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Thu. February 09, 2023
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Reaction to Benazir Bhutto's death
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Haider Ali Hussein Mullick, political analyst: I believe Bhutto, with all her faults, was undoubtedly a superb dealmaker never wavering from the core principles of a people's government, but frequently reinterpreting her father's doctrine of "Islamic socialism" to fit it into the vicissitudes of Pakistani politics. Today Pakistan has a lot to worry about; Al-Qaeda and its affiliates are successfully orchestrating multiple suicide attacks on military personnel and politicians; and increasing control of regions such as Waziristan and Swat. President Musharraf has tried to weather the storm of personal political woes and national security problems by imposing emergency on November 3 and then calling for elections in January of next year. Since the emergency, the Pakistani military has pushed back hard and regained significant territory from the terrorists in Swat, but a learning-by-doing counterinsurgency policy implemented by poorly trained and equipped soldiers has left the important question of sustainability unanswered. The war is knocking hard on Islamabad's door; it has trumped the perceived threat from India and become Pakistan's clear and present danger. Moreover, U.S. security interests – Al-Qaeda's safe havens, Talibanization of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the safety of Pakistani nuclear weapons – directly depend on Pakistan's internal security situation. Regardless of Bhutto's personal political ambitions, she was an asset for Pakistan and could have played a very important role in uniting the country against its augmenting peril – terrorism against the state. In this difficult time, I can only hope that Bhutto's death becomes the straw that broke the camel's back – Pakistanis unite against those who wish to destroy the federation or those who wish to enslave it. Most Pakistanis will not rally around a state that does not incorporate their wishes through a democratic system. Al-Qaeda and its affiliates are successful in Pakistan's northwest because they have exploited ethnic and economic discrimination from Islamabad. The elections on January 8 are not a sure deal, but the transition from military rule to a civilian dominated military mix must not be derailed. Haider Ali Hussein Mullick is based in Washington and researches American foreign policy toward South Asia. He can be reached at hmullick@brookings.edu Ahmed Quraishi, political commentator: We have warned about this: Blatant U.S. support for Mrs. Bhutto is an open invitation for anti-U.S. terrorists to kill her. She knew this but played along. Despite the image of a daring democratic warrior, she never would have returned to Pakistan if not for Washington’s nudge. Just this week, she openly supported American accusations against Pakistan about ‘wasting’ $ 5 billion in U.S. aid, allegations that drew unusually strong rebuke from her own country. With her death, Washington’s plans for regime-change in Pakistan lie in complete tatters. Ahmed Quraishi is a Pakistani political commentator and hosts a talk show on the PTV Network. Sumit Ganguly, Indiana University: I think there's going to be an outpouring of sympathy for [Benazir Bhutto], and unfortunately some of this grief will be expressed in violence. I think we see already some evidence of this, in that the gates of the hospital were smashed in Rawalpindi. Demonstrations are already taking place across the country, and some miscreants will obviously enter the fray. This is also a terrible blow for her [Pakistan's People] Party. Her party does not have a significant second bench - they had staked their fortunes on her. They had rallied around her, and now suddenly, in one fell swoop their star performer has been removed. This is not a conventional political party the way we understand it in advanced industrial democracies. These are political parties that are largely woven around the fortunes, charisma and personal appeal of a particular individual. And when those individuals are abruptly removed, we are talking about a party that is essentially headless. And her husband, who is also a member of the party, is one of the most unsavory characters in Pakistan. He was widely known as 'Mr. 10 percent' when he was in office - he was known for graft and corruption. So it's not entirely clear that elections can be held under these circumstances, or what kind of elections. It would be mostly farcical. How is the People's Power Party going to regroup under these circumstances? And who is going to go and campaign in this sort of atmosphere? I think this will undermine Pervez Musharraf because much of the anger of the PPP members will be directed against him. Benazir Bhutto's supporters will accuse him of having failed to have protected her, and not not having taken the death threats against her seriously enough. I think it is going to undermine him to some degree, but I would not underestimate his staying power. I think people who are saying that this assassination rings the death knell for Musharraf are being a bit premature. Conspiracy theories [about Bhutto's death] abound in Pakistan, but I tend to discount them. Did [the security forces] deliberately let this happen? I don't know. Could they have done more? Probably yes. Was it their highest priority to protect Benazir Bhutto? Probably not. I don't think they actively participated in this sordid act, but I think they might have done more to protect her. On the other hand, it was not in their interest to see her get killed for the simple reason that she was Musharraf's stalking horse and Musharraf is the poster boy of the intelligence services. So it does not stand to reason that the intelligence services would actively connive to do this, or even passively let this happen. It just doesn't make much sense unless they are somewhat masochistic. Sumit Ganguly is Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations at Indiana University in Bloomington and author of the book 'Fearful Symmetry: India and Pakistan Under the Shadow of Nuclear Weapons.' Ghazala Khan, Editor, Pakistani Spectator: In what can only be described as a horrible turn of events, Benazir Bhutto, chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has been murdered by a suicide attack on her vehicle as she was exiting her last rally in Rawalpindi. First a motorcyclist with 4kg explosives blew himself right alongside her bullet proof car, then in panic Benazir tried to get out, when another suicide bomber fired at her and there was a blast. She received two bullets in her head and one in her neck and died at the spot, though she was promptly rushed to hospital. Our bloggers afterwards covered the roads throughout Pakistan. Our blogger from Karachi reported events live: " Right now the streets of Karachi are scenes of chaos... with people running helter skelter to find any modes of transport available to get home safely. Those with cars are ignoring all traffic rules and as I just made it home, there have been several accidents on the way that I witnessed. Armed youth fired in the air as they forced people to close down shops on main Tariq Road, and there was a mass exodus of families running for cover. There are wide spread reports of arson and riots in the Lyari & Sohrab Ghot areas of Karachi and both the national highway and the super highway has been sealed off by armed youth burning tires. People are stuck for the last hour on main Shahra E Faisal as there are massive traffic jams there. I do not think there is any hope of the election's continuing as the President is now in an emergency session with his advisors." While the country is witnessing violent protests, a silver lining is that this has provided a unique chance to people to unite and struggle in unison for democracy, freedom of media, freedom of the judiciary and end the of terrorism. The Pakistani Spectator - www.pakspectator.com

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