TCS Daily

Assassination and Revolution - A Pakistan Scenario?

By Stephen Schwartz - January 7, 2008 12:00 AM

Experts on Islam and Pakistan, some of them individuals known for their past competence, some merely graced with fancy titles, are now pressed, in Washington and around the world, to imagine the future of Pakistan after the atrocious slaying of Benazir Bhutto.  The continuous violence of pro-Bhutto protestors gives many foreigners the impression of an impending overthrow of Pervez Musharraf.  The latter's latest mistake - postponing elections for a month - will contribute further to the appearance of an approaching revolution.

But disorderly "acting out" as political expression usually dissipates in the subcontinent after an outburst of rage, as we see when the medresa boys take to the streets in Pakistan, or in clashes between Hindus and Muslims in India.

While sifting through media reports and comments from Pakistanis, in the U.S., UK, and Pakistan itself, who cooperate with the Center for Islamic Pluralism [], I have been reminded of some preceding examples where the murder of trusted opposition figures led to the downfall of dictatorships.

In 1978, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, publisher of the Nicaraguan daily newspaper La Prensa, was murdered. Pedro Joaquin, as he was known to most of his fellow-citizens, was an anti-Communist representative of the business class, which was growing prosperous and had become thoroughly sick of the corruption of the Somoza regime. His murder propelled masses into the streets and began the revolution that resulted in the flight of Somoza the following year.

Then, with Pedro Joaquin absent from the scene, bourgeois reformers lacked a charismatic leader to rally them, and the Leninist, Castro-backed Sandinistas took over. The death of Pedro Joaquin was never fully elucidated, and many Nicaraguans believed he was murdered by the Sandinistas to remove their most serious rival for power. Pedro Joaquin's widow, Violeta Chamorro, was elected to the Nicaraguan presidency in 1990; last year, Sandinista chief Daniel Ortega was voted in, after a transformation of his party into a safer, "social-democratic" entity.

In 1983, Benigno Aquino, Jr., the beloved representative of the Philippine opposition, was assassinated on an airline tarmac in Manila after he returned to lead the anti-Marcos struggle. His widow Corazon led the nonviolent People Power movement that forced the Marcos family out of power.

Eleven years later, in 1994, Luis Donaldo Colosio, the designated successor to the Mexican president, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, was killed at a campaign rally at Tijuana on the U.S.-Mexican border. That shock to the nation, and others, were such that Salinas temporarily left the country - settling in Ireland, of all places, for some time - and the Mexican state party (the Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI) was removed in 2000, when Mexico held its first clean election in modern times.

In the Philippine and Mexican cases, assassinations led to nonviolent change and a managed transition, not to outright revolution. But the immediate question is: will the death of Benazir Bhutto bring an end to Pakistan's corrupt system, based on an alliance of the military (Musharraf), the feudal landlords (of which Bhutto herself was a representative), and the bigoted Islamist clerics, who support Nawaz Sharif, lately a resident of Saudi Arabia?

I do not think so, for this reason: Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, Ninoy Aquino, and Colosio were not old faces at the summits of their country's politics. They had long careers in opposition, but were not seen as implicated in the abuses of the past. Sadly, Benazir Bhutto carried heavy baggage from her two terms as prime minister, including a serious taint of corruption. Even Colosio, a product of the unsurpassably-corrupt PRIocracy, was viewed by Mexicans as a long-awaited "good boss" with a concern for popular welfare absent in Mexico for decades.

I may be wrong, but I know that Benazir Bhutto lacked the fresh image of the mentioned examples. I therefore doubt the psychological impact of her death will determine the fate of her country. She did not represent the great hopes that a Pedro Joaquin, a Ninoy, or a Colosio generated.

Bhutto's supporters are, however, morally correct: the concessions to and broad coddling of the Taliban and related radical elements by Musharraf made her assassination possible, if not inevitable, and in that sense responsibility belongs to the regime, even if we cannot accuse Musharraf directly.

A new civic alternative - represented by the protesting lawyers I praised in a TCSDaily column not long ago [here:] - independent of the military, landlord, and clerical interests, could yet save Pakistan. But such an option would involve a peaceful transition along the Mexican model, rather than a street insurrection in the image of the Nicaraguan overturn.

For the present, distasteful as it may be for most Americans as well as Pakistanis, the destiny of Pakistan may be determined by Washington. Those within and without the Musharraf regime who are proven to have conspired to kill Benazir Bhutto must be punished. The U.S. must press for a full purge of radical Islamists from the Pakistani military and intelligence services. Such action is necessary for the future of Pakistan, Afghanistan, U.S. troops in the regional theatre, and, given Pakistan's possession of nuclear arms, the world.


