Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir assassinated
the finger pointing and analyses start

“We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen,” Al-Qaeda’s commander and main spokesperson Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a phone call from an unknown location, speaking in faltering English. Al-Yazid is the main al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan.

It is believed that the decision to kill Bhutto, who is the leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP), was made by al-Qaeda No. 2, the Egyptian doctor, Ayman al-Zawahiri in October.

Death squads were allegedly constituted for the mission and ultimately one cell comprising a defunct Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Punjabi volunteer succeeded in killing Bhutto.

AQ family of terrorist groups claims responsibility for Bhutto's death, along with many others, in Thursday's suicide/assassination of the former PM. No surprise as she has been warned, and advised by Pak intelligence of multiple plots and threats since her return to the country.

But this time, they succeeded.

Already the US media cable channels are on the 24/7 round robin of speculation wrapped in the tidbits of news.... soliciting ho hum, boring comments from Presidential hopefuls on the campaign trail. As if such shines much light on their qualifications. What can any from any country say but to offer condolences and concern about the Global Islamic Jihad Movement. The same that so many refuse to recognize as a threat to US security.

MSNBC's Ann Curry and host started the finger pointing this AM, subtly blaming Musharraf for providing inadequate security for Benazir. It demonstrates a naivety unbecoming any news professional to assume that any public figure, choosing to appear out in the open despite known threats, can be protected at all costs. It takes only one suicide bomber or sniper with a well adjusted scope to thwart even the best of security measures. But finger pointing is what the media does best... under the guise of "seeking the truth".

Andrea Mitchell, within minutes, suggests that Musharraf will "again" have to impose "martial law" to control the country. Major faux pas for Mitchell as Pakistan was not under "martial law", but "emergency rule". The difference between the two is startling. Again, another not-so-subtle swipe at Musharraf.

Newsweek/WAPOs Lally Weymouth is on Fox News, suggesting that gunning down targets is not the hallmark of terrorists, and that the location of the assassination seems to point fingers at the Pakistani military... indirectly implicating Musharraf who is in control of the Pakistan military. Weymouth also did not hesitate to demonstrate her psychic skills by emphatically predicting that Bhutto would have won the PM position in the upcoming election.

Weymouth was one of the last journalists to interview Benazir. Her feature article clearly painting a good guy (Benazir) - bad guy (Musharraf) picture becomes obvious with the title itself... "Two Leaders, On a Collision Course".

She was highly critical of President Pervez Musharraff, claiming he had allowed the Taliban and Al Qaeda to regroup and spread throughout Pakistan. "I feel like one night they're coming to come knocking at my door," Bhutto said. She was determined to prevail in the country's Jan. 8 presidential elections. "She didn't seem afraid," Weymouth recalls. "She was more concerned about restoring democratic rule to her country, and on getting the international community to make sure the elections were free and fair."

It's rather disingenuous to assume one can stop the proliferation of the Global Islamic Jihad Movement. Even in the US, we have cells and jihadists, waiting for their moments of fame. It's also rather absurd to hear the following excerpt/words from what I would consider the "mother of the Taliban", as created under the Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Mullah Omar.

Why has Musharraf allowed the terrorists to grow so strong in this country? He's got to answer this, because as far as I'm concerned some of the people around him have sympathy for the militants … You have to remember all of this traces itself back to [former military ruler] Zia ul-Haq. He put together a structure in Pakistan to aid, abet, support, sustain and nourish the mujahedin. Part of that structure he put in place was the ruling party. They are the core support for the militants. Those people hosted them, became friends with them—can they break all those bonds that are three decades old? [The militants] have reorganized. They could not do that unless there is some support from the government or intelligence [agencies].

A charge from an aspiring and corrupt politician that recent reviews of history can prove she, herself, was also guilty of the same. This will not, however, sway Weymouth's seemingly rooted belief that Musharraf, the bad guy, and his military are guilty of assassination.

Perhaps it goes over Weymouth's head (and other media as well) that the two leaders agreed on controlling or eliminating the jihad movement from their midst. And when one is in power, dealing with the inevitable compromises (as we see in our own Congress), reality and the record belies the other's election promises. Not only has Bhutto already put her own "compromise" strategy to rest with her previous admins, but witness our own 2006 round of election promises from an anti-Iraq freedom Democrat party. Pols promise anything to get the job.

