Benazir Bhutto

According to this Jerusalem Post article.

Former premier Benazir Bhutto narrowly escaped a suicide bombing that shattered her homecoming procession and killed up to 126 people hours after she returned to Pakistan from exile pledging to fight extremism and promote democracy.

Given the central importance of Pakistan in the world’s struggle with terrorism my immediate reaction to the attempted assassination of Benazir Bhutto, after relief that she survived without injury, was that yet another act of murderous fanaticism would further shift public opinion in Pakistan and the Muslim world against such fanaticism.

The very fact that she has been allowed to return to Pakistan is, I hope, a sign that Pakistan’s ruling elite is closing ranks. Still, Pakistani politics are nothing if not complex and the internal power struggles will continue as is demonstrated by this report in Pakistan’s Daily Times. Bhutto herself is calling for the sacking of the cheif of the IB (Intelligence Bureau) and her husband is claiming that the attack came from within the government, not from the radical Islamists:

Ms Bhutto’s husband Zardari told Geo TV that he did not think that extremist elements were behind these blasts, adding that some elements within the government, including some ministers, were responsible for the blasts. He said the PPP was a democratic party and was not a threat to jihadi elements.

Attempted appeasement or perhaps cynical manipulation – make of it what you will – here is the concluding paragraph of an analysis in the Pakistani Daily Times on the effect of Bhutto’s return on party politics in Pakistan:

The real worry in the PMLQ camp is Nawaz Sharif. If he succeeds in coming back, the ruling party might be denuded of its followers, in the urban areas of Punjab at least. Like Ms Bhutto, repression would make him heroic and acquiescence might lead to a stampede into his camp. Worst, if Mr Sharif allies with the MMA, he could take a chunk of the PMLQ’s vote bank and indirectly boost Ms Bhutto’s electoral prospects in a three way fight.
Of course, the curtain could come down on Ms Bhutto and Mr Sharif if General Musharraf felt insecure and was compelled to wrap up this “noisy” and unpredictable transition to democracy. In the event, the thunderous arrival of Ms Bhutto on the scene could set the stage for more convulsions later for everyone concerned.

It sounds Byzantine and a lot like business as usual to me, but it was written before the bombing. A postscript that has been added to the end of the above article this is remarkable for its clarity and perhaps demonstrates the unifying effect of such attacks have on an otherwise fractious society.

Postscript: The two bombs which targeted her and killed dozens of people are a foretaste of things to come. They are the handiwork of Al-Qaeda, no less than the attempts on the life of General Musharraf in the past. For those Pakistanis who are still obsessed with moral issues, they should serve to focus on the principal and most violent contradiction facing Pakistan in its quest for moderation and democracy.

Given that such bombing is a trademark al Qaeda tactic I will be surprised if the charge does not prove justified. Getting blown up by ‘moralists’ is getting old. It is hard to maintain the moral high ground by indiscriminate murder. Such acts of terror no doubt create more terror, but they also create discrimination between right and wrong, most importantly among those Muslims most vulnerable to the claims of the ‘moralists’.

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