“Bhutto’s Murder” Richard Sale

The chief suspects in the Bhutto assassination, as of forty eight hours ago, were lower and mid-level officers of Pakistan’s ISI, intelligence agency, and the Pakitani army.
Bhutto’s history with the ISI is long, tangled and, on the ISI’s side, murderous. The ISI or Inter-Service Intelligence agency was created in 1948, manned by officers from the three armed services. Pakistan became a fundamentalist Islamic state under the 1980s leadership of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq who assigned it to keep an eye on Bhutto’s Pakistan’s Peoples Party (PPP) among other things. In fact, according to an Indian counterintelligence source, B Raman, with whom I used to stay in close touch, the ISI’s Internal Political Division poisoned two of Bhutto’s brothers on the French Rivera in 1985, to try to scare her out returning to Pakistan in order to run not only the PPP but another group she had started, the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD). She ignored Zia and returned.
When Bhutto entered her first term as PM in 1988, she tried to reduce the ISI’s powers and boost the clout of the Intelligence Bureau or IB founded in 1947. Usually a Lt. Gen. heads the ISI, but Bhutto put in a major general close to her father. This was bitterly resented.
When she became PM again in 1993, Bhutto followed the custom of letting an Lt. General of the Army head the ISI. But she transferred the handling of operations supporting the Taliban from ISI to the Interior Ministry. It was at this time she began to work with Gen. Musharraf who was ISI’s DG of Military Ops. But factions within the ISI detested her, and in 1996, assassinated her only remaining brother outside his house Karachi in September, according to former US officials. A former ISI station chief in New Delhi hatched a plot to assassinate her in 1995, but the plan was foiled. Once Bhutto was in exile, Musharraf toppled PM Narwaz Sharif in 1999, and in the tradition of Zia, Musharraf, tied to weaken the PPP which has its chief base in Sind, the Sindhis basically a group with a lot of Sufi influence and given to religious tolerance. Musharraf set up a secret task force to wreck the PPP and scatter the Sindh nationalists. To do this it began to collaborate with the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI), which is a jihadi group with ties to bin Laden.Musharraf also boosted collaboration with other dangerous terrorist organizations in aiding the Taliban. In fact, in 2001, US intelligence analysts had targeted Gen. Mohammad Aziz of ISI, Lt. Gen. Hami Gull, Lt. Gen. Avid Nadir and others. All had ties to al Aida and after the attacks of 9/11, they were removed thanks to US pressure.

