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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 21-Oct-07
Benazir Bhutto narrowly escapes death from suicide bombers

Web Log - October, 2007

Benazir Bhutto narrowly escapes death from suicide bombers

Pakistan is adrift and at a crossroads today, as its people wonder where to go next.

We mentioned briefly a couple of days ago that former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was returning from exile to Pakistan, under an agreement with President Pervez Musharraf to share power. Bhutto has been in exile since the 1990s, when she was charged with massive corruption, and chose exile over jail.

Benazir Bhutto, shocked from having narrowly escaped death, is rescued from bombed vehicle on Thursday <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source:</font>
Benazir Bhutto, shocked from having narrowly escaped death, is rescued from bombed vehicle on Thursday (Source:

Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan on Thursday was euphoric, as hundreds of thousands of supporters lined the streets along which her caravan traveled from the Karachi airport. The cheers had the atmospherics of a huge party.

The euphoria ended abruptly, however, when two suicide car bombers approached her vehicle and exploded. It was only through the sheerest luck that she was unhurt; she had been fully exposed, waving to the crowds, and only moments before the blasts had she retreated into her vehicle for a brief rest. Even so, her vehicle was badly damaged, and dozens of members of her personal guard were killed as they used their bodies to prevent the suicide bombers from getting closer. Hundreds of onlookers were killed and wounded as well.

Benazir Bhutto, at a press conference on Friday afternoon. <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: BBC)</font>
Benazir Bhutto, at a press conference on Friday afternoon. (Source: BBC)

At a press conference on Friday, Bhutto blamed al-Qaeda and Taliban militants for the assassination attempt, and declared she would risk her life to restore democracy in Pakistan and prevent an extremist takeover:

"We believe democracy alone can save Pakistan from disintegration and a militant takeover. We are prepared to risk our lives and we are prepared to risk our liberty, but we are not prepared to surrender our great nation to the militants."

These remarks cut very close to the bone for Bhutto.

Benazir's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

Benazir's own father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973, and Prime Minister from 1973 to 1977. He founded the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in the 1960s, and governed through some very tumultuous times, especially a humiliating loss in a war with India.

Here's the map of the Indian subcontinent as of 1970:

Indian subcontinent, 1970, highlighting provinces of Waziristan and Balochistan.  East Bengal province, also known as East Pakistan, seceded and became Bangladesh in 1971. <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: Stearns, Encyclopedia of World History)</font>
Indian subcontinent, 1970, highlighting provinces of Waziristan and Balochistan. East Bengal province, also known as East Pakistan, seceded and became Bangladesh in 1971. (Source: Stearns, Encyclopedia of World History)

The defeat by India was devastating to the Pakistanis. India gained control of much of the disputed provinces of Kashmir and Jammu, and East Pakistan seceded to form a new nation, Bangladesh.

The secession of Bangladesh led to an (Awakening era) secessionist insurgency in Balochistan province, with widespread civil disorder and civil disobedience.

This led to the overthrow of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's government in 1977, resulting in martial law and a military dictatorship. Bhutto himself was accused and tried for murder and other crimes, which his supporters claim he did not commit. Bhutto was found guilty. He was executed by hanging on April 4, 1979.

Electoral government was restored in 1985, and Benazir Bhutto was elected Prime Minister in 1988. There followed a period of very chaotic government with numerous Prime Ministers. Two of them, Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, were both exiled from the Pakistan after being found guilty of corruption.

Coup by Army chief Pervez Musharraf

In 1999, a new military coup by Army chief Pervez Musharraf returned some stability to the government. Musharraf and Pakistan had been allied with the Taliban in Afghanistan, but after September 11, 2001, Musharraf turned against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Islamist extremism. Since then, Musharraf and Pakistan have been allied with the United States in the war against terror.

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Musharraf has been very popular with the Pakistani people because of the stability he brought to the government, and because of economic improvements brought about, his opponents claim, by the money provided by the U.S. in return for supporting the war against terror. However, Musharraf's popularity has been plummeting this year, for several reasons:

Benazir Bhutto has been criticizing Musharraf from exile, especially for his 1999 coup, which was reminiscent of the 1977 coup that overthrew her father's government. Her call for a "return to democracy" is made for exactly that reason.

