Saturday, October 20, 2007

PPP Derailed by the Bomb

One point that seems to have been overlooked by most commentators on Karachi’s horrific carnage is the size of the blast was unprecedented for Pakistan. Yes, suicide bombers are now unfortunately no longer a new-fangled phenomenon in our country, but one who comes packed with enough explosives to kill 140 people and injure over 400 people suggests Baghdad and not Karachi.

I accept that the crowded conditions of Benazir Bhutto’s rally meant larger casualties but nevertheless the number of dead and injured points to an abnormal increase in explosive power and sophistication.

Talking to some senior journalists I came across an uncharacteristic consensus of ideas. According to them, whenever an extreme and unexpected event, such as this, takes place, the logical question to ask is: Who benefits?

____________________________________________

Pakistani electoral politics has always been a game of numbers. Outside our ‘chattering’ drawing rooms, massive crowds have always mattered, as the game is all about perception. The party that draws the most crowds is commonly perceived to be the winner and gets the lion’s share of the votes. The general voting public obviously likes backing winners.

So should the number of people gathered for Benazir Bhutto on Drigh Road (and all the way to the Quaid’s Mazar) have come as a surprise to anyone?

Not really.

Those who had been monitoring the scene – which include even amateurs such as your Blogger – knew at least a week in advance that buses had been organised from just about every city, town and village in Sindh. Hundreds of more busloads were expected from southern Punjab and more than simply a few from distant NWFP as well.

Fact tell us - even after taking into account the police arrests and other barefaced attempts by the regime of political suppression - that the PML (Nawaz)only managed to muster some 5,000 people in Islamabad on the day of Nawaz Sharif’s arrival. As a result of this political fiasco the PML(N) leadership have had their political wind knocked out of them. The 'crowd failure' has also sent them to a period of media oblivion.

One should also recall that on 12 May even when the regime went into overdrive to produce ‘a sea of people’ for Musharraf’s rally at Islamabad, it could only assemble 35,000 that had been bussed from the much more populous province of Punjab. Even the MQM rally held that same afternoon in Karachi numbered, according to BBC World Service, no more than 25,000 to 30,000 people.

Even days before Benazir Bhutto’s arrival your Blogger expected at least some 200,000 people to turn up for the event. By that evening an impartial journalist suggested to your Blogger that if one roughly counted the buses and people, ranging from the airport terminal to the Mazar, the number was probably higher, perhaps somewhere in the region of 300,000 to 400,000.

Whether one loathes, detests, loves or simply tolerates the PPP leader, by 9 pm on the night of 18th October, the display of people power on the streets of Karachi confirmed that Benazir Bhutto had managed to completely disrupt the existing political equation.

But that was three hours before the scene of street carnage and destruction.

In the aftermath of the devestating bomb it is now almost certain that the electoral process has effectively been derailed.

Pakistani elections are all about rallies and meetings. The bigger and better the rally meant that rivals had to match them or else prepare themselves for electoral oblivion.

Now the chances of mammoth political rallies seem quite remote. Commonsense dictates that many people will now become averse to risking their lives just to see their political leaders in action. Why should anyone – excepting die-hard PPP jiyalas – attend a future Benazir rally knowing full well that there was more than a good chance of another bomb exploding?

So the answer to the question raised by the journalists about ‘who benefits?’ is not all that difficult to find. With the PML(N) playing defensively on a ‘Jeddah’ back foot and the agency-led Fazal Rehman causing implosions in the MMA, the derailment of PPP election campaign by the bomb is certainly fortuitous for Islamabad. But that doesn’t logically mean that the regime itself orchestrated the bombing. It is inconceivable to accept that any government would deliberately instigate the deaths of hundreds to prolong its stay in power.

However, if Benazir Bhutto’s accusations prove to be accurate then it means that there may be some people who have benefited – financially, ideologically or both - from the existing state of affairs and remain dead set against any political change. Obviously, if these people did exist, then they would have to have the wherewithal to recruit and assist jehadi ‘nutters’ to do the needful. If such turns out to be the case, then the finger could be pointed in only one direction.