I remember talking to a State Dept official about these generals, and he said, "That’s interesting – fifteen minutes ago those names were on my classified briefing screen."
There were other groups just as dangerous such as the Hizbut-Tehrir that has many followers in the lower levels of the army does the Harkat-ul-al-Islami
September 11 changed everything,.and Musharraf had to abruptly stand his policy towards Afghanistan on its head. The ISI still supported the Taliban, but by then bin Laden had bought the group for $100 million, according to CIA officials. Suddenly Pakistan was a major front in the war on terror and the US soon installed and still maintains four military bases on Pakistani soil that no Pakistani can set foot in. Naturally, many of the old Zia loyalists and bin Laden sympathizers saw Musharraf as a turncoat and they have tried to kill him for being an American tool.
But for many ISI segments its closeness to othe jihadis hardly changed because of America’s tragedy. As a serving US intelligence analyst said to me in 2003, "It’s worrying when half of your lower and mid-level Pakistani intelligence analysts have bin Laden screen savers on their computers."
In any case, attacks on Musharraf were stepped up. When he visited Rawalpindi in December of 2003, rockets were fired at his car. In early 2007, there was an attempt to shoot down plane using anti-aircraft fire. After Musharraf ordered a bloody commando raid on the Red Mosque in Islamabad last July, there were two suicide attacks on the army’s general HQ and two attacks on the ISI offices. Following the attacks, lower ranking army and air force officers were arrested and it was revealed they had ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a jihadi group. But the investigations stopped at the bottom. No senior officers were arrested and the probe is dead is as dead Julius Caesar.
Bhutto was certainly a marked woman from the time she returned to Pakistan. If parts of the ISI detested Musharraf, they abominated her. She said two things that sealed her fate. She said that if elected PM, she would allow US forces to hunt for bin Laden on Pakistani soil, and that she would allow the Vienna-based IAEA to interrogate the rogue nuclear scientist, AQ Khan about his nuclear smugglings to North Korea, Iran, Libya, etc. After those statements, she had no chance of surviving. Pakistan’s deteriorating internal situation and its role in helping to destabilize Afghanistan were part of the reason the US wanted to reinsert Benazir Bhutto as the new prime minister. According to the South Asia Analysis think-tank, incidents of suicide terrorism in Afghanistan increased from 17 in 2005 to 123 in 2006 and has already touched 140 so far this year. The fact that these assaults were launched and coordinated from Pakistan was their most ominous element. Pakistan was known to be providing camps for terrorists and helping to train them, allegedly with ISI assistance, US officials said.
But worst of all was the fact that within Pakistan terrorist incidents had dramatically increased. There has been an average of four acts of suicide terrorism per month in Pakistani territory as against 12 per month in Afghan territory, and some of those in Pakistan were particularly grisly like the attack of Dec. 17 where nine members of the Pakistan Army soccer team were killed in Khoat in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP).
In all, there have been within Pakistan 54 attacks to date. Thirty four of these were against military targets, including one against the US-trained Special Services Group (SSG) in Tarbela, the two against the Inter-Services Intelligence, the two against the General Headquarters of the Army in Rawalpindi, one against the Air Force in Sargodha. Ten attacks were made on the police, and four were made against civilians, including the Oct. 18 attack on Bhutto that killed 140. The NWFP was Bhutto’s political base, and her main strength was in the rural Sindh. Bhutto used to have strength among the the Seraikis in the Punjab but she lost ground among the Pashtuns when Musharaff seduced from Bhutto’s ranks one Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, a pro-Musharraf Pashtun leader of the NWFP. As his reward, Sherpao got the interior ministry and set up his own PPP in rivalry with Bhutto. Two attempts were then made to kill him, along with Amir Muqam, another pro-Musharraf Pashtun leader who was targeted by a suicide bomber. Both escaped.
The Pakistani armed forces have been waging bloody clashes in the Swat valley in NWFP but Pakistani control there is tenuous at best. Not only were the terrorists gaining ground in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), but jihadi activity had in fact spread to the Provincially-Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) of the Northwest Frontier Provinces NWFP. Bhutto was to change this as prime minister. She would get additional US intelligence assistance, and the NWFP would be the base for a new counter offensive against jihidi groups such as the new pro-Al Qaeda Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) of Maulana Fazlullah, popularly known as Maulana FM Radio
But Bhutto had profound enemies in the army and air force where she was seen as a front man for American interests, a proxy, "a bought dog," as one former Pakistani official said to me.
If I can offer an opinion, I think the Bush diplomacy that resurrected her was purblind to the point of dense stupidity, and, under the guise of promoting democracy, she was misled by her own sense of vanity and invulnerability and her liking to be liked by Americans.
When I think of her dying in the way she did, one can only fill with painful sorrow.

With greetings to all,

Richard Sale

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30 Responses to “Bhutto’s Murder” Richard Sale

  1. JohnS says:

    This is interesting. From McClatchy:
    NAUDERO, Pakistan — The day she was assassinated last Thursday, Benazir Bhutto had planned to reveal new evidence alleging the involvement of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies in rigging the country’s upcoming elections, an aide said Monday.
    Bhutto had been due to meet U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., to hand over a report charging that the military Inter-Services Intelligence agency was planning to fix the polls in the favor of President Pervez Musharraf.
    Safraz Khan Lashari, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party election monitoring unit, said the report was “very sensitive” and that the party wanted to initially share it with trusted American politicians rather than the Bush administration, which is seen here as strongly backing Musharraf.
    More here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/24001.html

  2. Yohan says:

    I don’t understand why the fact of ISI or other official Pakistani support to the Taliban to this day is nowhere to be seen in the US press but is so obvious to anyone on the ground in Afghanistan or border Pakistan, and has been for years now.

  3. Sydney says:

    It is only now that I am learning about Bhutto. I have written a synthesized post of recent news on my site http://skcvoyager.blogspot.com/2007/12/implications-of-benazir-bhuttos-death.html
    But your comments, really do open up something that I had thought about before. Her connection with the U.S. I knew she was backed by US govt, but I didn’t know the reasons why. But if the US govt is backing somebody there is definitely a reason. Your comments puts many things into perspective. I have link your post to my site. Thank you Richard

  4. mike says:

    So whatever happened to Generals Aziz, Gull, and Nadir. Where did they end up after they were relieved. I can’t imagine them tending roses or refereeing cricket matches in their retirement.
    PS – Off topic, Colonel, but have to say the The VMI Regimental Band and Pipe Band looked sharp in the Rose parade this AM. Shenandoah never sounded better. First time I have heard it done on bagpipes, is that a VMI tradition??? My wife was worried though that one of the swordsmen leading the band was going to chop his ear off when he got in the spirit and started strutting.