However, Bhutto's popularity is also jeopardized, especially among conservative Muslims, who are opposed to having Bhutto in power because she's liberal, moderate, secular, openly pro-American, and a woman.

Among all the many groups that dislike Bhutto, which one is likely to have perpetrated the assassination attempt?

During her press conference on Friday, she listed four different groups that wanted her dead within hours of her return:

"There was one suicide squad from the Taleban elements, one suicide squad from al-Qaeda, one suicide squad from Pakistani Taleban and a fourth – a group, I believe, from Karachi."

There are certainly sharp disagreements in Pakistan between moderate and hardline Muslims. However, while those disagreements may cause terrorism and low-level violence, it will not cause a crisis war.

Hindu vs Muslim: Partition, independence, genocide

Two months ago, in August, India and Pakistan celebrated 60 years of independence.

And at the same time they commemorated Partition, one of the most genocidal mass migrations in history.

The British, who had ruled the Indian subcontinent for centuries, finally gave in to the demands of the people for independence.

The forced migration of 14 million people and the killing of perhaps a million more makes the 1947 Partition of the Indian subcontinent into two countries, separating Muslims from Hindus, one of the largest mass migrations in history.

It came about because the British, who had ruled the Indian subcontinent for centuries, finally gave into the demands for independence. In order to prevent a civil war, the British partitioned the subcontinent into two portions:

Historically, the defining event of the Indian subcontinent of the last millennium was the 1526 conquest of Delhi in Northern India, climaxing with the Battle of Panipat on April 21, 1526.

Indian subcontinent, showing the disputed regions of Kashmir and Jammu.  Bangladesh used to be the eastern portion of Pakistan.
Indian subcontinent, showing the disputed regions of Kashmir and Jammu. Bangladesh used to be the eastern portion of Pakistan.

The conquest was by the Mongols (the descendants of Genghis Kahn) coming from Persia (Iran), having adopted a form of the Shia Muslim religion. The result was centuries of rule by the Mughals (the Persian name for Mongols).

There are two Mughal emperors of note: Babur, who led the conquest in 1526, and sought to give Muslims a privileged status over Hindus, before dying in 1532; and Akbar, the greatest Mughal emperor, who ruled from 1556 until his death in 1605, and who was greatly tolerant about religion, and encouraged the growth of the Hindu religion along with his own Muslim religion.

These two leaders, Babur and Akbar, represent the opposite poles of Muslim leaders that have defined the lives of the people of the Indian subcontinent for the centuries since then, and continue to do so today.

Tolerant Mughals ruled India through the 1600s, making the Mughal Empire perhaps the greatest empire in the world at the time, with Muslims and Hindus living in relative peace. Hindu persecution began with Aurangzib, who became emperor in 1658. He destroyed Hindu temples, and adopted policies prohibiting exercise of the Hindu religion. The Mughal Empire disintegrated in the 1700s, and in 1764, a major victory brought the subcontinent under British rule.

British rule continued until August, 1947, and Partition. Britain withdrew control of India, and created two nation-states: India with a majority Hindu population, and Pakistan, which was predominantly Muslim.

The plan was that the populations would remain in place, and that the remaining Hindus in Pakistan would live there, as would the remaining Muslims in India. The plan didn't work.

There were mass migrations of some 12 million people, crossing the partition borders, Hindus moving to India and Muslims moving to Pakistan, often leaving everything they owned behind. The ethnic violence killed perhaps a million people. The provinces of Kashmir and Jammu remain chronic sore spots to this day.

The prospects: A new Hindu / Muslim war

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the massive ethnic violence and genocide that followed the 1947 Partition will be re-fought in a new crisis war between India and Pakistan, at some time in the not too distant future.

Conflict risk level for next 6-12 months as of: 9-Feb-2006
W. Europe 1 Arab Israeli 3
Russia Caucasus 2 Kashmir 2
China 2 North Korea 2
Financial 3 Bird flu 3
Key: 1=green 1=Low risk 2=yellow 2=Med 3=red 3=High 4=black 4=Active

In my little "conflict risk" graphic, I've put the Kashmir problem at Level 2 (medium risk of regional war in the next six months). As I've explained, I have great admiration for both Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf and his Indian counterpart, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Both Pakistan and India are nuclear powers, but these two leaders have engineered a remarkable détente that has prevented a conflict, and they've pulled back from the continuing seething dispute over Kashmir and Jammu. The question that I'm considering is whether the time has come for me to raise this potential conflict to Level 3 (high risk).

