There have been conflicting reports in the press about how Benazir Bhutto was killed. Earlier today, the New York Sun carried a story that implied a serious infiltration of Pakistan’s intelligence service by al Qaeda:
The attack yesterday at Rawalpindi bore the hallmarks of a sophisticated military operation. At first, Bhutto’s rally was hit by a suicide bomb that turned out to be a decoy. According to press reports and a situation report of the incident relayed to The New York Sun by an American intelligence officer, Bhutto’s armored limousine was shot by multiple snipers whose armor-piercing bullets penetrated the vehicle, hitting the former premier five times in the head, chest, and neck. Two of the snipers then detonated themselves shortly after the shooting, according to the situation report, while being pursued by local police.
A separate attack was thwarted at the local hospital where Bhutto possibly would have been revived had she survived the initial shooting. Also attacked yesterday was a rival politician, Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister who took power after Bhutto lost power in 1996.
A working theory, according to this American source, is that Al Qaeda or affiliated jihadist groups had effectively suborned at least one unit of Pakistan’s Special Services Group, the country’s equivalent of Britain’s elite SAS commandos. This official, however, stressed this was just a theory at this point. Other theories include that the assassins were trained by Qaeda or were from other military services, or the possibility that the assassins were retired Pakistani special forces.
Later, however, came reports that Bhutto had not been shot but instead died from a fractured skull, perhaps inflicted when her bodyguards pulled her back into the car to protect her:
Pakistan’s interior ministry said Friday that Benazir Bhutto was killed after smashing her head on her car’s sunroof while trying to duck, and that no bullet or shrapnel was found inside her.
The only sure thing is that there is no final word yet on how she died or who may have been behind it, although al Qaeda has taken responsibility. (Gordon Chang, on the other hand, argues that Bhutto’s rival, President Musharraf had both motive and opportunity.) Meanwhile, Pakistani cities burn as over a score have died in riots after the murder. Great Britain’s Daily Telegraph openly worries about the possibility of outright civil war in Pakistan.
Civil war in a nation with more than 100 nuclear bombs. A nation of which a fifth is already under the control of Islamic fascists aligned with our mortal enemy, al Qaeda. A nation whose intelligence and military services harbor significant elements sympathetic toward the Taliban and al Qaeda. Questions of democracy vs. dictatorship pale before the almost assuredly disastrous consequences of the Pakistani government losing control of its nukes. As Gabriel Schoenfeld reminds us, let’s focus on what’s truly important:
To contemplate a scenario in which one of Pakistan’s neighbors or the United States attempts to disarm Pakistan by force is to contemplate a chain of events that could easily result in a major war. Could such a scenario unfold? Where are Pakistan’s nuclear weapons stored, and could they be captured or destroyed by an outside country? Who guards them, and who guards the guards?
Those are good questions. And if the possible answers don’t frighten you, you haven’t been paying attention.
LINKS: More at Captain’s Quarters (and here). Scrappleface says the killing ought to put European leaders on notice. Via The Long War Journal, Pakistan claims it has direct evidence the murder was organized by the Taliban. That same article also present shocking proof of the Pakistani military’s fecklessness.