  5. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The Band is a company in the regiment of cadets and so the fellows with swords would have been cadet company officers. Yes. Occasionally someone “pinks” himself in the ear. Oh, well..
    The pipers have been around for about 30 years. “Shenandoah” has always been a favorite in the corps of cadets. “Balm in Gilead” is another and of course these days thay play “The Bonnie Blue Flag” a lot. If they could escape the bonds of their PC elders, they would play something else. pl

  6. Listen to the conversation from a Muslim analyst on the political ramifications on the War on Terror in Pakistan.
    Coverage of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

  7. Andy says:

    This discussion and the other thread made me open my copy of Ghost Wars in which I found this passage on Bhutto’s first foray as PM in 1988:

    Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister was Benazir Bhutto, at thirty-six a beautiful, charismatic, and self-absorbed politician with no government experience. She was her country’s first democratically elected leader in more than a decade. She had taken office with American support, and she cultivated American connections. Raised in a gilded world of feudal aristocratic entitlements, Bhutto had attended Radcliffe College at Harvard University as an undergraduate and retained many friends in Washington. She saw her American allies as a counterweight to her enemies in the Pakistani army command – an officer corps that had sent her father to the gallows a decade earlier.
    She was especially distrustful of Pakistani intelligence. She knew that Hamid Gul’s ISI was already tapping her telephones and fomenting opposition against her in the country’s newly elected parliament. Stunned by Zia’s death, the Pakistani army leadership had endorsed a restoration of democracy in the Autumn of 1988, but the generals expected to retain control over national security policy. The chief of army staff, Mirza Aslam Beg, tolerated Bhutto’s role, but others in the army officer corps – especially some of the Islamists who had been close to Zia – saw her as a secularist, a socialist, and an enemy if Islam. This was especially true inside ISI’s Afghan bureau. “I wonder if these people would ever have held elections if they knew that we were going to win,” Bhutto remarked to her foreign policy adviser Iqbal Akhund on a flight to China in 1989. Akhund, cynical about ISI’s competence, told her: “You owe your prime ministership to the intelligence agencies who, as always, gave the government a wishful assessment of how the elections would – or could be made to – turn out.”

    It’s alleged that despite purges, many of those in the Afghan bureau still exist and still support Islamist elements both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Maybe after two turns as PM they decided to ensure she would not have a third….

  8. Frank Anderson says:

    There are at least a few reasons to question the rush to judgment that ISI is behind Bhutto’s murder. There are multiple suspects with equal of great motive, means and opportunity.
    It’s certainly risky to base any conclusions re ISI on the comments of their rivals in Indian intelligence.
    Richard’s comment that Benazhir took ISI out of the job of supporting the Taliban in 1993 is questionable in light of Taliban history. They didn’t appear on the scene until 1994. When they did, it was Benazhir and her police force, not ISI, that supported them. They did so simply to protect Pakistani trucking interests (much owned by the Bhuttos) who needed a force to get their cargoes safely across Afghanistan.
    It might also be useful to remind ourselves of the Bhutto family history. The old man was not a clean handed martyr when he was executed (not assassinated). Benazhir’s brothers were terrorists who lined up with our Soviet “rivals.” ISI is by no means the only or even the most likely suspect in the poisoning death of her brother, Shahnawaz. The evidence is strongest that it was Benazhir and her police allies who killed the other brother, Murtaza in 1996. (He’d become a politcal rival and had set up a rival PPP.). There was no indication of ISI involvement.
    The idea that Benazhir had a serious intention to “do more” about jihadis in the frontier provinces is questionable. The proposition that she would have had more motivation or capability than the Musharraf regime to do so is close to laughable.

  9. Sauron says:

    Mushraff is the CEO of Terrorist Inc. in an Armani Suite. He pretends to have switched sides, he was bullied as he says in his book for what 12 billion $ of aid over 5 years . He and his ISI were caught red handed after 911, with no other choice. He signed on to play pretend game for a pay than get bombed. All the weapons he bought with this aid are all to fight India not terrorism. After all he and ISI are Terrorism inc. ISI is comprised of Pakistan military officers moon lighting through. Point being Pak military and ISI are also connected.
    Mushraff has not closed down any madrassas, remember them the terrorist indoctrination centers funded with Saudi petro$ aks charities. Over last 5 -6 years I am sure hundred thousands of graduates are itching to blow something somewhere, or renamed as Taliban.
    What he really wants? To Islamize south Asia in the long run, a reason why pakistan itself was created ,and in short run control of Afghanistan directly or its proxy Taliban.
    The only confusing part is how this is in US interests.

