Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhutto Assassinated

Damn it.

Ok, a bit of analysis. Short term: war on terror is reinforced, as is (possibly) Musharraf's position. While supporters of the opposition will treat Bhutto as a Martyr, this only reinforces the perception that nobody is safe in Pakistan, and people will likely rally to whatever security they can find. That's the former General. The Islamists within and outside the government are also strengthened, as they've just proven that they can take out one of the most carefully guarded targets in the world, and have removed a "third party" from the conflict between them and Washington's supporters.

Medium term, that's the key dynamic here. Whoever wins the next election, we've just seen the assassination of someone who was a key symbol of many people's desire to cast a pox on both their houses. She wasn't Washington's pawn, and wasn't an Islamist either. She was something else- a positive indication that the dynamic can be changed. No more. It's Americans vs. the "terrists" again, maybe even more so.

The thing is, this might also blow back up in the Islamists' faces. She's a martyr, there's no doubt about that. If someone else in Pakistan can take up her standard, this could lead to widespread revulsion towards the Islamist movement as a whole, and those that live in Pakistan specifically. People will rally around what security they can find out of fear, but if someone can transform that fear into outrage, it could be a very, very bad time to be an Islamic extremist in Pakistan.

(The Islamic political parties are likely to have a very bad time in the next election--the MMA is going to have some serious issues--thoughthe ones who spurn electoral politics aren't going to care about that.)

That person might be Nawaz Sharif. Maybe not. Might be Riaz Khan, too, don't know much about him.

One other thing: this has been condemned as "a senseless act". It's nothing of the sort. It's a very deliberate move to reinforce the battle lines as being between Musharraf (and Washington) and the Islamic extremists. Both hate each other, but both reinforces the others' positions through their actions: Musharraf's crackdowns only help the theocrats' position. Bhutto was screwing that up, and a powerful woman besides. So Bhutto was killed. A contemptible act, yes, but if you don't admit that something can have reasons, you can't figure out what those reasons are.

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