BENAZIR BLUNDER Why were thousands subjected to slaughter on Oct. 18?

SYED TAUSIEF AUSAF comments on the recent killings in Karachi after the arrival of former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto there, and wonders why the elegant lady does not tell the nation the details of the threats she is facing.

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SYED TAUSIEF AUSAF

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SYED TAUSIEF AUSAF comments on the recent killings in Karachi after the arrival of former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto there, and wonders why the elegant lady does not tell the nation the details of the threats she is facing.

If Benazir Bhutto had extensive information, as she claims, about plots against her life – including names of ringleaders – days before she flew to Karachi, why did she choose to jeopardise, during her jamboree from the airport to Jinnah’s tomb, the lives of 200,000 activists of the Pakistan Peoples Party?
The PPP’s lifetime chairperson owes a cogent reply to a simple question: Knowing from intelligence sources that at least four separate suicide cells were planning to attack her, why she still insisted on setting off on a crawling convoy through Karachi’s streets? It is atrociously ridiculous that even after a good nine-hour journey, the rally had not reached Mazar-e-Qaid. That 20 police officers and 50 Janisaran-e-Benazir (private guards) were among the dead puts a big question mark over the wisdom of her decision.
She claims to have sent Gen. Pervez Musharraf a letter two days before her return, naming “three individuals and more” who should be investigated for their sympathies with the militants in case she was assassinated. Bhutto’s close aides unofficially say one of those named in the letter is Ijaz Shah, the director general of the Intelligence Bureau. The second person is Ijazul Haq, Musharraf’s Islamic Affairs minister. And there is ambiguity over the third name. For reasons best known to herself Bhutto has not made public those names.  If Bhutto is to be believed, a “friendly country” has even given her telephone numbers of those planning to eliminate her. If she has such solid evidence against the three, why has she not lodged an FIR against them? She should have named them as main suspects in the October 18 bombing, which killed 150 and injured 600. Her mysterious silence turns her detractors doubt into belief that she is playing games.
The fact is that Bhutto wants to eat the cake and have it too. She has blasted the president’s close aides but has been surreptitiously careful not to implicate Gen. Musharraf. Her goal is to preserve the dubious and secret power-sharing arrangement that allowed her to return to Pakistan, and which may make her prime minister for a third time after parliamentary elections in January. She is looking to the military ruler to amend the constitution (once again), which does not allow a person to be at the helm more than two times.
Keeping politics aside, the PPP should fully cooperate with the government in the probe. Names of the suspects must be immediately published and they should be subjected to a tough grilling. Otherwise the tragedy will become mere political football preventing the case to reach a logical conclusion. The blame game started by the PPP camp will only complicate the issue.
A thorough investigation is all the more necessary because the international Press reproduced a wrong story carried by Daily Times saying that militant leader Baitullah Mehsud had warned to blow up Bhutto. Mehsud and his people have categorically denied that charge. Nobody has so far claimed the responsibility for the massacre. Al Qaeda and Taliban usually own up their strikes.
The carnage has highlighted once again the vulnerability of political gatherings. Pakistan has to go to polls shortly and the Karachi bombing has spread fear. Now Bhutto will be compelled to keep a very restricted public profile. Such limited exposure could greatly hinder gaining further support for the PPP. Here it is surprising to note that the first ever PPP procession in years was bombed, but the ruling PML (Q) rallies or Gen. Musharraf’s public addresses have never been targeted.
Bhutto has revealed to the Press some more plots, including one to infiltrate police guarding her homes in Karachi and Larkana in order to mount attacks “in the garb of a rival political party.” Why doesn’t she tell the nation each and every detail of the threat she is facing? If she is honest, she can make her case stronger by telling her countrymen the names of her foes and the gravity of the problem.
Had it been possible to prevent suicide bombings, the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan would have been different. Even the US, which claims to be able to see through its satellites what is going on in one’s house, is helpless before suicide attackers. Sophisticated jammers fail on manually operated suicide belts. The only way to contain this scourge is to sit down with the disgruntled elements, try to address their grievances and work out a compromise if possible. A person is motivated to blow himself up after he loses all hope. Such strikes can be controlled only if prospective bombers are de-motivated.
The central government has, so far, announced free medical treatment for the injured. Where is ex-gratia for those who lost lives and limbs? The families of the 150 dead urgently need financial assistance. Why has Shaukat Aziz not announced a decent compensation yet? After all, the country’s exchequer has $16 billion.