  10. Mad Dogs says:

    While the witless talking heads in most of the Broadcast MSM propound about the Great Surge Success in Iraq, about the smell of a wee bit of smoke in that forgotten place Afghanistan, they now witlessly pontificate about whether it was a bullet or the sunroof lever that did Bhutto in.
    I don’t place Richard Sale in the witless category. Not at all!
    The Broadcast MSM constantly promotes the idea that the American Public has a short-attention span, so they must of course, present us with nothing more than a corporatized YouTube sliver of “if it bleeds, it leads.”
    After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, isn’t it? NOT!
    The fact is that it is the Broadcast MSM which has the short-attention span.
    In-depth reporting like Richard’s is far too weighty to fit between Broadcast MSM commercials, so it rarely if ever sees the light of day.
    Thank doG for the blogosphere!

  11. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I think it should be noted that FA was the boss ofthe Greek guy in the movie. pl

  12. If any of you folks are like me, the complicated interplay between so many groups in this region makes my head spin.
    Here’s something that helped me understand the ISI a little better:
    Jane’s Article from 2001
    My memory is that Jane’s is pretty darn good at digging up the truth.
    The main point that popped in my head while reading Mr. Sale’s post, as well as other info scattered around, is “why” – why would the ISI support the Taliban?
    This helped me understand even more…
    In 1996 he [bin Laden] returned to Afghanistan from Sudan, forced to leave that country under U.S. pressure. The motivations for these ongoing connections among the Taliban, ISI and bin Laden made for an interesting case of “I scratch your back if you scratch mine”– or, as I prefer to view it, an “unholy trinity.”
    By 1996, small Arab groups in Afghanistan had linked up with the warring Taliban, cemented ties with Pakistani religious radicals, particularly groups associated with the Jamiat-e-ulema-Islam, a political party closely allied with the ISI. The purpose for Pakistan was to unleash an uprising against Indian-occupied Kashmir, long contested by the two subcontinent rivals. Guerrillas for Kashmir were recruited from the same talent pool of JUI seminaries supplying young fighters for the Taliban against the Northern Alliance.
    To avoid Indian detection, the ISI conducted much of the training for its Kashmir campaign in Afghanistan, with the cooperation of the Taliban. In turn, several camps were placed under bin Laden’s control for the use of the terrorist network he was creating for his own longer term goals:…

    AFSA Article by Arnie Schifferdecker
    These articles make sense to me. It sure does smell like an inside job.
    Col, looks like you and Mr. Schifferdecker would have crossed paths at some time. Can you lend any credence to what he says in that article? Sad to say, he’s gone.
    Now it’s becoming clear why you posted that picture of “Archie Duke” in your original post back in October.

  13. Mad Dogs says:

    Frank Anderson said: “Richard’s comment that Benazhir took ISI out of the job of supporting the Taliban in 1993 is questionable in light of Taliban history.”
    Richard’s comment did not say what you think he said.
    Read it carefully: “When she became PM again in 1993, Bhutto followed the custom of letting an Lt. General of the Army head the ISI. But she transferred the handling of operations supporting the Taliban from ISI to the Interior Ministry.”
    The date of 1993 refers to when Bhutto became PM. The date of 1993 does not refer to when she transferred Taliban support from the ISI to the Interior Ministry.
    This transfer occurred after 1993. Hence you have conflated 2 different events.
    Additionally, you’ve made some authoritive statements of your own such as: “Benazhir’s brothers were terrorists who lined up with our Soviet “rivals.”” (My Bold).
    Terrorists? Can you cite authoritive sources for such a claim? I’m not ready to dispute such a claim, but I would like to know from whence it came.
    And this claim of yours too would do for some substantiation: “The evidence is strongest that it was Benazhir and her police allies who killed the other brother, Murtaza in 1996. (He’d become a politcal rival and had set up a rival PPP.). There was no indication of ISI involvement. (My Bold again)
    Who says Benazir killed or had killed, her last brother?
    Who says that there was no indication of ISI involvement?
    Again, your statements may all be true. But without citing your own sources, you cannot expect us to disclaim the truth of Richard’s report.

  14. Jose says:

    If Mr Sale is correct, then our current Dumdya administration is way over its head with this mess, so 48D’s unlike 48G’s, enlighten the neocons sooner, rather than latter.
    Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate. – Sun Tzu

  15. For everyone’s enjoyment:
    GWU’s National Security Archive Taliban File
    I’ve used these guys in the past, but had forgotten about them. Lots of FOIA docs, redacted of course.

