Monday, December 31, 2007

In the latest ‘shock me’ news from Pakistan

First, it’s alleged that Rawalpindi’s police chief, and not Benazir Bhutto’s husband, blocked an autopsy into the exact cause of her death. And, in the totally unsurprising, President Pervez Musharraf sounds like he’s going to (indefinitely?) delay the Jan. 8 parliamentary election.

So, will Bush/Condi Rice actually do something beyond hand-wringing, like cut aid to Pakistan, or something even more serious, like a mild, but visible, set of limited sanctions against the country, and encouraging Musharraf to resign?

This is doubly true now that Britain’s Channel 4 has aired video footage clearly showing Bhutto being shot before the explosion. Gun-wieldng hitman are definitely not the mark of al-Qaeda; I would guess the same to be true of Islamist groups inside Pakistan.

That, the blocked autopsy, (her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, has said the family was against exhumation because it did not trust the government) and the refusal to use international help to investigate, all point to some degree of Pakistani government connection, if not outright collaboration. Simple hand-wringing just won’t cut it.

Meanwhile, political opponents inside Pakistan, and not just Nawaz Sharif, are calling for Musharraf to step down and be replaced by a national unity government. In U.S. politics, its interesting that this was the position adopted by Bill Richardson, then some other “second-tier” Democratic presidential candidates; however, none of the Democratic “big three,” nor any Republicans, have taken up that position.

From where I stand, the tepid response of the Democratic “big three” is yet another reason to question just how much newness they bring to foreign policy, and another reason to not vote for them.