Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Bhutto reportedly had info about Pakistani ISI election sabotage

And now, Musharraf is practicing other “sabotage”

Assassinated Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto reportedly had information Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency was working to rig the Jan. 8 parliamentary election. And, not trusting BushCo, she was going to present this information to Sen. Arlen Spector and Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

The fraud reportedly was to include fake ballots, and U.S. aid money was being funneled to finance the effort.

I don’t doubt something like this, to be honest. Nor do I doubt President Pervez Musharraf knew ISI was up to something. Exactly what he knew, I don’t know.

Now, the assassination itself. My guess is ISI was behind it. The gunman, as I’ve noted before, is not al-Qaeda/Islamist style. At the same time, the way he was able to penetrate so closely to Bhutto suggests someone who had been spying out the campaign, possibly even someone with at least a tenuous “in.” I doubt Musharraf was involved. He probably figured a mix of ballot-stuffing, martial law and post-election browbeating was enough; in short, I don’t think even he would be that stupid. If nothing else, if Bhutto got to be trouble, he could have revived the old corruption charges against her or invented new ones.

Now, that said, how high in ISI might the assassination plot have gone? Given that a brigadier general is reportedly behind the election fraud, I’d say someone about the same rank would have headed operational planning. Higher ranks may have heard something, but only on a “plausible deniability” basis.

At the same time, could Bhutto have done more to protect herself? She talked to U.S. officials about hiring private U.S. or British bodyguards; the U.S. suggested she look at private Pakistani companies with international reputations who already do things like provide embassy service.

This is a toughie. I can understand the U.S. position that even private U.S. guards would have looked like too much direct involvement by the U.S. On the other hand, if ISI did penetrate the security she had when she was killed, they might have penetrated a private Pakistani company, no matter how sterling its reputation.

But, in either case, she never did beef up her security. Perhaps she had a stereotypical Muslim fatalism expressed in one of two classic words: “kismet” or “inshallah.”

Meanwhile, Musharraf has announced he will suspend the election; a “date certain” has not been announced, and may or may not be on Jan. 2.