What *is* true of the headline is the "collision" course of Benazir/Musharraf was that it really was a combination to create an even greater majority of Pakistan, united and tired of Jihad bloodshed.

As is usual, the media gives the true bad guys a complete pass of responsibility.

Note most predictions, ignorance and speculation rendered by the media on Pakistan follow one path always... to discredit Musharraf. Why they wish to destablize the only remaining US ally in power in Pakistan is a mystery. There are few alternatives that are as acceptable. Certainly not ex-PM Sharif. However I believe their attempts to pin Bhutto's death on Musharraf will prove fruitless.

But there is another direction to cast eyes. It was just 4 days before Christmas that I posted about some new developments in the Pakistan jihad movement... the appointment of a new Taliban commander, Baitullah Mehsud. Mehsud's brother, Abdullah Mehsud (killed by Pak forces in July 2007), was behind the first assassination attempt against Sherpao... also a member of Benazir's PPP.

Baitullah has already laid out plans to kill Benazir for "three major offenses against Islamists".

First, she supported the Pakistani military attack on Lal Masjid (the Red Mosque) in Islamabad on July 10, 2007—Lal Masjid was considered a hotbed of Islamist radicalism; one hundred and sixty-four Pakistani special-forces commandos stormed the mosque and madrassah, killing at least 20 and injuring over 100. Second, Bhutto has made it clear that if she takes power in Pakistan, she will allow American forces to search for Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan's borders. Third, she has said that if elected, she would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to question A. Q. Khan.

This fact and proximity to Benazir makes me wonder if assassination orders can be traced to Zawahiri directly. Or is it a Mehsud order, with Zawahiri's nod of approval? The above quoted statement/confession uses the word "we". But brothers in jihad are all one in the same. Yet it is always so simple for the media to blame "al Qaeda" for all jihad woes, never recognizing the intrinsic threads between the jihad movement and their leaders. Jihad,in fact, is not just one named terrorist group.

Why would I first think of Mehsud? Within days of Baitullah's command, a major AQ leader managed to elude Pakistani custody, and the two officers responsible for the security were arrested. There is no doubt that Musharraf's government and courts - or a government under any leader in that country - has a high potential of infiltration of the Global Islamic Jihad Movement. This is true of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and even Saddam's Iraq.

Baitullah, tho has sworn allegience to the Taliban's Mullah Omar in the past, still maintains close ties to OBL/Zawahiri's AQ. And again, one of Baitullah's fixations is on A.G. Khan... the father of the Pakistan nuke programme who admitted selling the technology to Libya, Iran and N. Korea. Benazir never missed an opportunity to declare she would turn over Khan to the IAEA for questioning... something that Musharraf has refused to do to date.

I'm not a fan of the Benazir the media glorifies - ignoring her past and her involvement in the creation of the Taliban in the early 90s, and the corruption charges. Yet her death is a loss to Pakistan - another progressive voice for freedom lost. But in a region where countries and leaders walk a fine line - between being able to govern and move towards a Muslim democracy, and survival itself - Benazir's hope to be purely a pro western PM was most likely a pipe dream. Even as she learned when helping to create the Taliban, any future ministry under her governance would advise financial support and a hands off policy towards the jihad movement in exchange for the right to live to govern another day.

As pundits seek someone other than AQ to blame, economists are busy hitting the airwaves with the repercussions on the oil and financial markets. Most see no major upheaval. For in reality, assassinations and murders in the jihad movement's perceived Caliphate are nothing new.

I personally think that the biggest story is being missed. That being the rapid succession of several plots under Baitullah Mehsud in such a short time. If this new commandant can engineer a successful escape (perhaps with the help of loyal security elements within the system), followed so quickly by a successful assassination, then close eyes should be kept on another important target to Mehsud... A.G. Khan - who is allowed to move about Pakistan with some freedom, tho kept under watch.

Benazir's death is tragic, and not unexpected. But A. G. Khan - breaking free from the eyes of Musharraf and held in the fold of Mehsud, the Taliban and AQ - will be beyond tragic. It will be disastrous.

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