Pakistan's 10% Solution
Husband -- and teenaged son -- of slain leader hope to gain power in troubled nation
Benazir Bhutto's murder increasingly resembles an Agatha Christie whodunit in which all the potential suspects look guilty as hell.
Pakistan's now civilian dictator, President Pervez Musharraf, pleads innocent. But his henchmen ordered the crime scene hosed down, destroyed evidence, and forced doctors who examined Benazir's body to make the preposterous claim a fall, not bullets, killed her.
On Oct. 23, days after the first attempt to kill Bhutto in Karachi, she told me she "suspected" the chief of a government security agency staged the bombing. She repeated to me accusations that two other high-ranking Punjabi government officials, one a chief minister, were out to kill her.
On Oct. 25, Bhutto told me her phones and e-mail were being tapped by Musharraf's security services. A week later, she e-mailed me, saying she feared imminent arrest. A week before her murder, she repeated by phone that Musharraf's supporters were gunning for her.
On Oct. 30, I sent a long e-mail to Bhutto that outlined a new political strategy for her Peoples Party. In it, I concluded, "for your public appearances, follow India's tight security measures for its prime minister. Consider new, lightweight body armour, Dragonskin." By phone, I warned of snipers.
The government accuses tribal militants belonging to Pakistan's Taliban. But they strongly deny involvement. Al-Qaida's Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri claimed authorship of the assassination. My hunch says it was al-Qaida.
Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, refused an autopsy on his wife's body, ordering it buried with haste, in keeping with Muslim custom. But an autopsy would have determined the true cause of death and exposed government lies.
President Musharraf got national parliamentary elections postponed to Feb. 18, hoping sympathy for the slain Bhutto would diminish. He called in Britain's Scotland Yard to investigate her murder, but only after all evidence was destroyed.
Ironically, when Bhutto became prime minister after the assassination of her family's bitter foe, my old friend Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, she ordered the ongoing investigation of his murder quashed and evidence destroyed.
Washington still backs Musharraf as the man to wage its war in Afghanistan.
Though few westerners yet understand it, the 2001 U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, and spreading resistance, ignited the current explosion in Pakistan.
The Bush White House must keep spending billions in secret payments to Pakistan's army and intelligence services -- dispersed by paymaster Musharraf -- to help fight its war in Afghanistan and growing regional rebellions in two of Pakistan's four provinces.
Meanwhile, Bhutto's bereaved Peoples Party just elected her husband and 19-year-old son, Bilawal, as co-chairman -- using a fake will, charge disgruntled family members. I met Bilawal in London in October. He is a highly intelligent young man who shows lots of the Bhutto fire. But he's far too young to sit in parliament, and 16 years too young to become prime minister.
In the interim, papa Zardari will rule the party as regent. Whether he will run for PM is uncertain.
Known to all as "Mr. 10%" from his time as a government minister in charge of contracts and procurement, Zardari is dogged by grave corruption charges and three ongoing cases in Europe.
A FAMILY BUSINESS
The Bhuttos are believed to have amassed a large fortune stashed away in Europe. This great feudal landowning family of southern Pakistan considers the Peoples Party as their own family business, a legacy to be passed from one generation to the next.
Musharraf's popular support is down to 10%. So to win February elections, he must rig them. The U.S. appears ready to assist.
The best solution for Pakistan is a coalition between the Peoples Party, Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League, the incorruptible Imran Khan's small party, and Muslim parties. If they do not hang together, Musharraf will surely hang them separately.
Eric Margolis writes a regular column for The Toronto Sun.
© 2007 The Toronto Sun