Bloggers continue to assess the devastation wrought by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Thursday. How, exactly, did she die? Who was responsible? What are conditions in Pakistan on the day of her funeral? What are the ramifications for U.S. foreign policy and the forthcoming presidential election?
The Pakistani Spectator describes the grim funeral day: “In Rawalpindi, right in front of Rawalpindi General Hospital where Late Benazir Bhutto died and her dead body is present right now, workers of People’s Party are sitting and weeping loudly. In other areas of Rawalpindi like Faizabad, Saddar and Murree Road, angry crowd is burning shops and vehicles and shouting slogans against the terorists.” Backpacker at Metroblogging Islamabad writes: “The markets are all closed with a few shops open in the sub sectors market catering to supply for basic neccessaities of the citizens. The petrol pumps have been sealed off with pavements, no gas is available in the whole of Islamabad anywhere, and there is Islamabad Highway Patrol roaming around in the city. At a few places I did find some batteries of military personal, mostly rangers. The roads all are blanketed with a defeaning silience. Overall the mood of the city is calm, yet there is an air of strange melachony all around.”
Arif Rafiq, at the Guardian’s Comment is Free, insists that a national unity government must “establish an independent commission to determine who was responsible for Bhutto’s murder. While political assassination is not unfamiliar - Pakistan’s first prime minister was killed in the same park where Bhutto was murdered - it is imperative that the culprits be apprehended and tried. Anything short of this would permanently taint Pakistan’s leadership and impede all attempts at political reconciliation.”
Others are speculating as to what such a commission might discover. Responding to reports that X-rays showed no bullets to Bhutto’s head, Confederate Yankee theorizes that, “when shots were fired (they missed), her security detail pulled her back inside the vehicle quickly, and she probably hit the back of her head on the sunroof edge as she was pulled in.” His theory seems to be confirmed by a statement from Pakistan’s Interior Ministry, but Larry Johnson at TPM Cafe remains skeptical, since an autopsy wasn’t performed. He’s also not sure about the fingers pointing at al-Qaida. “AQ is always a convenient boogeyman, but there is a pretty significant gap between what they claim to do and what they have actually accomplished over the last two years,” he writes. “Talking a good game and doing something are two different things. President Musharef and his crowd have some explaining to do.”
Framing the Bhutto assassination as a U.S. election issue, Andrew Sullivan intuited Thursday that “this helps McCain. … McCain leaps out at you as the one with the experience and the judgment to deal with this. On the Democratic side, it’s not so obvious, since Clinton’s ‘experience’ is much less than meets the eye.” But Lynda Obst at the Huffington Post gives the nod to Barack Obama. “So having a worldview not based on fear of the other, having wisdom and the ability to look at a situation with fresh eyes – the very things Obama has run on, are his advantages here. … Obama feels to me to be exactly what America needs at a time like this.” Meanwhile, Satyam at Think Progress has a field day with Mike Huckabee’s various Bhutto-related gaffes.
How is the Bush administration to blame? Let Firedoglake count the ways. When the news broke Thursday, Christy Hardin Smith quickly pointed out that “millions of dollars have been poured into Pakistan with no oversight from the Bush Administration as to how they have been spent. Things were already a mess from the benign neglect and looking the other way on crackdowns and payoffs – and now this.” While today, Scarecrow claims that “responsibility is a broader concept”: “The Bush Administration did not kill Benazir Bhutto; someone else did that. But it appears the Administration convinced her to go back to Pakistan to save a risky policy foolishly built on a despised, repressive military dictator to fight the US ‘war on terror.’… But the Administration wants us to believe that only al Qaeda is responsible.”
OnePointOh!, an India Times blog, argues that the U.S. has little, if any, hand to play in Pakistan now: “The Americans will realize the political liability they have become to the politics of Pakistan, where backing a candidate means effectively eliminating them from the political scene. From today, Pakistani politics will shift more towards a more anti-US approach rather than allying with them. In such a scenario the US will need to keep Musharraf on their side.”
Neoneocon is feeling especially glum. Revisiting the first assassination attempt on Bhutto, back in October, she recalls that the bomb was strapped to a baby. “The mark of these terrorists seems to be that they will stop at nothing. Not how numerous they are, nor how many supporters they have, but their ruthlessness. … It is no use pretending, however, as I believe Bhutto did, that campaigning and democracy can work in Pakistan the way it does here. Whether it can work at all remains to be seen. Even as a neocon, I don’t pretend that’s easy.”
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