Commentary today on the situation in Pakistan

Here are some commentaries on may shed light on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. I found the one from the Nation most interesting, and I found Edwards measured response important. This is a personal selection not intended to represent a wide array of opinion.

Here are some excerpts from Barbara Crozette's article Benazir Bhutto: An Age of Hope Is Over. posted on the Nation web only site.

Nineteen years ago at the end of December, Benazir Bhutto, fresh from her first, exhilarating election victory and newly sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan, met Rajiv Gandhi, the youthful prime minister of India, for talks in Islamabad.

...

Nineteen years ago at the end of December, Benazir Bhutto, fresh from her first, exhilarating election victory and newly sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan, met Rajiv Gandhi, the youthful prime minister of India, for talks in Islamabad. She was 35, he was 44. There was obvious good will, almost intimacy, between them. The air was full of promise and hope that these two modernizing scions of dominant political families would turn decades of war and hostility between their nations into a new era of peace.

Three and a half years later, Gandhi was assassinated. There had been no breakthrough with Pakistan to bolster his legacy. Now Bhutto is dead, at another moment of renewed anticipation. An age of hope is over.

There is a terrible symmetry in the lives and deaths of these two political leaders. Both were the children of powerful people: Indira Gandhi as India's prime minister and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto her counterpart in Pakistan. Together, in 1972, they had negotiated an agreement over Kashmir, but their heirs were never able to build on it. Their respective children, Rajiv and Benazir, had seen those parents suffer politically motivated deaths: Indira murdered in 1984 by bodyguards revenging her attacks on Sikhs, and Zulfikar hanged under the regime of General Mohammed Zia ul Haq in what many Pakistanis consider a thinly disguised judicial execution.

Young Gandhi and Bhutto, both killed in suicide attacks, ultimately became the victims of inherited policies. Rajiv Gandhi had tried to put an end to Indian meddling in Sri Lanka and its support for a vicious Tamil Tiger rebellion. He was killed by a Sri Lankan Tamil suicide bomber, a woman who moved toward him to touch his feet in an age-old gesture, then triggered an explosion that blew them both apart. While it is too early to know who killed Benazir, Pakistan's policies on Afghanistan are the backdrop to this tense and dangerous moment. Her father and his successors had supported Afghan rebels in order to become a player in Afghanistan and counter Indian influence in Kabul lately aligning riskily with American policies. Rajiv's mother, whose intelligence agencies roamed the region causing havoc, had set out to weaken Sri Lanka, South Asia's most developed nation. ...

And then there is an article by Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler in today's Washington Post U.S. Brokered Bhutto's Return to Pakistan
White House Would Back Her as Prime Minister While Musharraf Held Presidency
that establishes the US stake in the game, and supports Susie Dow's comments on my post yesterday.

For Benazir Bhutto, the decision to return to Pakistan was sealed during a telephone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just a week before Bhutto flew home in October. The call culminated more than a year of secret diplomacy -- and came only when it became clear that the heir to Pakistan's most powerful political dynasty was the only one who could bail out Washington's key ally in the battle against terrorism.

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But the diplomacy that ended abruptly with Bhutto's assassination yesterday was always an enormous gamble, according to current and former U.S. policymakers, intelligence officials and outside analysts. By entering into the legendary "Great Game" of South Asia, the United States also made its goals and allies more vulnerable -- in a country in which more than 70 percent of the population already looked unfavorably upon Washington.

Bhutto's assassination leaves Pakistan's future -- and Musharraf's -- in doubt, some experts said. "U.S. policy is in tatters. The administration was relying on Benazir Bhutto's participation in elections to legitimate Musharraf's continued power as president," said Barnett R. Rubin of New York University. "Now Musharraf is finished."

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But the diplomacy that ended abruptly with Bhutto's assassination yesterday was always an enormous gamble, according to current and former U.S. policymakers, intelligence officials and outside analysts. By entering into the legendary "Great Game" of South Asia, the United States also made its goals and allies more vulnerable -- in a country in which more than 70 percent of the population already looked unfavorably upon Washington.