  16. bob randolph says:

    Frank Anderson’s post begins to clear away some of the haze that the MSM has gullibly published to maintain the myth of BB as Pakistan ‘s martyred democracy princess. The BB brothers, Shawanaz and Murtaza were indeed terrorists who hi-jacked a PIA plan to Soviet Controlled Kabul in 1981. A young military officer on the plane was murdered during the hi-jacking.
    Only one brother, Shawnawaz, was poisoned in France.
    Murtaza survived to become a bitter enemy of his Brother-in-law and BB’s husband, “Mr. 10 % Zardari.” Murtaza returned to Pakistan in 1996 to challenge his sister for control of the family political heirloom, The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Murtaza was ambushed and assassinated outside his home in September, 1996 by individuals who were quite obviously police or government security forces. BB’s involvement in the assassination is murky, but she was quite openly involved in the cover-up and, as Prime Minister, made no effort to bring the perpetrators to justice.
    BB was removed from power in November, 1996, and she and her husband, Zadari, subsequently went into exile where they were followed by money laundering and corruption cses brought by the authorities in Spain, England and Switzerland.
    The best exposition in English of the shenanigans of the Bhuttos and the events that led to the return of BB to Pakistan and her subsequent assassination was recently penned by Tariq Ali in the December 2007 London Review of Books in an article entitled “The Daughter of the West.”. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n24/ali_01_.html#postscript.
    In the article, Ali uses the metaphor of the “arranged marriage” to explain how it happened that Bhutto returned to Pakistan to share power with Musharraf. This marriage between these two people who loathed and hated each other was brokered by Condi and Negroponte in an effort to save the US bacon in Pakistan. Ali presciently predicted that the probable outcome of such an arrangement would be “misery and possibly violence.”
    Ali writes mostly truthfully and unusually beautifully to provide the facts and balance so lacking in the pablum regularly now being doled out by our MSM on the life and times and martyrdom of Pakistan’s democracy princess. In the final analysis, as our MSM will not tell us, our leaders are bush leaguers at the “great game.” I commend Ali’s exposition and analysis to readers of this blog.

  17. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Although I am no regional specialist, I have been out that way on occasion. My recollection from the late 1980s and 1990s, is:
    1. The majority of the Taliban were Pushtun, (Hanafi, with many belonging to the Qadriya silsila of the saint Abdul Qadir Al-Gilani). They insisted they were not Deobandis or Barelvis. Omar is a Gilzai Pushtun and the number 2 back then Durrani was a Durrani Pushtun. Omar’s decision to take action to promote “Islamic values” in Afghanistan is dated by some observers to September 1994.
    2. Saudi Arabia financed many of the madrassas from which talibs emerged. There were clear Deobandi connections in some. Other outside interests financed various madrassas in Pakistan including: Libya, Iran, and Iraq.
    3. Experienced Afghan war veterans integrated into the Taliban.
    4. The able former UK High Commissioner to Pakistan, Sir Nicholas Barrington (fluent in Persian, Pushto, and Urdu), was “reportedly” quite active behind the scenes.
    5. A cohort from Yunus Khalis’ faction of the Hizb-e-Islami joined the Taliban. A cohort from Abdul Rasul Sayyag’s Ittehad-e-Islami joined the Taliban.
    6. The Paks, emboldened by the Taliban’s success in “controlling” two-thirds of Afghanistan, then attempted to create an anti-Rabbani alliance of: the Taliban, Dostum, Hikmetyar, and Mojeddedi. But Hikmetyar bolted to Rabbani’s side.
    7. The Paks, with Benazir (PM 1988-1990 and 1993-1996) at the helm, shifted to launching overtures to both Rabbani and the Taliban. Benazir created a committee to deal with this new situation composed of: Major General Babar, Interior Minister; Ijlal Haider Zaidi, Advisor on Afghanistan; Major General Khurshid Ali Khan, Governor of NWFP; the Additional Secretary-Foreign Office, Iftikar Murshid, and representatives of GHQ and ISI.
    For General Babar see Wiki at:
    8. There was an energy angle to the Pak strategy involving access to Central Asian hydrocarbons/Turkmenistan and the well-known UNOCAL pipeline project.
    9. But the Pak pro-Taliban policy increased regional tensions. India and Iran aligned and India aligned with the Central Asian states. Russia had some new opportunities.
    10. Internally, the militant Islamist activity rose particularly with the threat of Qazi Hussain Ahmed to launch an “Islamic Revolution” and Maulana Fazalur Rahman and Samiul Haq keen to promote the Taliban way in Pakistan.
    11. Nawaz Sharif (PM 1990-1993 and 1997-1999) changed Pak policy and shifted important responsibilities to the Foreign Ministry in an attempt to resolve issues through negotiation and diplomacy. Additional Secretary Murshid, a senior diplomat, had the portfolio. The Taliban regime was recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
    12. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright refused to give the House Foreign Affairs Committee access to documents relating to the Clinton Administration’s Afghan-Taliban policy. A Congressmen on that Committee told me this in some detail a decade ago in his office.
    All this was back a good 10-15 years ago so…plenty of time for reflection and the “lessons learned” bit….should be no surprises in all this at least for regional specialists. But W and Tinkerbelle don’t seem to have any use for regional specialists….