Of course it always possible that it was the Jihadis themselves who were responsible. Nevertheless, there will always be those who will have to convinced that a Mahsud from remote tribal Waziristan would possess the sophistication and skill – with or without the help of Al Qaeda – to travel undiscovered to Karachi and merge with the throngs of PPP supporters and carry out such a deadly mission on his own (or just with the help of a few of his tribal colleagues).






20 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is true that Benazir managed a massive crowd, but we are ignoring the reasons why she was able to do so.

Benazir has been pegged as the future Prime Minisiter in the media as she is the candidate backed by US. So all her supporters (people of influence, but in the background) want to please her as when she comes into power they can ofcourse get favours from her. For example my Uncle in Lahore whose family is a long time PPP's activist since the Bhutto's era, sent three busses and paid every 1000 rupee each to send them to Karachi. So similarly people are spending money to please BB - something which was not the case with PML(N).

The other most important thing was that US and UK leadership sent a message to MQM leadership to show restraint. The level at which this political rally was tolerated in Karachi is unprecedented. Similarly, goverment did not hinder in any way BB's homecomming.

The big picture is that we are heading towards another sham democracy doctered by the west and general, and we all should fasten our seat belts for an ugly ride.

-ice

thoughtful said...

I second the above comments.

Syed said...

"But that doesn’t logically mean that the regime itself orchestrated the bombing. It is inconceivable to accept that any government would deliberately instigate the deaths of hundreds to prolong its stay in power."

I would like to remind you the statement of a person after May 12 killings in Karachi.
" People have shown their
strength."

No doubt people forget soon.

Onlooker said...

Syed

Your point is extremely valid.

How can one forget the 45 plus people who were brutally gunned down in Karachi that day? And unforgetably that very evening in front of a hired crowd Musharraf did raise his hands and express satisfaction that the 'people of Karachi had shown their strength'.

Was it the same thought process behind the carnage on 18th October?

I think the thought has crossed many minds but right now it is perhaps a bit incendiary to express it out in the open without any evidence. Even Benazir Bhutto is said to have stated that the government was not responsible.

But then it is difficult to define what a government is these days. Oficially of course it is Shaukat Aziz's...

Anonymous said...

Benazir Bhutto holds three people people (as yet unnamed) responsible for planning the bomb attack on her rally. She has named these people in a letter she wrote to Musharraf.

The New York Times reports:
Aides close to Ms. Bhutto said that one of those named in the letter was Ijaz Shah, the director general of the Intelligence Bureau, another of the country’s intelligence agencies and a close associate of General Musharraf.

The head of the Intelligence Bureau Brig (Retd) Ejaz Shah, formerly Punjab's ISI chief, is a very close friend of Musharraf's.

If Ejaz Shah is one of those accused by Benazir, then this accusation is getting fairly close to the bone.

Anonymous said...

Now it appears that even the Waziristani Taliban have denied having a hand in the bomb attack.

A website report informs:
"Pro-Taliban militants in Pakistan's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan have denied that they had attacked former prime minister Benazir Bhutto with two bombs that killed 139 people and injured more than 500, media reports said Saturday.

"We cannot even think of killing innocent people," said a spokesman of the militant commander Baitullah Mehsud, who was accused of threatening Bhutto with suicide attacks."

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/241443/Pakistani_militants_deny_hand_in_suicide_attack_on_Bhutto

Anonymous said...

Can anyone confirm that that the govt handed over (ie returned "stolen" funds) approx $1.5bn to BB about 3 weeks ago - just before she signed the "deal".

Apparently, as soon as the funds were made available to her in various accounts, they were transferred out by her to safe havens.

Apparently Ejaz ul Haq has said that the PPP homecoming trip and reception cost PPP approx 90 crore.

Also 200 new Prados have arrived at one of our ports - donated to BB's cause by none other than Uncle Sam.

