By Aaron Mannes
Assuming Pakistani police reports are accurate (a big if) that the attack on returning former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto’s convoy was not a car-bomb but a suicide bomber, it would be the deadliest attack by an individual suicide vest so far.
The massive throng that turned out to see Bhutto was a perfect target for a suicide bomber, and there were warning in advance. Bhutto has refrained from blaming the Pakistani government, but she has stated that security was inadequate. As I’ve noted before, considering the general level of competence displayed by the Pakistani government, this is hardly surprising.
This brings up a crucial point. The massive crowds were certainly drawn by Bhutto’s charisma. But they also came because of their high hopes that Bhutto can bring peace, prosperity, and order. A quick scan of major Pakistani papers reveals crumbling infrastructure, frequent electricity outages, and failing hospitals. This is on top of endemic poverty and corruption and high-levels of political violence (with some areas as effective no-go zones for the government.) In short, for many Pakistanis life is extremely difficult.
Benazir Bhutto is, without doubt, a world historical figure – albeit a flawed one. But saving Pakistan is beyond any one person. The issues are structural. Frequently, U.S. foreign policy focuses on individual leader. Now that Musharraf is problematic, the U.S. has pressed for the restoration of democracy and the return of Bhutto. But the issues go beyond the personalities at the top. In Egypt, the United States has adopted a policy of providing extensive aid in order to maintain stability. It has succeeded, but Egypt has stagnated and become a leading exporter of radical Islam (the managerial and intellectual backbone of al-Qaeda is Egyptian.)
Pakistan is also becoming a leading exporter of Islamism and it has nuclear weapons. In short, the copying the Egyptian strategy and playing for stability in the short run is not the safe bet and supporting Bhutto (and more importantly the restoration of civilian rule) is only a first step.
It turns out that Osama Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad when Benazir Bhutto was the target of a murder-suicide bomber. The finger for this particular attack is firmly pointed at the Pakistan Taliban. However, it is also pointed at Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda and in particular to his son, Hamza.