  18. “The NWFP was Bhutto’s political base…” — surely there is a typo here?

  19. Curious says:

    BB obviously has no base within the military and Pakistan intel people. Even if she won election, I doubt she will survive assassination or ousted for corruption again. She’s been out of the country for so long, she doesn’t have her own info channel on security threat.
    All in all this whole thing start to read like replacing bad guy with worst gal.
    Well the damage has been done. now what?
    – Musharraf is going to win that election.
    – Condi’s Pakistan ground crew is now completely screwed.
    – Assuming Hillary is in office, the two will have patching up to do since Hillary was calling for investigation.
    Let’s see if Musharraf can keep Pakistan afloat and back on previous growth track.
    First back envelop calculation is out.
    Early estimates put the loss in revenues in the economy in the days following the December 27 assassination at 50 billion rupees. According to one estimate, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) would need 2.74 billion rupees in additional receipts per day in the coming days to meet the 1.025 trillion rupee revenue target set for the current fiscal year, which runs to July.
    The FBR faces lost collection of income tax, federal excise duty and other levies due to closure of banks and damaged economic activity. Further delay in the clearance of transshipment goods and cancellation of export orders will also cause revenue losses, which in turn could have a negative impact on development projects.
    The present crisis may help to derail economic reform initiated under the administration of President Pervez Musharraf if political stability is not restored. The perceived risk of Pakistan defaulting on its dollar-denominated debt rose after Bhutto’s death, with five-year credit default swaps, used to insure against restructuring or defaulting debt, widening by around 100 basis points on the news.

  20. Harper says:

    In response to Richard Sale’s excellent analysis of the Bhutto assassination, I can add in the following observations and readings that I have gotten from USA and India-based informed contacts over the past several days:
    I have indication that there were two kinds of outside meddling in Pakistan. First, the US bungling, just as you characterize it, was clearly a decisive factor in her return to Pakistan, walking into a death trap. Yes, she was played as a Washington pawn, which even further angered her long list of enemies in country. The whole idea of composing a “democratic unity government” with Bhutto, Musharraf (without uniform) and an American trained general was pure fantasy, a replay of the same “cakewalk” psychology that we saw in Iraq. There was also a British factor. This is more sophisticated “Great Game” stuff. Bhutto was always much closer to the British Labour crowd than Washington, dating back to her Oxford days, and her husband’s corrupt business ties were more London than New York. The Brits are not naive and irresponsible the way Bush was. They have an agenda, including the breakup of Pakistan. They have their mind on Northwest Frontier, tribal areas, Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan and Central Asia. This is the area of Pakistan with the gas and oil, and Brits see the importance of having a toe hold there, to play a new Great Game with both Russia and now China over Central Asia. They are coming at it from a weak position, but their imperial pretensions are not to be ignored. A whole bunch of the Islamist gang have their international headquarters and support operations in London. Some see it as a quid pro quo so Brits are not targeted for terrorism from them. Others see a broader game, almost on automatic pilot, given their century or more of playing on that turf.
    Some additional readings I have gotten on the Bhutto assassination from Indian military sources in New Delhi. They are looking closely at Hisbit Tahrir, an Islamic fundamentalist organization, headquartered in London, that has a very strong presence in Pakistan. Over the past seven years, since just before 911, they have been sending their people back to Pakistan, and into the Army. They now have a substantial penetration of the officer corp at the lower ranks, and have many people in Rawalpindi. A few months ago, there were a pair of suicide bombings at Rawalpindi. The bombers had the relevant codes to get inside the gates of the garrison city, meaning they were either in or close to people in the military. The codes are regularly changed, and in one of the two instances, the person had a code that had been changed several days before the incident and he was prevented from entering the city, and blew himself up at the gate, killing several people, along with himself.
    This is not at all contradictory to the ISI angle, but may indicate a larger network at play here. Hisbit Tahrir is all over the Sunni world, is not listed by the British, the Americans, the Canadians or the Australians as terrorist, but the group is banned in all Sunni Arab countries, even Saudi Arabia, because they are fanatical proponents of the new Caliphate, and reject any kind of independent nations or kingdoms within Islam. The group recently held a rally in Ramallah (the founder was a Palestinian lawyer, member of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded the group in the 1950s) attended by 65,000 people.
    One other added thought on Bhutto. Again, from senior India military people in New Delhi. Benazir was a shrewd and ruthless politician. She took over the Bhutto political clan after manuevering around her uncle and brother. She apparently did not spill any tears when her brother, who was a leftist hot head, was wacked by ISI. She is not, these sources, emphasized, someone who would take a huge risk. She stayed in self-imposed exile for eight years of Musharraf. She was well aware that if she didn’t come back now, she would become increasingly more irrelevant to the power struggle underway in Pakistan. But she was also given very strong security guarantees from BOTH Washington and London. US security people I talked with right after her assassination were in total shock. There was a gigantic failure here, either by intent or fuck up. A senior Indian diplomat I met with this week in Washington was adament that it was “an inside job.” ISI is obviously part of the equation, but I am also certain that there was some kind of close-in security screen of American and British personnel with her. I don’t buy the Robert Novak story that Musharraf didn’t let her bring in British and American private security.

