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As Benazir Bhutto’s wood flag-laden coffin was laid to rest and angry mourners protested her murder less than two weeks before elections, the Daily Telegraph proudly proclaims * Bhutto’s death is victory for Islamic hardliners at Daily Telegraph (UK), Dec 27.

Thousands mourn Bhutto as unrest spreads

Bhutto was killed after a suicide attacker shot at her and then blew himself up as she left a rally, police and witnesses said. Authorities initially said she died from bullet wounds, but Dr. Mussadiq Khan, a surgeon who treated her, said Friday that she died from shrapnel to the skull.

Funny, isn’t it, that President Pervez Musharraf’s most powerful political opponent would be assassinated so close to the election? And the official line coming from Musharraf is blaming the attack on the resurgent Islamic militants Pakistan is fighting along the border region with Afghanistan, pledging in a nationally televised speech that “we will not rest until we eliminate these terrorists and root them out.”

Unfortunately, this seems to be very similar to Karzai’s claiming the expelled Brits were holding jirgas with the Taliban.

The election was seen as a pivotal step toward restoring democracy here, eight years after Musharraf seized power in a coup. It also was intended to restore credibility to the government after Musharraf used a six-week state of emergency to arrest thousands of political opponents and crack down on the independent judiciary.

Bhutto’s death seems to be a mere extension of this crackdown, and a warning to any opponents about the upcoming election. It will be interesting to see if any voices ring out from Pakistan against Islamic extremism now…it will be the Iraq Information Minister type of pronouncements, no doubt.

Bhutto as representative of Pakistan People’s Party, popular among legions of poor, served two terms as prime minister between 1988 and 1996. She had been vying for a third term if her party did well in the Jan. 8 parliamentary elections. She spoke openly about the need to oppose Islamic extremism and for that reason, was lauded by the west.

Jacob Laskin:

Trained at the best American and European schools, including Harvard and Oxford, Bhutto, was a natural in appealing to the Western world’s 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.

Much like our Pashtun-born friend, Hamid Karzai.

Duped by Bhutto’s 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 didn’t 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 yesterday’s assassination the most likely would seem to be those Taliban and al-Qaeda forces who have grown increasingly powerful in Pakistan’s 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.

Timeline

March 26: First joint protests organized by the parties of exiled former prime ministers Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

July 3-10: Pakistani troops besiege the pro-Taliban Red Mosque in Islamabad, then storm the building a week later. More than 100 people die during the course of the crisis.

July 20:
Bhutto and Musharraf hold secret meeting in Abu Dhabi on a possible power-sharing deal to sideline Sharif.

Oct 18: Bhutto returns to Karachi from Dubai after eight years in self-exile. Two suicide bombers attack her homecoming parade hours later, killing 139 people.

Oct 31: Bhutto says she has heard rumours Musharraf will impose a state of emergency and postpones planned trip to Dubai. She flies to Dubai the following day.

Nov 3:
Musharraf imposes state of emergency, suspends the constitution and arrests key opposition figures, citing Islamic extremism and judicial interference.

Oct 18: Bhutto returns to Karachi from Dubai after eight years in self-exile. Two suicide bombers attack her homecoming parade hours later, killing 139 people.

Oct 31: Bhutto says she has heard rumours Musharraf will impose a state of emergency and postpones planned trip to Dubai. She flies to Dubai the following day.

Nov 3:
Musharraf imposes state of emergency, suspends the constitution and arrests key opposition figures, citing Islamic extremism and judicial interference.

Nov 4: Police crack down on the opposition. The United States, a key Musharraf ally, voices concern.

Nov 7:
Bhutto announces plans for mass protests.

Nov 9: Hours before a planned rally in the city of Rawalpindi police Bhutto under house arrest at her Islamabad home. The order is late lifted.

Nov 11:
Musharraf say parliament will be dissolved on November 15 and elections should be held by early January.

Nov 12: Bhutto rules out further power-sharing talks with Musharraf. She is placed under house arrest again to prevent her leading a mass procession.

Nov 13:
Bhutto for the first time urges Musharraf to resign and says she will never serve under him as prime minister.

Nov 16:
Musharraf swears in the interim government. Bhutto is freed from house arrest. US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte arrives in Islamabad and speaks to Bhutto by telephone.

Nov 26: Bhutto and Sharif file their nomination papers for the election. Musharraf’s office announces he will resign from the army on November 28 and take a new oath as a
civilian leader.

Dec 27:
Bhutto is killed in a suicide attack at a campaign rally in Rawalpindi.

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There is a lot of buzz out there, some folks poking fun. Others, more serious.

I’m just glad the pictures are blurred, because this must have been bloody. This is a 24-year-old woman, Sujatha Vagawanam, on a mission to kill a Sri Lankan cabinet member. First few photos show her sitting calmly in the office of the Social Services Minister Douglas Devananda, on the day he sets aside to hear complaints from members of the public. She calmly walked in, and answered questions directed to her by Devananda’s 72-year old aide, Steven Peiris. Then she blows them both up.

She wears a yellow sari and a white shawl, and puts her right arm up to her right shoulder, and apparently pulls the trigger to explode the bomb.

Personally, I’d like to know more about what triggered this. Excuse the pun.

Here’s the AP article.

She was apparently a Tamil Tiger, one of the ‘rebels’ who’ve been fighting since 1983 to create a separate homeland for Sri Lanka’s minority ethnic Tamils following decades of discrimination by governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority.

Does this sound racist to you? Why can’t they all get along?

According to the AP’s article,

The group, branded a terror organization by the U.S. and European Union, is responsible for more than 240 suicide bombings as well as scores of other deadly attacks.

They should make good candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize, then.

It is a Hindu organization, and is supposedly ‘secular’. There are differences of opinion as to whether or not they are affiliated with Al Qaeda, but their methods seem to be eerily similar.

X Posted at CB

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