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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 29-Dec-07
Benazir Bhutto assassination appears to be uniting Pakistan against Musharraf

Web Log - December, 2007

Benazir Bhutto assassination appears to be uniting Pakistan against Musharraf

There was widespread rioting and looting in major cities of Pakistan on Friday, the day of Bhutto's funeral, following her assassination on Thursday.

Official map of Pakistan, with the addition of the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), highlighting Swat Valley <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source:</font>
Official map of Pakistan, with the addition of the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), highlighting Swat Valley (Source:

As expected, the greatest rioting occurred in Karachi, the capital of Bhutto's native Sindh process, where police have been given permission to shoot looters on sight. Bhutto was Sindhi herself, and she was seen as a Sindhi hero who had many hopes vested in her to bring change to Pakistan and the Sindhi people.

However, the rioting and looting were not ethnically based. The looting was directed at government institutions -- banks, political offices, and so forth -- associated with government of President Pervez Musharraf.

As I've said many times, Generational Dynamics concerns itself with the behaviors and attitudes of great masses of people, entire generations of people. The actions or behaviors of politicians are irrelevant except insofar as they reflect the attitudes of the masses of people.

Unfortunately, the press is so heavily biased against and hostile to Musharraf that it's not altogether possible to discern what's going on from news reports. Still, what's clear is that there's lots of violence but no ethnic violence.

All we can really conclude in this rapidly evolving situation is that, so far, there are no signs of ethnic violence, and there are going signs of anger directed at Musharraf.

That could change quickly, however. One mourner at her funeral was quoted as saying: "Punjab is responsible for this. We hate the Punjab. Benazir was safe wherever she went, but when she went to Punjab, she was martyred. The future of Pakistan is very dark."

One big problem is that there's no clear successor to Bhutto, and another big problem is that there would be no clear successor to Musharraf if he were to disappear. Musharraf is a survivor of the bloodbath surrounding the 1947 Partition that created the nations of India and Pakistan.

I've said many times that I have great admiration for both Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf and his Indian counterpart, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, because these two leaders have engineered a remarkable détente that has prevented a nuclear conflict between the two countries. Both Musharraf and Singh survived Partition, they were both born in India -- though they have different religions (Muslim and Sikh, respectively.) (This paragraph corrected on 3-Jan.)

Thus, as pressure builds to remove Musharraf from office, it's hard to see how the situation could go any way but downhill if Musharraf is forced to leave. His replacement might well be Punjabi, but he would be much younger, and much less willing to compromise with Singh and India. And his replacement would NOT be Sindhi, so the Sindhi groups would be dissatisfied.

And so, as far as I can tell, replacing Musharraf would substantially increase the probably of ethnic war and the probability of war with India, probably in some scenario starting from the disputed region of Kashmir.

I'll mention one strange thing that happened on Friday. Pakistan's Interior Ministry announced that Bhutto was not killed by a bullet or by shrapnel from the suicide bomb. Instead, the force of the bomb caused her to bump her head on a metal lever, resulting in her death.

Bhutto had standing with her head and upper body through the sunroof of her car, as she was waving at her supporters, when the attack took place. A ministry spokesman said Bhutto had died from a head wound after smashing against the sunroof’s lever as she tried to shelter inside her car. "There is no evidence of any foreign element in her body. No bullet hit her, nor any splinters hit her. Unfortunately, it was to be that way. I wish she had not come out of the roof top of her vehicle."

As one pundit put it, this claim is so bizarre that it's probably true, since the Musharraf government has nothing to gain by making up such a story. What really matters is her death, and the cause is irrelevant.

This assassination appears to be a great victory for al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Bhutto was a strongly pro-American secular leader, and her demise is a victory by al-Qaeda over both Pakistan and the West.

Al-Qaeda has targeted a number of Pakistani political figures in recent years, including two attempts on the life of President Musharraf, one on the former corps commander of Karachi, one on Ahsan Saleem Hayat, one on the former prime minister Shaukat Aziz and two attempts on former interior minister Aftab Sherpao. The last attempt, on Sherpao, occurred only a week ago.

And now, Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid, a top al-Qaeda commander, has claimed credit for the murder, saying it had killed "the most precious American asset."

The death of Benazir Bhutto has hurt Pakistan deeply. It's hard to imagine a more unstable situation. With so much popular opposition building, it's hard to see how Musharraf can hold onto office for long. And it's hard to see how any replacement would satisfy more than a minority of the country. In this highly emotional and unstable situation, it's quite possible that a new leader will emerge, and draw the support of the entire country, or draw the support of one group and the opposition of another group.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Pakistan is in a generational Crisis era, since 60 years have passed since the end of the genocidal bloodbath that occurred with Partition. The political situation is so unstable that the possibility of panic on someone's part -- the government or an opposition group -- is very high, and depends on chaotic triggers that can't be predicted. What's certain is that at some point in the not too distant future, there will be a new ethnic war, and a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. (29-Dec-07) Permanent Link
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