  21. FB Ali says:

    I would caution against regarding Richard Sale’s piece as a reliable account of the recent history of Pakistan, or a good analysis of the current situation there (though his final words on Benazir Bhutto’s misadventure, which led to her murder, are an accurate assessment). Much sounder are the posts by Clifford Kiracofe and Bob Randolph. If someone wishes to get a good understanding of the situation in Pakistan I would recommend Barnett Rubin’s articles on Juan Cole’s other blog (Global Affairs). The latest one is at : http://icga.blogspot.com/2008/01/pakistans-power-puzzle.html.
    Richard Sale’s last piece on this blog (on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, posted on 2 Dec 2007) was so far out that it seemed to me that he had been used by someone to spread deliberate disinformation. For a much more reliable assessment see this article in the Washington Post at about the same time : http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/01/AR2007120101618.html?hpid=topnews.

  22. W. Patrick Lang says:

    FB Ali
    I would caution you, or anyone else against implying that I am involved in “disinformation.”
    My purpose in posting items written by anyone other than me is to stimulate discussion. My willingness to post them does not mean that I necessarily agree with them. pl

  23. FB Ali says:

    I did not at all think of you when I made that remark, nor do I believe that you would do anything of the kind. I hope no one thought that that was in any way implied.
    My remark was directed at the possibility that Richard Sale’s source(s) for that piece may have been trying to do that.

  24. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    OK, so instead of the Washington “wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter: 2:22/King James) perhaps a rethink of policy is in order.
    Seems to me a US policy aimed at reducing regional tensions and promoting economic development and integration is in order.
    Last time I thought about the subcontinent prior to giving a talk, in Berlin of all places, touching on US relations with the region it occurred to me that the US has been out there (as the US) since 1782 when we loaded a ship under Danish colors at Serampore near Calcutta. Our ship “The United States” which cleared Philadelphia March 24, 1784 reached Pondi at 6 PM December 26, 1784 and was the first under US flag.
    Of course, a New Englander Elihu Yale was out there as of 1672 and became the Governor of Madras. Having myself visited the museum there some two decades ago, I noted some of his possessions on display including a very large pewter plate.
    For starters, rather than violently oppose the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project, why not support it and get some US companies involved?
    The “Yalie” Decider (Boolah Boolah, Skull and Bones, and all that) and Tinkerbelle might do better on this tack.

  25. David Habakkuk says:

    FB Ali
    Thanks for the reference to the Washington Post article on the Pakistan nuclear arsenal.
    There was certainly one sentence in the piece on the subject by Richard Sale which does sound as though someone is trying to put a very optimistic gloss on things:
    ‘So while the nukes of any country are allegedly in danger of hijacking, apparently the new safeguards are such that the slightest error in procedure renders the weapon null and void, a system much like the one the Russian used with their portable nuclear weapons systems.’
    One of the world’s leading experts on nuclear command and control is the former Minuteman launch control officer Bruce Blair, currently president of the World Security Institute.
    In a commentary last November Blair raised a range of troubling questions about claims made by the U.S. permanent representative at the U.N. Conference on Disarmament, Christina Rocca, about the alert status of U.S. nuclear forces. One of the claims Blair disputes relates to the security of safeguards against accidental or unauthorised launch. In fact, he writes, there is ‘reason to believe that state and non-state actors, including terrorists, may be able to exploit weaknesses in these systems of control by physical or informational means, heightening the risks of unauthorized or accidental launch.’
    If there is reason to believe that controls are less than foolproof in the case of the U.S. — where an enormous amount of thought and money has gone into trying to make them foolproof — then it is hard not to be somewhat skeptical about suggestions that they are secure in the case of other nuclear powers. Certainly there is still a great deal of reason to worry about the security of the Russian nuclear arsenal, and I would imagine the same would be true about that of Pakistan. (About the British, I am ignorant!)
    This and other commentaries by Blair are available at http://www.cdi.org/program/issue/index.cfm?ProgramID=32&issueid=110.
    Quite clearly, there are deep inherent tensions between what is called in the jargon ‘negative control’ — preventing unauthorised use — and ‘positive control’: ensuring that instructions to launch nuclear weapons will be implemented. The imperative of ‘negative control’ suggests that the launch of nuclear weapons should be physically impossible without the relevant instructions from the top political command; the imperative of ‘positive control’ suggests the physical ability to launch nuclear weapons needs to be delegated sufficiently far down the chain of command to make a knock-out first strike impossible.
    In his 1993 study The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War, Blair showed how the bias of the American system was towards guaranteeing positive control, while that of the Soviet was towards guaranteeing negative control. It seems to me that similar tensions between conflicting imperatives must be being confronted by nuclear war planners in the subcontinent. My worry would be that fears over the security of their arsenal from enemy attack may end up driving planners towards stressing positive control over negative — and in the process increase the risk of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of jihadists.
    Another related fear is that strategists on the subcontinent may take too seriously the theorising of Western academics about the virtues of nuclear ‘deterrence’. I started out taking the virtues of these academic theorists very seriously. Subsequently — largely as a result of encountering Blair’s work — I realised that most of these theorists did not take adequate account of the operational difficulties facing nuclear planners.
    A key problem was precisely the vulnerability of the command and control systems on which ‘positive control’ depends. As a result, while the U.S. strategic posture was supposed to be based upon notions of an assured second strike retaliatory capability, the actual posture was one of launch on warning: as also was that of the Soviet Union. As Blair further demonstrated, the interactions of two command and control systems postured for launch on warning, in a crisis situation, are quite capable of generating catastrophe.

