The Musharraf Problem
By BARNETT R. RUBIN
Wall Street Journal (Reprinted with permission)
December 29, 2007; Page A11
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto was probably a strategic attack by al Qaeda and its local allies — the Pakistani Taliban — aimed at achieving Osama bin Laden’s and Ayman al-Zawahiri’s most pressing political objective: destabilizing the government of Pakistan, the nuclear-armed country where al Qaeda has re-established the safe haven it lost in Afghanistan.
Many in Pakistan nevertheless will blame their own military, which has failed to stop the suicide bombings over the past five years, including that of Bhutto’s motorcade in Karachi in October. Pakistani intelligence now claims to have intercepted a phone call from Baitullah Mahsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, offering congratulations for the operation. It may be true. But the skepticism with which this announcement was greeted in Pakistan shows that the Bush administration’s strategy of trying to shore up the power of President (former general) Pervez Musharraf cannot work. Even if it is innocent of involvement in this assassination, the Pakistan military under Mr. Musharraf has no intention of ceding power to civilians.
Pakistani newspapers have already published what they claim are the planned results of the rigged elections. Nothing short of a genuine transition to democracy that replaces rather than complements military rule has a chance of establishing a government with the capacity to regain control of the country’s territory and marginalize the militants.
The murder of Bhutto was
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