I hope and pray for peace
I hope and pray for peace in this part of the world. Little did M. Gandhi know the terrible forces that he unleashed in our homeland. A million died to make modern India and Pakistan and perhaps a million more will die before there is lasting peace. It is almost unbearable.

Americans...Let's Support President Musharraf
I think the U.S. Government should support Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan requires order at this time in history.

Excessive rhetoric emanates from the U.S. It implies a need for immediate democratic reform that is counter productive.

Why not also ask for the moon and the stars?
The author writes "Those within and without the Musharraf regime who are proven to have conspired to kill Benazir Bhutto must be punished."

A noble sentiment. But who will carry out the investigation? And how many people will actually believe that the investigative body is believable? Finally, how will that investigation be carried out before events make its results irrelevent?

Musharraf, flawed as he is, is possibly as good a ruler as Pakistan can have. He sits atop an intricate coalition that he probably understands far better than any of us. And, he surely knows that the Islamists will kill him if they get the chance, so he is well motivated to eliminate them from the government. But that turns out to be hard.

Back To Kyrgyzstan
Mr. Schwartz should return to rendering the invaluable advice that led to his last PR client's overthrow. At least there was another apparatchik to fill Akyyev's shoes.

"Bring an end to Pakistan's corrupt system, based on an alliance of the military...the feudal landlords...and the bigoted Islamist clerics," and what exactly do you have left ?

Bhutto's party base was 700,000 Bhuttos, OBL got 49% in the last popularity poll versus 26% for Musharraf, and Pakistan remains an Army with a nation instead of the other way around.

Of course some Sufi saint might rise up to establish order- the last one was the Fakir of Ipi.
Whoops, he turned out to be OBL's role model-- best send Steve back to Almaty till he's ready for the majors.

Let's Not
The people of Pakistan are crying out for Democracy and our response is to support a Dictator? Sometimes standing up for our principles isn't convenient, and the world get's to see how much stock we really put in them. This is clearly one of those times.

Not going to happen
Schwartz's theme is "The U.S. must press for a full purge of radical Islamists from the Pakistani military and intelligence services." But that's not going to happen. The Islamists are one of the military regime's essential stable centers. Since 1951 the military has nearly always been the real party in power, and extreme Islam has been their way of anchoring the base against the winds of any possible change (that is, any of the Bhuttos).

What's going to happen now is that elections will go ahead as scheduled, only there won't really be anyone to vote for. Other than Nawaz Sharif, a supporter of both the military and traditional Islam. Business can now, without Benazir, go on as usual for another few years-- with power shared by Musharraf and Sharif.

This will have obvious implications for their protegees, the Taliban, who they have used as their pawns in Afghanistan.

There can be little doubt as to the authors of the kill. It occurred in the center of Rawalpindi, where most armed forces assassinations have taken place. It followed the hanging of Benazir's father and the murders of her two brothers. And it eliminated the only serious threat to continued military rule.

For good measure, consider the professional quality of the job. The shooter plays the Lee Harvey role. Instantly, he is eliminated by the bomber, playing the Jack Ruby role. No messy suspects left to interview. Then the crime scene is instantly hosed down to remove any forensic evidence. Spit spat, must have been some of those radicals. Right?

BTW, regarding the murder of Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, Schwartz leaves the impression that he was only an "anti-communist representative of the business class", and may well have been murdered by the Sandinistas.

Aside from the fact that they were such a law-abiding bunch as to have left office after losing an election, there is not the slightest doubt in anyone's mind that this lifelong crusader against the Somoza family was killed on orders of Somoza. In fact he had this to say before his death:

"Chamorro wrote a letter in 1975 to Somoza: “I am waiting, with a clear conscience, and a soul at peace, for the blow you are to deliver.” Three years later, in January 1978, Chamorro was killed by unknown gunmen who pulled up beside him in a car and opened fire with machine guns. Somoza claimed Chamorro was assassinated by Pedro Ramos, a Cuban-American entrepreneur whose business had been attacked by La Prensa. At the time, however, public opinion held that Somoza had ordered him killed."

His wife, Violeta, was in fact part of the new junta in 1979-1980. And she has never said anything about the Sandinistas being implicated in any way.

Supporting Musharraf is supporting our principles.
If you believe those principles include the security of the USA.

Rescue personnel have very high principles to save lives, but they are not required to commit suicide to save others.

Keeping control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons are the first priority of the USA and those who don't believe one must commit suicide for the sake of principle.

India has been very quiet.
Our they are not telling the press what they are thinking, or the press doesn't care?