  26. Time to grow up and create a foreign policy in Afganistand, Pakistan and the middle east general recognizing tribal politics and differences. The old saw “Tribes flying flags of Nations” or something like that seems to be the essence of the 21st Century in this arena. Discussion of organizational factions without discussing tribal allegiances is almost a waste of time. Just as description of FBI culture is a no-go with discussion of the influence of Catholics and Mormons on the FBI culture.

  27. Andy says:

    David’s comment reminded me of this recent ACW post on PALS technology sharing with Pakistan.
    I would only add that assessing the vulnerability of US nuclear safeguards is exceedingly difficult to do from the outside since we are not privy to the vast majority of the data and information.

  28. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “Pat and Richard,
    I apologize. I had no intention to express any contempt and/or disdain, other than for the idea that Benazhir was some sort of a pro-western democratic reformer and for the other side of the coin view that the Pak military and, especially, the ISI are evil allies of al-Qaedah and the Taliban. I don’t think and didn’t mean/want to imply that Richard has those views.
    Pakistan presents a complex pile of problems with which any US Administration will need to cope. That job won’t be facilitated by either the deification or the demonization of any side in the many sided mess that is modern day Pakistan. My concern is that the trend of commentary in the aftermath of Benazhir’s murder is in that direction.
    In that light, my intent in commenting on the claim that Benazhir had transferred responsibility for dealing with the Taliban from ISI to the Interior Ministry in 1993 was not to focus on the date of the alleged shift. I wanted to emphasize that, regardless of the date of birth, the parents of the Pakistani relationship with the Taliban were Benazhir/Babar and the Pak trucking “mafia,” not ISI and the Army. This wasn’t an ISI role that Benazhir took away from them. She and Babar were the authors and stars of the original production. Babar later complained that, once ISI ended up with the role, ISI wasn’t as clever as he and Benazhir had been in playing it.

  29. Andy says:

    I agree with your characterization of what happened in 1994 and it also jives with Steve Coll’s book. I would only add that in addition to trucking interests was petroleum – Bhutto wanted a pipeline from either Iran or Turkmenistan and eventually got a deal for one. Ironically, this is what prompted the Clinton administration to finally show real interest in the region through support of a UNOCAL pipeline project.
    Additionally, Bhutto’s intent for her second term was to focus on the economy which she believed would strengthen her base of support. To do that, she was more deferential to the ISI and Army because she didn’t want to make unnecessary enemies.
    Finally, it’s important to note that during it’s first couple of years, the Taliban was very popular and had a wide base of support which included Pashtun centrists and royalists like current President Karzai.

  30. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Some new polling data out of Pakistan from World Public Opinion project at the University of Maryland:
    “Most Pakistanis want Islam to play a larger role in Pakistani society. However, a majority also favors a more democratic political system, rejects ‘Talibanization,” and supports recent government efforts to reform the madrassah system by focusing more on science and mathematics. Majorities have little sympathy for Islamist military groups and most would like to see the Federally Administered Tribal Areas integrated into Pakistan.
    The survey also found that Pakistani attitudes toward the United States are negative and that there is a growing perception that the United States is hostile toward Islam.”

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