Published by WSWS.org, by Bill Van Auken, 29 December, 2007.
With Pakistan erupting in violence over the assassination of its former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and amid conflicting accounts as to both the identity of her assassins and even the cause of her death, official Washington and the American mass media have coalesced around a version of events that has been crafted to suit US strategic interests.
Without any substantive evidence, the crime has been attributed to Al Qaeda, while Bhutto herself has been proclaimed a martyr both in the struggle for democracy in her own country and in the US “global war on terror.” Meanwhile, the government of President Pervez Musharraf has been exonerated. There is ample reason to question this “official story” on all counts.
The obvious intent is to turn this undeniably tragic event into a new justification for the pursuit of US strategic interests in the region. In the week leading up to the assassination, there have been a number of reports indicating that US military forces are already operating inside Pakistan and preparing to substantially escalate these operations …
… The entire country has been plunged into violence by the assassination, with banks, police stations, government offices, railroad terminals and trains burned and dozens of people killed. Pakistani security forces have been given “shoot on sight” orders against anyone seen to be engaging in “anti-state activities.” Transportation services have been shut down and gas stations closed by government order, leaving huge numbers of people stranded.
Under these conditions, the White House and the State Department are publicly calling for parliamentary elections set for January 8 to be held as planned, claiming that to postpone them would dishonor Bhutto’s memory. While even before the assassination, holding these elections with Musharraf still in power would have stripped them of any credibility, to stage them after the killing of the principal opposition leader would render them farcical. The White House sees such an exercise solely as a fig leaf for its imperialist policy in Pakistan, serving the same function as similar votes staged in US-occupied Iraq and Afghanistan.
The urgency attached to this exercise is bound up with Washington’s plans for expanded military operations in the country. The day before Bhutto’s assassination, the Washington Post’s national security columnist William Arkin reported, “Beginning early next year, US Special Forces are expected to vastly expand their presence in Pakistan, as part of an effort to train and support indigenous counter-insurgency forces and clandestine counterterrorism units, according to defense officials involved with the planning.”
Several days earlier, NBC’s Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reported that US special operation troops are already “engaged in direct attacks against Al Qaeda inside Pakistan” operating in the tribal regions in the west of the country. The report made it clear that the so-called “trainers” sent by the US are directly involved in combat alongside Pakistani forces.
The report also quoted US Defense Secretary Robert Gates as stating, “Al Qaeda right now seems to have turned its face toward Pakistan and attacks against the Pakistani government.”
Meanwhile a Pentagon spokesman stressed Friday that Washington is confident that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are “under control.” Nonetheless, there have also been reports that the US military is reviewing contingency plans for a military intervention in the country on the pretext of safeguarding its nuclear arsenal.
The mass popular revulsion over the Bhutto assassination has unleashed intense instability in Pakistan. A further unraveling of the political situation could well draw the US military into direct involvement in the attempt to suppress popular upheavals in a country of 165 million people. (full text).
In wake of assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Bush administration rushes to defense of Musharraf, by Keith Jones, 28 December 2007; http://www.wsws.org/articles/2007/dec2007/bhut-d28.shtml
Pakistan’s opposition parties capitulate to Musharraf and Bush, by Keith Jones, 14 December 2007;