponent of women's rights, and as a secular politician who returned to Pakistan in October to contest parliamentary elections....

The latest bombing was the second outbreak of political violence in Pakistan today. Earlier, gunmen inside the offices of a political party that supports Mr Musharraf opened fire on supporters of another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, killing four, police said.

This murder will probably destabilize Musharraf's government and the January 8, 2008 elections.

The head of Pakistan's army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, will probably play an important role in the days to come. The St. Petersburg Times (11-29-07) reports:

In the 1990s, Kavani was Benazir Bhutto's military secretary during her first term as prime minister, and he is said to be on good terms with many in Pakistan's political elite. When Musharraf and Bhutto began negotiations on power-sharing this year, Kayani was a go-between.

The Christian Science Monitor (11-29-07) profiled General Kayani after he became head of the Pakistani Army when President Musharraf stepped down from that role.

Columnist Robert Novak wrote an editorial in the Washington Post (12-3-07) about Pakistan's January elections and made this claim about the role of retired Pakistani Brigadier General Ijaz Shah:

Musharraf's efforts to keep Bhutto out have been orchestrated for two years by retired brigadier Ijaz Shah, who left Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) to become the president's chief of civilian intelligence. The ISI, a state within a state, is aligned against Bhutto and would be at the heart of any vote-rigging.

The ISI's views were expressed Nov. 19 by Ahmed Quraishi, an anchor on state-owned Pakistani television, in an article posted on his Web site and published in several of the country's newspapers. He describes an American plot "clipping the wings of a strong Pakistani military" that concludes by "toppling Musharraf, sidelining the military and installing a pliant government in Islamabad."

If Musharraf is finished, the ISI's chosen successor could be his old adversary, Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted as prime minister and went into exile when Musharraf seized power eight years ago. [See above--Nawaz Sharif's offices were attacked and people were killed just before the attack on Bhutto.] A recent secret meeting in Riyadh between ISI and Saudi intelligence officials -- Sharif has lived in Jiddah for years -- arranged for Sharif's return Nov. 25. Though he intends to regain national leadership, Sharif is boycotting the January elections, in which he would lose badly. In a recent private conversation with a former Pakistani government official, Sharif said that he hoped a coup would not be necessary to take power but did not rule it out.

Breitbart (12-27-07) reports that Nawaz Sharif said today that his party would boycott the January elections and demanded that President Pervez Musharraf resign. A long time opponent of Bhutto, he has rebutted suggestions that he may gain politically as the result of her death.

According to ABC's Brian Ross of The Blotter (12-27-07), the U.S. is trying to run down a claim by the head of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan who claims to have killed Bhutto:

...U.S. intelligence officials say they cannot confirm an initial claim of responsibility for the attack, supposedly from an al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan.

An obscure Italian Web site said Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, al Qaeda's commander in Afghanistan, told its reporter in a phone call, "We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahedeen."

It said the decision to assassinate Bhutto was made by al Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al Zawahri in October. Before joining Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, Zawahri was imprisoned in Egypt for his role in the assassination of then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

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