Bhutto's assassination leaves Pakistan's future -- and Musharraf's -- in doubt, some experts said. "U.S. policy is in tatters. The administration was relying on Benazir Bhutto's participation in elections to legitimate Musharraf's continued power as president," said Barnett R. Rubin of New York University. "Now Musharraf is finished."

...

Xenia Dormandy, former National Security Council expert on South Asia now at Harvard University's Belfer Center, said U.S. meddling is not to blame for Bhutto's death. "It is very clear the United States encouraged" an agreement, she said, "but U.S. policy is in no way responsible for what happened. I don't think we could have played it differently."

U.S. policy -- and the commitment to Musharraf -- remains unchanged. In a statement yesterday, Rice appealed to Pakistanis to remain calm and to continue seeking to build a "moderate" democracy.

And finally Edward's statements as reported by CBS correspondent Aaron Lewis

WAUKON, IOWA -- John Edwards reacted to the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto this afternoon in Iowa.

"She was an extraordinary and courageous woman who obviously cared more about democracy and the people of Pakistan and the children of Pakistan than she did about the great risk to her own life," Edwards said. "She served her country admirably as others had. And she had gone back to Pakistan for the purpose of promoting the democratization of Pakistan which is a noble cause."

"I have a call in to President Musharraf who I also know. I want to talk to him about the importance of continuing on the path to democratization."

"Its very important under these circumstances and these kind of times for America to show both strength and principle. To be a calming influence to be a reassuring influence and to continue to promote democratization in Pakistan."

When asked if Musharraf should step aside, Edwards said, "I don't think now is the time to talk about things like that. I think the important thing for America to do is show that we continue to stand behing the principles of democracy that we always stood behind, that the president of the united states and the presidential candidates be a calming influence - not a disrupting influence - in times like this."

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No one should lose sight of that small detail.

Xenia Dormandy, former National Security Council expert on South Asia now at Harvard University's Belfer Center, said U.S. meddling is not to blame for Bhutto's death. "It is very clear the United States encouraged" an agreement, she said, "but U.S. policy is in no way responsible for what happened. I don't think we could have played it differently."

What an amazing spin -- as if there is no written history. She would never have been allowed into Pakistan at all if the US hadn't pressured Musharraf to accept her.

In June of 2002...

Benazir Bhutto sentenced to hard labour
A Pakistani court has sentenced former prime minister Benazir Bhutto to three years hard labour for failing to answer corruption charges.

Ms Bhutto was tried in absentia by a court in the city of Rawalpindi for receiving kickbacks for awarding a contract to a Dubai-based company to import gold.

Officials say the "monopolistic" contract to ARY Gold Ltd, which was awarded in 1994, caused losses worth $10m to the national exchequer.

And again, one year later....

Swiss judge convicts Bhutto

Investigation Judge Daniel Devaud in Geneva sentenced [Bhutto and her hsuband] to a six-month suspended jail term, fined them $50,000 each and ordered they pay more than $2m to the Pakistani Government.

He said they had illegally deposited millions of dollars in accounts in Switzerland, and ordered the money be returned to Pakistan. [...]

The case relates to a 1998 indictment in which Benazir Bhutto was accused of having access to money obtained through kickbacks and commissions from two Swiss companies with contracts with the then Pakistani Government.

An investigation found several numbered accounts in Switzerland in which more than $11m had been deposited.

And Judith Miller's turning Aspens?

U.S. Brokered Bhutto's Return to Pakistan

When Bhutto returned to the United States in September, Khalilzad asked for a lift on her plane from New York to Aspen, Colo., where both were giving speeches. They spent much of the five-hour plane ride strategizing, said sources familiar with the diplomacy.

Just thought it worth noting.

imparative, where were the US minders? Were they just sitting there watching it all play out.......let's not fool ourselves. We're talking the Bush/Cheney anything goes group. Yah know Cheney the guy that just sat there watching the plane come in on 9/11 hitting the Pentagon. Please......something is going to come down here. I'm not a conspiracy nut but when I just read an article that USAF F-15 fleet grounded in Military Aviation / Air Forces

There are other articles on the F-15 fleet and how Canada is helping us monitor the skies and some others..can't find that darn article. And it seemed like there was an assurance from Homeland Security...which gave me pause.