What has M. Gandhi got to do with this?

Maintaining a powder keg
Keeping the forces of stasis in power (Musharraf and the army) is a sure fire way to allow trouble to fester. But I'm not sure we have much choice. We tried to get Bhutto back in the game, and it didn't work out.

Pakistan is virtually entirely composed of breakaway regions now. Balochistan is in rebellion, Sind is ready to break away and the northwestern territories are in open war. The formula of repression alone isn't going to make things any better as time goes on.

More, the Taliban is a client government of the Pakistani army. They have always been encouraged as Afghanistan's rulers so the Paks would have an ally at their back. We are ignoring this as hard as we can.

But the match in the fuse is our nuclear treaty with India, completed this past March, where we ignore her noncompliance with the NPT and agree to look the other way as she maintains two plants making bomb material, free from inspection.

It's really hard to see how anyone thought this kind of thing might improve the situation. India and Pakistan go absolutely crazy when the nuclear situation gets shaken up.

Why did we do it? I can't imagine.

article re Benazir
Here's an interesting article about this spoilt daughter of a feudal landowning dynasty:
It's ironic that she's already had two chances to try to run this dysfunctional, uncivilized, artificial country, and was completely unsuccessful, but yet people still thought she should have been given a thrid chance for her and her cronies to continue their kleptocracy.
May she and her corrupt family and the whole country rest in pieces.

Taking the nukes
Our only option may be to go in and take the nukes, or was. Unfortunately, the NY Times and leakers blew all our plans.

There was a time when treason was a offense. Alas, we are defeating ourselves from within.

But hey, we now have "Change we can believe in". If not so dangerous it might be amusing to see the left try to negotiate once again with terrorists.

Maybe Jimmy Carter for SecDef. Yeah, that will show them we really care.

Let India worry about the Nukes
What gives us the right to say who get's what weapons?

What about India's role in all this? Do you think they are going to just roll over and let the Taliban control Pakistans Nukes? I doubt it...

I was hoping Carter would be Secretary of State, perhaps Wesley Clark as Secretary of Defense.

Let's give our nukes to India too.
Then we can all live happily ever after.

Taking away their nukes
This suggestion is highly unrealistic. Rakistan and India are archenemies. THAT is the significant factor in the foreign policy of either country. And we have tilted decisively in favor of India already.

India has never signed the NPT. Yet we not only allow them to have nukes, we are facilitating the growth of their arsenal by exempting two plants of india's choosing from any inspections. The two they have chosen, of course, manufacture fissionable bomb fuel. So they are allowed to increase their arsenal, while the Pakis are not.

This kind of thing already has the Pakis going nuts. If we try to take away the nukes they already possess it will precipitate a very hot war.

The decision to back India in the Indo-Pak nuclear showdown in 2005 and again this past March is the most destabilizing move conceivable. And there is no responsible party in existence to make the two countries come to the peace table.

All the previous Comments on Pakistan's "current" problems
When one is aware of Pakistan since its creation, one can only hope for peace, prosperity, and stability. I was in charge of foreign military sales to the whole region in the late 1980's. I was there right after Zia al Hag died in a crash of a C130 aircraft. Everyone aboard died!

In a conference, the U.S. delegation stated that lack of maintenance on the C130 was the probable cause of the crash. There was an immediate irrational reaction on the part of our Pakistani counterparts that there was a "cloud which had chemicals in it which caused the pilots to become disoriented." There were no survivors!!! How could the protesters know what went om in the cockpit.

We are dealing with a culture in Pakistan where conspiracy theories fit your point of view.

The U.S. Government is the only possible arbiter for a follow on to the Bhutto assassination. However, we have limited influence in this conspiracy-driven society. We must be calm, not make changes in our military or economic aid, and, above all, not place too much trust in another alternative to President Musharif. I am referring to Nawaz Sharif.


Well I guess we just stand by and let the nukes fall into terrorist hands
Maybe a war is what it takes? I for one am not willing to allow these nukes in terrorist hands. We already have plans, or had, plans to control the weapons should a civil war break out.

Alas, the year is 1938 and were once again going to let the dice roll. This time it is Iran and terror states.

I wonder how many millions will die this time because once again the West sits on it's hands? Maybe we can drop leaflets like the British did on Germany?

We already try not to offend Muslims despite the fact they offend us daily. We all know how you feel about Israel.

So what your solution? More peace marches? Maybe Jimmy Carter and Ramsey Clark can go bad mouth us overseas somemore?

