Answering comments on Benazir and security

January 18, 2008 at 12:30 am (Islamism, Military, Pakistan)

In the comments for a couple of posts, Bob posed some questions regarding the issue of Benazir and security. I will answer them now.

I previously posted the following comment. Do you have any insight into this aspect of her lack of security?

Sorry for not answering your questions, Bob. Here we go!

1. I also would want to know why, in the face of her emails stating lack security provided by the government, she continued to go in harm’s way. While it is true the government may have been lax, I am not in a position to know, I question why she did not provide her own adequate security. If she knew she needed security cars to flank her vehicle and cell phone jammers etc why did she not provide those herself? If my understanding is correct she was very wealthy and security was not outside her means. To me her actions do not make sense. Maybe this is a cultural issue and someone with understanding can explain these actions.

Some say that this is simply a case of Benazir being reckless. Consider, for example, that practically her entire family was still abroad when she returned to Pakistan, and remained abroad as she began her campaign to return to power. She knew the risks of her actions and, accordingly, had her family stay away in safety. None of what has happened is shocking or news or unexpected, to be brutally frank. Furthermore, it’s not as if she were not warned: people against her had made their opposition to her quite clear, even to what extent they were planning to go. She also knew the Pakistani authorities were hindered in what they could do: they could not move against the anti-Benazir elements within the Pakistani authorities as doing so would engender far worse problems, including an actual inter-military factional civil war. (When civilian factions fight, it’s deadly and unpleasant. But if elements within the Pakistani military began to war against each other, the effects would be immensely disastrous, including jepoardizing Pakistan’s nukes. It’s the difference between fighting with guns and bombs and fighting with tanks and planes.) Plus, her whole proclamation of agents within the government, highly-placed even, who were plotting against her was to further delegitimize the then current regime, making her indispensable for the government to obtain legitimacy in face of such accusations.

Indeed, it would not be surprising if rogue elements in the ISI (emphasis on “rogue”) cooperated with the terrorists to take her out, as she presented herself as one of the biggest dangers and perils to said rogue elements. Musharraf could not take action against them (for a variety of reasons, including fear of a military civil war, inability to completely root out the problem, and fear of becoming even more unpopular and delegitimized in face of actions against the Pakistani military) but Benazir had no rhetorical constraints, and as prime minister could have drummed up support (if not a mandate) from the Pakistani people (especially those people in power and positions of influence) for the Pakistani military to conduct an internal purge.

Which all sums up to show that Benazir should have been aware of the opposition to her, including how deep and wide that opposition ran and how she would need to take special care to protect herself. In some respects, she did have quite good technology and security at her disposal. If she stayed in her car as it drove on, she would not have been harmed at all. But more on that later. And if she needed extra security, she certainly had the wherewithal to obtain it, even if the government does not provide it to her.

I think the government was stupid. Musharraf appeared to be reaching the end of his time in power. He could have made himself a statesman by seeing her successfully integrated into government after which he could gracefully bow out and be seen as a man committed to what is best for his country.

I do not think Musharraf would have simply stepped down after ushering in a government that appeared to have been democratically elected. While doing so could earn him many kudos as far as history is concerned (portraying him “as a man committed to what is best for his country” as you said), the reality is that Musharraf did not and does not have any intention to step down. Indeed, this is what the whole emergency rule was for: to solidify his term and position as president, which the previous Supreme Court was going to deny him.

As some have said, Musharraf will leave his post only in a coffin. (Although, that may now not be true: I don’t think he can run for another term, but then the Pakistani constitution is more of a tool, liable to be modified to suit the ruling elite’s best interests, rather than a foundational document from which the state’s laws and government flow. A good example was Benazir: constitutionally she was not permitted to run for another term, but she was granted an exception. Nawaz Sharif wanted a similar dispensation but was not granted it.)

Musharraf’s intention with the whole experiment of a democratically-elected government (or one that seemed to be so) was to shore up his own legitimacy and the legitimacy of the Pakistani government so as to give him (and the Pakistani government) more currency, as it were, to negotiate and secure its interests in the international community. This was also to be used to shore up legitimacy and support for the ruling regime (and its operations, including those of the military) within Pakistan and by Pakistanis.

I am not blaming the victim as the government seemed to do recently, just curious

Whereas it does not behoove us to blame the victim for the crime perpetuated against said victim, it also does not behoove us to completely discount how the victim may have contributed to said crime. That said, comments and observations on Benazir’s behavior (and risk-taking) do suggest that we cannot completely absolve Benazir for some responsability in her death. What makes this most pertinent is that she was shot after she rose from her car through its sunroof. After the shots, the assassin (or someone allied with him) blew himself up. What would have happened had Benazir not risen from her car? Based on her car’s armor, the suicide attack would not have injured her.


1 Comment

  1. rpkinmd said,

    Thank you for your response. It is difficut trying to understand a culture that is foriegn to your own.

    I enjoy your posting.


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