One more about Benazir: security

January 12, 2008 at 12:30 am (Islamism, Pakistan)

One element of the whole issue regarding Benazir and her assassination which confuses and puzzles many, and remains unclear, pertains to the issue of security. Various groups and/or people say various things, and each one has his/her reasons to say what he/she is saying.

Some say that Benazir or her supporters asked for more and/or better security from the government but the government refused to provide it. Some say that the government offered better and/or more security to Benazir but she rejected the government’s offers. Some say that the government failed to do what Benazir asked, namely the firing of specific officials in government, officials whom Benazir accused of being Islamists out to get her. Some say that Benazir took risks she should have known not to.

Now, if we recall a previous post wherein I detailed how the Pakistani government is, in fact, not unitary, it becomes clear that fulfilling Benazir’s demand that certain officials be fired would not have been possible, especially when such people are key players in the military and ISI. Doing so would have precipitated a coup against him. As it is, he had little actual control over the Islamist elements within the Pakistani military and government. Recall, also, that the public had developed a very negative view of Musharraf’s anti-terrorist and anti-Islamist activities: obeying Benazir would have been cast as Musharraf’s ploy to eliminate the Islamists or, as it would be portrayed, those patriotic Pakistanis serving in the military and intelligence forces for the glory of Allah. It is, really, ridiculous to assume Musharraf could have or would have dismissed such powerful members of the Pakistani military and government simply because Benazir said so.

Now, another issue also comes into play: Benazir was a politician and a civilian. She had no office in government. As a former prime minister and prominent politician, the government had some obligation to provide for her security. But the government was not obligated to provide for her the total amount of security as provided to Musharraf, for example. As it is, the security provided to Musharraf is provided by the military and was provided because he was Chief of Army Staff. Why should the Pakistani military provide for Benazir’s security? furthermore, as a politician and civilian not in office, Benazir could offer advice to the Pakistani government but certainly had no right whatsoever to dictate to the Pakistani government what it should do.

Furthermore, the videos of the assassination attempt show that the the tragic event that led to her death was her rising from the sun roof. If she had not taken that risk, perhaps she might be alive. So comments that Benazir took risks that exposed her to danger and that may have led to the success of the assassination attempt should not swept away.

Indeed, I was struck when I read an interview between Benazir and some international reporter after the first major assassination attempt on Benazir, which attempt took place as soon as she returned to Pakistan. The reporter challenged Benazir for taking such risks, as she knew quite well what acts of violence could be conducted against her, thus endangering herself and her followers. Benazir’s answer was not very inspiring, and it seemed she had been cornered. She went on about the people knowing the risks, the risks being worth it, the people accepting the risks, and so on. But the core of the question remain unanswered: how can she not be held responsible for such irresponsible and risky behavior?

Some have suggested she returned to Pakistan to become a martyr. I don’t know if this is true, but I do know the Benazir that left Pakistan was a different Benazir from the one who returned. She had a mission, an agenda, to save Pakistan from the extremists, whose ire she had earned. That anger killed her, in the end, in what would have been an inevitable event. That is, the Islamists would have kept trying until they succeeded or Benazir succeeded in flushing them out of Pakistan. (The latter being practically impossible as a large number of Pakistanis sympathize and support the Islamists.)

The fog of confusion, contradictory statements, and misinformation does not make it possible to see this situation clearly. Yet the debates will rage on as this issue may determine who was at fault. Benazir’s people want to blame the government (particularly Musharraf); Islamists want to blame a whole host of people (from Musharraf to America or those pesky Zionist Jews); the government wants to blame Islamists and Benazir. No one wants to take the blame. And so, in fact, reality is asked to abdicate as various agendas fight for the throne of moral superiority.


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