Better to let people think you a fool than open you mouth and remove all doubt?
Oh, making Iran the modern terror state, giving up the Panama Canal and being the worst president in US history is not enough?

Maybe Ramsey Clark? There is a real Pro US individual. Yeah, nothing like appointing people to look out for the other guys interests first.

Last I checked India was not at risk of being ruled by Islamic fanatics.

Chicken Little
The nukes are very firmly in the hands of an army that takes its mission as seriously as a heart attack. No nukes are going to be falling out of those hands.

Nor is anyone going to be taking them out. What would your own response be if someone tried to pry the gun out of your own hands?

You are still making the assumption that East and West are in a war. Funny, there hasn't been an attack on our turf for a few years now. This "war" seems to be one that only has a handful of enthusoasts on the terrorist side.

As for the other 1.3 billion Muslims, in time they may well grow tired of America's being such a nuisance. And if the entire crew decides to go to war, well that's it. The American experiment is all over with. Because in a real world war, no one wins.

You can go back to sleep. Pakistan's bomb has been safely in the same set of hands since we gave it to them, going on thirty years ago.

Conspiracy? Where?
"We are dealing with a culture in Pakistan where conspiracy theories fit your point of view."

Respectfully, isn't it the case that Pakistan is a place where politics have always been conspiratorial? And that anyone paying no attention to the various conspiracies going on around him gets whacked early in the game?

It's only realistic to notice that the armed services always make sure they get their way. Right now they have no meaningful opposition-- Bhutto's caretaker husband is a crook with no political standing. There is no possible winner other than the army's choice, Nawaz Sharif.

Cui bono? They bono.

Not afraid of kooks with nukes, but you are afraid of a little gas?
Nukes will only incineate thousands or tens of thousands but a little too much CO2 will boil the planet?

Or manby you subscribe to Sagen's nuclear winter and hope a nuke or two is set off slowing AGW?

Flake left, flake right
Make up your mind Roy. First Bush increased risk of a attack by his evil invasion of Iraq, which I think over time will prove to be worth the cost and now we have not had a attack with, guess who, Bush at the helm.

Your on both sides and somehow by a miracle, there is no threat.

In a real world war. What exactly do you think is taking place? Iran is a serious threat to world peace unless of course, like Carter you a) think you can negotiate with madmen or b) you simple ignore the threats of a madman.

Go on though, bury your head.

Running off the track
I thought we were talking about the threat of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. Now you're introducing two entirely different themes.

Oh well. First side track. Let's separate the threat of a possible terror strike in the US and the invasion of Iraq.

Before 9/11 there was a single earlier attempt to blow up the WTC. Since then there have been no strikes on US soil, either successful or unsuccesful. That's telling me there isn't very much of a threat. Every year, cars kill 40-50,000 of us and guns kill another 30,000... while terrorists kill zero.

Second side track. Iran is supposedly a threat to world peace. Yet our own intelligence people seem to think they haven't had a clandestine nuclear program since 2003. Nor are they intervening in Iraq. So what is the threat?

Oh, but they have a famous nut case for a president.

I agree. The guy's not only nutty, he's not a very good president. And next election he's going to get thrown out on his ass. So he's history already, just like the Bush.

BTW I assume you knew that Iran is actually run by the Supreme Council, not by the president? And they are decidedly NOT madmen. They're radicals, from our point of view. But not at all crazy. We should pay more attention to whatever it is they are actually up to, and not to our fantasies of monsters in black.

The NIE was designed to undermine US policy.
Sorry, trust but verify. I see no move to verify on the part of either Iran or for that matter N. Korea.

If they have nothing to hide why the obfuscation?

Yes, I am aware of the Iranian situation but he is the mouth. I read history and politic by the volume Roy. I hope I am wrong.

The conspiratorial view
So the CIA is lying about Iran? They're telling us Iran has no nuclear weapons program, when in reality they know it has? Why?

Would it follow that back in 2002 they knew Saddam had no WMDs, and yet they told us he did so we could get into an unnecessary war?

I think we would have to look into the matter of motivation before we assumed something to be true for which we had no actual evidence.

Is not it really odd that you agree with the CIA now but?
However, you disagreed with the Iraq estimate, Vietnam, ad nasium?

So if they were wrong about Iraq, why not Iran? Does the CIA lie or not? Personally, I think that like most huge agencies they have a agenda.

As to Iraq, I initially thought it was a mistake BUT now I think we have another S. Korea. Can we argue S. Korea was a mistake now vs then? Who knows?

I am not advocating unversal war against Iran. However, I am also not willing to take a appeasement stance.

Regardless of your feelings on Reagan, trust but verify is a pretty sound idea.

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