US Paradrop Lands Benazir in the Midst of Jihadis
International Terrorism Monitor--- Paper No.289
By B. Raman
(This article was written by me after the attempt to kill Mrs.Benazir Bhutto at Karachi on October 18,2007)
"The much talked about US plans for a political paradrop of a neo Benazir Bhutto into Pakistan in the hope of providing the badly-neededoxygen to President General Pervez Musharraf and saving the country from Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and an assortment of other pro-AlQaeda and anti-US jihadi terrorist groups is likely to create a third mess in a row for the US after the earlier two in Afghanistan and Iraq." SoI wrote in my article of September 2, 2007, titled "US PARADROP FOR A NEOBENAZIR", which is available athttp://www.saag.org/papers24/paper2353.html.
2. The US paradrop seems to have landed her right in the midst of jihadis of various hues. It was due to God's grace ----and not due to theskills of Pakistan's police and intelligence agencies---- that she escaped the two explosions on the night of October 18, 2007, which weremeant to kill her, but killed instead over 130 persons---members of her party, police personnel and innocent civilians The world only saw onthe TV the huge crowds, mobilised by her party, which greeted her after she arrived in Karachi ending eight years of political exile with theblessings of the US. It could not have seen the thousands of invisible enemies she has. No other political leader of Pakistan has as manypersonal enemies as Mrs. Benazir. Her support is confined to Sindh and to the Seraiki areas of Southern Punjab. In the rest of the country,she has as many enemies as she has friends. Even in Sindh, the Mohajirs and the Sindhi nationalists dislike her. Even in her own PakistanPeople's Party (PPP), she is strongly disliked by the supporters of her brothers Shah Nawaz Bhutto, who was allegedly poisoned by theInter-Services Intelligence in Southern France in 1985, and Murtaza Bhutto, who was allegedly killed by the Karachi Police in a stagedencounter in September, 1996, when she was the Prime Minister.
3. There are many in Pakistan----not just Al Qaeda--- who would be happy to see her killed. She was lucky on October 18. She has to be luckyevery time a plot is hatched to kill her by some group or the other, by some individual or the other. Many commentators---including some inIndia---have described her as a brave woman, who dared to return to Pakistan as scheduled on October 18 without worrying about thethreats held out against her. Brave, she was, but wise, definitely not.
4. Any wise leader would have noticed the widespread anti-Americanism in Pakistan and realised the importance of not projecting himself orherself as a leader blessed by the US and as the US choice to facilitate the transition of Pakistan back to democracy. He or she would havealso realised the importance of keeping one's thoughts to oneself at a time when widespread anger against the US and Gen. PervezMusharraf in the wake of the commando raid into the Lal Masjid in Islamabad from July 10 to 13, 2007, has let loose a wave of suicideterrorist attacks, many of them directed against the security forces and other public servants.
5. Many of her statements were like the red rag to the jihadi bulls---- that she would hand over A. Q. Khan, Pakistan's nuclear scientist, to theInternational Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for interrogation, that she would co-operate with the US in the war on terrorism, that shewould hand over Dawood Ibrahim, the Indian mafia leader living in Karachi, to India etc etc.
6. Benazir and Musharraf have many things in common. One of them is an inability to keep their mouth shut. The second is a weakness forthe TV cameras. The third is an eagerness to be liked by the Americans. The result: All anti-American groups in Pakistan were waiting for anopportunity to kill her.
7. The Karachi blast highlights once again the poor state of Pakistan's counter-terrorism and security apparatus. It also shows the extent ofthe penetration of terrorist elements into all parts of Pakistan---tribal as well as non-tribal, urban as well as rural. Pakistan is a societyinextricably caught in the clutches of the jihadis. The jihadis are not yet in a position to capture power, but they are in a position to keep thecountry bleeding and targeting its leaders and public servants.
8. Extricating Pakistan from their clutches and defeating them will be a long drawn-out process. It can be done only by a leader, who isgenuinely convinced of the need to defeat them and tries to do it on his or her own instead of seeming to do so to please the US. WhatPakistan needs at this critical hour in its history is a leader, who is widely perceived as independent and not an American stooge. NeitherMusharraf nor Mrs. Benazir is such a leader. Mr. Nawaz Sharif, if he is able to come back to power, could turn out to be such a leader. He hasmaintained a distance from the US. He does not fawn on the US like Mrs. Benazir does. Pakistan needs Mr. Nawaz Sharif more than it needsMusharraf or Benazir.
9. If the US really wants to save Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal from the clutches of the terrorists, it would be wise enough to encourage agenuine transition to democracy without any favourites. Let the people of Pakistan ----and not the US policy-makers and academics---decidewhom they want to be their leader in free and fair elections. Let the leader so chosen deal with the terrorists in his own independentmanner.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For topical studies,Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com)