Former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir, who is returning to Pakistan after eight years exile, has alleged that she may be targetted by the elements of the establishment presently ruling the country.
Before her return an impression has been created that she may be targetted by the suicide bomber of Baitullah Masood, a warlord of Waziristan tribal region. The Benazir statement proved one thing-- that Taliban and terrorists have been enjoying the support of the establishment, as after all, she remained the prime minister and may know the real situation of the country.
According to a newspaper comment, the PPP chairperson, Benazir Bhutto, has said that she is determined to return to Pakistan against all odds and isn’t afraid of the plots being made to kill her. She said the South Waziristan warlord Baitullah Mehsud had threatened her directly with suicide-bombing but he was just a pawn in a bigger conspiracy in which the real culprits are “some retired army officers in the establishment”. This throws a new light on Ms Bhutto’s understanding of the lack of security in the country.
The first conclusion one may draw from this statement is that Baitullah Mehsud is a frontman for someone else who actually makes the moves in Pakistan. Earlier, Ms Bhutto had said she did not feel that while President General Pervez Musharraf was opposed to her homecoming the PMLQ government was hostile because it felt threatened by her politically. Now she has pointed to a new source of threat, and it comes from people apparently within the establishment with the knowledge of the rulers.
By calling Baitullah Mehsud a mere pawn Ms Bhutto has linked these “retired officers” to what is going on in South Waziristan. It is quite possible that these officers are either manipulating Baitullah Mehsud or have an ideological affinity with him. It is also possible that President Musharraf is not aware of this linkage and Ms Bhutto is also putting him on notice against the people he is relying on. On the other hand, Baitullah Mehsud is not without his links to the “foreigners” in the region connected with Al Qaeda. In as much as there is coordination between the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda, one has to see Baitullah Mehsud as an agent of Osama bin Laden whose last message contained a reference to Lal Masjid which is the bone of contention between Baitullah Mehsud and President Musharraf.
The attempts made on President Musharraf’s life in the past have been traced to some elements of the military. The last abortive attempt was made during the crisis of Lal Masjid when someone tried to bring down his airplane with anti-aircraft fire. The guns were discovered from Rawalpindi in the midst of a residential area. The suicide-bombings in the course of the crisis were traced by the investigative agencies to South Waziristan where the volunteers were brainwashed and sent down to Islamabad along with their minders. It is difficult to say that there was definite collusion from anyone inside the establishment, but anyone suspecting an “inside job” can hardly be blamed for being far-fetched in his thinking.
There are many reasons people inside the Musharraf establishment may be secretly alienated from his programme of fighting terrorism, his action in the Tribal Areas and his final showdown with the Al Qaeda-connected clerics of Lal Masjid. This alienation is an easy emotional state to achieve because of the almost universal rejection of the anti-terrorist bent of mind among the people of Pakistan. The “denial” followed by “rejection” is based on a feeling of hostility against the United States. The “rejection” first appeared in the Pakistan Army high command during the Zia era when officers started to fashion “doctrines of defiance” in order to throw aside the “yoke of slavery” of America. Therefore the “pro-America” volte-face in the wake of 9/11 may not have brought about a new way of thinking among many military persons, retired or in service. Indeed, the campaign of the national opposition in full glare of the free media has only strengthened the conviction that Pakistan is enslaved to American policies.
Ms Bhutto went against the grain of the thinking of the average Pakistani when she began to raise her voice against terrorism in Pakistan after the infiltration of the Taliban and Al Qaeda elements into Pakistan following 9/11. Since then she has indirectly supported President Musharraf’s campaign against this terrorism. She also spoke with great clarity against the clerics of Lal Masjid and maintained her stance even after most Pakistanis decided to change their minds about the matter.
The message one can deduce from her statement about the “retired army officers” is clearly meant for President Musharraf who could be out of the loop in relation to what people in organisations theoretically under his control are planning to do. Of course, it is not only some retired elements who are dead-set against her; there are others within the ruling party who could be more “in the loop” than he because of their own fears. Therefore there is a great danger that this message might be taken as just another political ruse to divide President Musharraf and his party, and ignored. Yet, in Pakistan no intimation of any terrorist threat should be ignored.