The first comment by Anonymous/Ice and seconded by Thoughtful rings true. In fact, this is how democratic parties operate in established democracies in the developed world - albeit on a more sophisticated level and usually with more transparency.

Party funding, expenditure and activity needs to be much more transparent - with certain rules, limits and curbs applying to all parties (but who will independently and unbiasedly police this activity?).

It is sad to see what is happening to this country.

It is nauseating that we have to accept a known crook to try and lead our country again, just because it suits a wealthy outsider.

We need selfless leaders and team players - not ruthless, corrupt opportunists, no matter how charismatic and silver tongued they are.

We need political parties that have detailed published manifestos not individuals who require undying loyalty.

Unfortunately, such a system cannot work with our agri-based society and so the country is beholden to "popular" individuals.

An ugly ride indeed.

Anonymous said...

No doubt Mr & Mrs Zardari are crooks. When they came into power they made money in such a childish brazen illiterate manner that everyone came to know about it.

The problem is that Nawaz Sharif, the Gujrat Choudhries, dozens of assorted generals, brigadiers and colonels and Shaukat Aziz(and pals) have made just as much if not more individually than the Zardus. Its just that these guys have done it much less transparently.

The story doing rounds in Isloo suggest that even Musharraf has in recent years got his fist in the lucrative pie. After all he has done such a 'noble' job for Pakistan, he feels that he is entitled some benefits as well (particularly with retirement possibly just around the corner).

So it is a just matter of perception as everyone is a crook.

However the real issue is much bigger. Do the 160 million Pakistanis get a say in their country or should we leave it to a handful of Khakis and their chumchas to decide the fate of us millions.

A bad democracy is always better than the most 'beneficial' dictatorship. At least the people in power at times have to listen to the voice of the people instead of just a bunch of corps commanders.

Anonymous said...

For all the Bhutto haters above here is my one question to answer: If mobilizing an enthusiastic crowd is all about money, why has no one except the Bhuttos been able to do it in Pakistani history?

Musharraf and Ziaul Haq could do it with the billions of dollars in American aid they and other generals routinely steal.

Nawaz Sharif was no poor man either.

So please stop abusing the wisdom of common people and recognzie that the person you hate is truly loved and supported by millions.

You have a right to disagree with Benazir Bhutto but you should not deny the fact of her genuine support base.

Anonymous said...

no one is denying her support base. PPP does have a hard core base. But there is also no denying the fact that this crowd would not have been there if her supporters did not see that she would win due to support of US.

Anonymous said...

BBC Website says-
'In her interview with the BBC, Ms Bhutto complained again that streetlights had been turned off on the day of the suicide attacks, allowing the bombers to escape detection.'

A timely switch off of lights to let the accomplices flee?

Enuff said!

Anonymous said...

they were on at the time of the blasts. another interesting question - how come she was in a rocket proof portion of the bus at the exact same time, and how come no senior PPP leader was hurt?

-ice

Anonymous said...

I am usually not the one for conpiracy theories but this time something is rotten in the state of Pakistan.

Suppose I am there to kill Benazir. What would be the easiest way to do that? There are thousands of flat in Sharae-Faisal. Occupy any of those (by holding the family hostage etc) and take her out through a sniper rifle as she was on the roof top for more than 12 hours in front of the glass sheet.

Use the Press as a disguise. With so many press agencies and tv channels covering the trip, it would be easier to get close to her or use the camera as a disguised weapon. (Ahmed Shah Masood was killed this way long time back in Afghanistan).

Why was there a small blast first? It was to ensure that if BB is still outside, she goes inside the rocket proof container. After that, the 2nd blast takes place. Obviously, it was never intended to hurt BB or PPP leaders. It was to hurt the cheap labor, the cannon fodder, the lowly workers of PPP. What if BB lost 150 votes. In this process, she has gained 150,000 sympathy votes and world attention.