Musharraf, born 1943, and Singh, born 1932, are both survivors of World War II and the subsequent genocidal war fought after Partition and independence. This is exactly the kind of détente that can be expected from people in an "Artist" type, people who grow up during a crisis war. They become adults who, as a group, are more sensitive and more willing to compromise than people in other generations.

When they retire or die, they're replaced by people in the arrogant post-war generations (like our Baby Boomers and Generation-Xers). People in these generations are far more confrontational, and that's been pretty apparent for some time from reading Benazir Bhutto's statements. In particular, Bhutto's statements regarding terrorist activities in Waziristan have been considerably harsher than those of Musharraf, and echo Bhutto's father's attitudes towards the insurgency in Balochistan in the 1970s.

(There was a suicide bombing in southern Balochistan on Saturday. Press reports claim that it was unrelated to the assassination attempt on Bhutto, but that's far from clear. It could well have been perpetrated by the same insurgency that Bhutto's father fought in the 1970s.) (Paragraph added 21-Oct)

The disappearance of either Musharraf or Singh would change the situation dramatically, as either one would likely be replaced by someone much younger, and much more confrontational. This is the kind of generational change that leads to new crisis wars.

The rapidly deteriorating political situation in Pakistan raises the possibility that such a change of leadership could be close; and even if Musharraf and Bhutto do come to a power-sharing arrangement, the political situation may continue to deteriorate anyway, and this could spiral into a confrontation with India.

I'm not the only person that this thought has occurred to; the India news media is expressing increasing concern about the situation in Pakistan. Here's a possible scenario from the Hindustan Times:

"The attacks were not unexpected in Karachi, which is a hotbed of sectarian killings. Intelligence reports even warned that various jehadi groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban were planning to carry out such strikes on Ms Bhutto on her return. The fact that the former premier announced the date and place of her return weeks ago probably gave the perpetrators enough time to prepare. Although no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, many elements in Pakistan are opposed to Ms Bhutto’s possible return to power. She is widely seen as a pro-Western moderate and her open statements supporting US policy in the region obviously put her in the cross-hairs of terrorist outfits. She returns to the political scene at a time when Pervez Musharraf’s grip on the presidency is at its weakest since he seized power in a coup eight years ago. The General’s popularity ratings continue to nosedive even as Opposition parties challenged his re-election as president earlier this month. The loyalty of Pakistan’s powerful military and US patronage appear to be just about the only things going for the embattled president. ...

Ironically, the very forces that the general and Ms Bhutto had created now pose the biggest threat to them. For it was during Ms Bhutto’s second term in office in 1994, when General Musharraf was her Director General of Military Operations, that they projected the Taliban as a force to further Pakistani interests in Afghanistan. But now, any military solution they try out against the radicals would likely trigger more turbulence and invite attacks on the Pakistan army.

As Pakistan drifts, the problem for India is that Islamabad’s military rulers might try to divert attention by indulging in military adventurism. Which means a real danger of increased militancy in Kashmir, more active insurgencies in the North-east and terrorist strikes in the subcontinent."

To this I would add one more scenario. Although there have been a dozen suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks in Pakistan this year alone, they haven't yet galvanized the Pakistani people into political unity. (This is the generational concept of "regeneracy," referring to the regeneracy of national unity that occurs during crisis eras.) It's possible that this particular attack, directed at Bhutto and hence at the heart of Pakistan's democracy, could change the population's behaviors and attitudes to the point where they'll demand that "something must be done." This could cause, to select one of many possible scenarios, a panicked reaction that leads to some kind of inter-tribal warfare, and that too could spread into India. (Paragraph added 21-Oct)

As these scenarios illustrate, the situation in Pakistan is becoming increasingly dangerous, and may be close to spiraling into all-out war. (21-Oct-07) Permanent Link
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