Friday, December 28, 2007


I watched the usual abysmal American media coverage of the Bhutto assassination -- shallow, lacking context, and immediately applying all events to the presidential race [both absurd and grotesque].

And just like Iraq, one of the few sources of decent coverage was McClatchy [formerly Knight-Ridder], they have an excellent on-the-scene piece on the Bhutto assassination and set the context for how it occurred:

I was standing near the rally stage, about 30 to 40 yards away from the scene of the shooting. There was pandemonium. On hearing the shots, I started running toward the scene. Then came the explosion. I ran back a bit. I didn't see the killer, and by the time I got to the gates, Bhutto's SUV was driving to a Rawalpindi hospital. She didn't have a chance.

The assassination occurred in this garrison city housing the headquarters of the Pakistan army, an institution that has always seemed opposed to Bhutto. A couple of miles away across Rawalpindi, a previous military regime had executed her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan's first democratically elected prime minister, in 1979, when she was 26.

Police officers had frisked the 3,000 to 4,000 people attending Thursday's rally when they entered the park, but as the speakers from Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party droned on, the police abandoned many of their posts. As she drove out through the gate, her main protection appeared to be her own bodyguards, who wore their usual white T-shirts inscribed: "Willing to die for Benazir."

Ghulam Mustafa, a witness at the scene, said he saw bodies with missing heads and limbs.

"This happens only in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan. Why not America?" he said.

Bhutto's party had complained repeatedly that the government provided her with inadequate security. She'd narrowly escaped another assassination attempt, at her homecoming parade Oct. 18 in Karachi, which left 140 dead.

At Rawalpindi General Hospital, hundreds of Bhutto supporters pushed their way in, filling the corridors, weeping and shouting. They chanted "Musharraf is a dog" and "Musharraf murderer," referring to President Pervez Musharraf.

"They killed her father. They killed her two brothers. It is a national tragedy," said Safraz Khan, a near-hysterical supporter. "She was the force to unite Pakistan." (emphasis added)

When people just dismiss the anger of Pakistanis at Musharraf and the military regime in Pakistan over Bhutto's death, the lack of context is staggering. Not only because Benazir Bhutto's close relations killed at the hands of the military; but because even if her death was not directly caused by the regime, it set in place the forces that probably did.

Juan Cole, invaluable right now, has more:

The seriousness of the situation in the streets of some of Pakistan's important towns and cities doesn't seem to me to be being reported in the US press and media. In contrast, Pakistani newspapers are giving chilling details of large urban centers turned into ghost towns on Friday morning, with no transport available, hundreds of thousands of persons stranded far from home, shops closed, and banks, gas stations, police stations and automobiles torched. Karachi, Hyderabad, Larkana, Sukkur, Jacobabad and many others in Sindh Province fell victim to the violence (Bhutto was from Larkana in Sindh but had a residence in Karachi). The police seemed to be AWOL for the most part in these cities, allowing the rioting and looting to go on unhindered.

What became the Taliban and Al Qaeda had its birth in the late 1970s and its matron was the Pakistani military (and it's money came from the U.S. and Saudi Arabia). Short-term solutions with long-term negative consequences. At some point, when the dust settles and long after the common wisdom of our pundit driven media moves on, Bhutto's death will likely have the Pakistan's military regime's name on it in some fashion. The regime we have coddled always in the name of some short-term gain, stability or some game of international chess.

(some of this cross-posted at FDL)

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