And it takes BB 10 minutes to reach home whereas the caravan was crawling earlier. Was the roads already open for BB's escape? Was it all pre-planned? Was the government in on it? The answer seems to be a definite YES!!!

I am disgusted.

imkhalil

hey diddle-diddle said...

according to the Economist magazine Benazir was actually 'using a lavatory inside the lorry when the bombers struck'.

imkhalil is suggesting that forewarned by Mush the woman charged into her bomb proof toilet, leaving all her party hierarchy to die.

this comment column is getting more and more amusing.

guys, i can't stand the woman at all, so keep these ideas coming, the loonier the better(so we benazir haters, having lost complete touch with reality, can carry on laughing).

Khawar said...

Its All About unrestricted CASH FLOWS & Human DISPENSABILITY:

According to PILDAT (www.pildat.org) there are speculations that PPP spent huge sums of money estimated to range from Rs. 300 to 500 Million for the mobilization of PPP workers and sympathizers at her Karachi Airport reception.

The other COST is in terms of Human Lives lost or the COLLATERAL DAMAGE DUE TO BB: 140 PEOPLE DEAD. PAKISTAN'S 160 MILLION PEOPLE GET READY TO BECOME BB’s COLLATERAL DAMAGE

Rubab said...

One more mystery to haggle upon and to be forgotten soon for us. So what happens next, I got some highlights from the article at chowrangi.com

http://www.chowrangi.com/new-political-challenge.html

but would also request you to shed some light.

Ahsan said...

it's great that no one here ACTUALLY thinks it was the taliban/some extremist militant organization. apparently the best way to avoid suspicion for a suicide bombing (at least by the readers of this blog) is to proclaim well before the suicide bombing that "there will be an army of suicide bombers awaiting your arrival".

maybe, just MAYBE, it was the nutjobs who SAID they were going to do it? you know, the same people who behead aid workers, blow up girls' schools and threaten dvd shop owners and barbers? or am i missing something here? please fellow readers, enlighten me further with your beautifully constructed and logically impeccable conspiracy theories.

Anonymous said...

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
- Albert Einstein

I have no faith in people who have no integrity. BB and the Sharif brothers have shown their true colours when they were in control. I have also heard about alleged acts of corruption by the current ruling party and their supporters – some of which appear to be true.

My conscience will not allow me to support or vote for any of these people regardless of how popular they are compared to each other or in absolute terms.

They are all losers for Pakistan and its people (or any honourable cause) in the long term.

BB is able to muster big crowds mainly because of her father’s legacy. She appears to be intelligent and gutsy but my heart sinks when I think about her sincerity, integrity and motivation.

My heart also sinks when I think of all the other well to do and heavily compromised people in positions of power who are only there for self serving purposes.

Our average citizen cannot afford the luxury of being idealistic. However, you would think that as a supposed nation of Muslims, the ideal leader would be someone like our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Sidestepping all the implications of religion in politics (and especially of Islam in Pakistani politics) his primary quality was that of integrity.

It would be so absolutely incredible if the majority said no to violence, no to corruption, no to racism and yes to the rule of law.

Unfortunately we don’t have any party or leader that displays these qualities. I think the closest we come to such an ideal is in the representatives and manifesto of the PTI.

Jemima Goldsmith/Khan is right on the button in her article on BB (link follows) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/10/21/do2102.xml

Anonymous said...

As someone who has witnessed the farce called Pakistani politics for many years I have been even more saddened by the new developments in Pakistan- just when you thought we could not go any further down than the public sewer!

For a mere few hours with the death of Benazir Bhutto I saw a glint of light- gone I thogh was a corrupt,disgraced, money hungry "politician" i use the word lightly, and in her place someone who might just think a bit about the poor and needy of a country who is decades if not centuries nehind its neighbours

Instead, the hydra(mythical beast) has sprouted more heads in the guise of Zardari and company.

Again I come to the only thing that has kept me sane... May Allah guard the poor and needy and may he also deal with the unjust and corrupt...

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