Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday said no one in his country’s government, intelligence agencies, or military had anything to do with the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. He said Islamic extremists who have committed a string of recent suicide bombings were probably responsible. (The New York Times, free registration)
What the commentators said
Bhutto was a victim of her own legacy, said William Dalrymple in The New York Times (free registration). She allowed the violent Islamist militant groups suspected in her assassination to “flourish under her administrations in the 1980s and 1990s.” It was under her “watch” that Pakistan’s intelligence service installed the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The Bush adminstration has responded to the assassination by reaching out Muslim moderates, said Ronald R. Krebs in Slate. But that could be a big mistake, because cooperating openly with the U.S. won’t boost the moderates’ local appeal. “The West's criticism, more than its love, may be what Muslim moderates desperately need if they are to become a political force to be reckoned with.”
Islamic radicals "have a great opportunity to enhance their power and further complicate U.S. efforts in neighboring Afghanistan," said Jay Bookman in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Musharraf and the Pakistani military long ago backed off efforts to patrol Pakistan's northwest regions, where Osama bin Laden is rumored to hide, so they could try to consolidate control of Pakistan's cities and southern areas. As the situation deteriorates, the military is likely to pull back even farther."
Don’t expect Pakistan to become a “perfect” democracy any time soon, said Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post (free registration). Forget the “Jeffersonian ideal,” and accept “both the enduring presence of feudal politics and the preeminent role of the military, Pakistan's one functioning national institution, as a guarantor of the state.” And accept that we can’t abandon Musharraf, “however dubious his democratic credentials,” because “his fall would unleash the deluge.”