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Video News Log: The Bhutto Assassination

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Written reports are not sufficient to convey the level of chaos which has seized Pakistan since the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi on Thursday. The country has been upended by violence which dwarfs the riots in reaction to government crackdowns this fall.

Bhutto may have been controversial for some, but it is clear that many Pakistanis were pinning their hopes for a return to orderly representative government on her campaign to return as Prime Minister, and her assassination has directed their anger at the current government.

Violence immediately after the assassination on Thursday was followed by further rioting associated with her funeral Friday in Karachi, which was attended by hundreds of thousands of mourners, pouring through the streets, carrying her coffin and passing it from hand-to-hand. The level of grief and outrage was palpable.

As always, YouTube provides us with easy access to an interesting selection of videos, starting with live CNN coverage of the Bhutto funeral interspersed with riot footage, all very choppy, but with good commentary:


Further video from SkyNews includes clips of various leaders giving their tributes to Bhutto, some of the best of the riot footage, including clips of burning busses, and more funeral coverage.

Speculation has been running wild about how Bhutto actually died. Initial reports that she was killed by three gunshots fired from the crowd immediately before the explosion have now been disputed. One claim is that the shots were fired by a sniper, not a gunman in the crowd. Another theory is that a blow to the head or neck from the side of the sun roof of her car caused a fatal injury. Another is that her death was caused by shrapnel from the explosion. The one area of agreement seems to be that the wound to her neck caused her death.

As with the Kennedy assassination there are several videos circulating of the attack and more will probably surface in the next few days. None of the current videos are very clear, but they are being studied to try to determine what actually happened. Here are two different views of the actual attack, gunshots and explosion, one from CNN and one from SkyNews:



Meanwhile, speculation that the Musharraf government or other groups may have been responsible for the assassination has been effectively countered with the release of an apparent intercepted al Qaeda telephone conversation about the assassination, which seems to substantiate their claim of responsibility. Certainly al Qaeda had much  reason to be hostile towards Bhutto as anyone, and their ability to carry out operations inside Pakistan has been demonstrated before.

It seems too soon to say what the ultimate outcome for Pakistan will be, but it certainly could be on the brink of civil war, or facing an upheaval just short of that outcome. The Musharraf government has promised to restore order, but as demonstrated earlier this year, their heavy-handed tactics are prone to backfire and provoke more anger. If the elections are actually held on January 8th as promised, the outcome could be a radical change in government, or the final straw that breaks the camel's back and leads to all-out civil war.

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About Dave Nalle

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Dave,

    From what I have glommed from various media is some believe with Bhutto’s demise along with Sharif’s promised boycott of the election, if indeed it is actually held, that pretty much opens the door for Musharraf to further strengthen his hold over the government.

    But with the chaos and rising anger amongst a large portion of the populace, the country’s stability, I think, is in serious question. Many expect Musharraf to reinstate his “state of emergency” order. Of course, this time, there really is an emergency.

    As you’ve noted, Bhutto had a good deal of negative baggage herself – not least the numerous charges that she and her family had stolen huge sums of money during her two tenures as PM. Nevertheless, had some kind of coalition been worked out between Bhutto and Musharraf, some further stability may have been achieved, for a time at least. Now we will never know.

    One can assume, though, that had they not gotten to her on Thursday, someone would have eventually succeeded. Murder and assassination are pretty much a way of life in that part of the world. Someone on PBS noted that in the 60 year history of Pakistan, not one of the country’s leaders has left office either willingly and/or alive. That given, I don’t think I’ll submit my application for a job in Pakistani government any time soon. There appears to be no future in it. I would imagine that Musharraf may be experiencing enormous and recurring waves of flop sweat even as we speak, or, er, write.

    B-tone

  • Alec

    Dave – re: Speculation has been running wild about how Bhutto actually died.

    Well, no. The more complex truth is that various “official” reports have been contradictory, and at times unbelievable.

    RE: Meanwhile, speculation that the Musharraf government or other groups may have been responsible for the assassination has been effectively countered with the release of an apparent intercepted al Qaeda telephone conversation about the assassination, which seems to substantiate their claim of responsibility.

    This is simply not true that Musharraf’s complicity has been “effectively countered.” I keep seeing how various pundits and government officials, both in Pakistan and here at home, keep wanting to push the simplistic answers, and fall back on “al Qaeda” and “global war on terror” with the same empty posturing as Rudy G’s continual invocations of “9/11.”

    Failing to understand the actual sources of danger ultimately puts us, our allies, and the world, more at risk than if we latch on to inaccurate fantasies.

    Some reports from eyewitnesses clearly contradict the most recent official reports that Bhutto hit her head and might have survived the bomb attack had she not insisted on waving to the crowd:

    But Ms Bhutto’s associates disputed the official account, saying the government was trying to abdicate its responsibility for her security.

    “To hear that Ms Bhutto fell from an impact from a bump on a sun roof is absolutely rubbish. It is dangerous nonsense, because it implies there was no assassination attempt,” a spokeswoman for Ms Bhutto’s PPP party, Sherry Rehman, told the BBC.

    “There was a clear bullet wound at the back of the neck. It went in one direction and came out another… My entire car is coated with her blood, my clothes, everybody – so she did not concuss her head against the sun roof….”

    And it is interesting that al Qaeda is denying responsibility instead of claiming credit:

    But a spokesman for the South Waziristan tribal leader denied he was involved, calling it “government propaganda”.

    “He had no involvement in this attack,” spokesman Maulana Omar said in a telephone call.

    A fuller link to the story with this information.

    RE: Certainly al Qaeda had much reason to be hostile towards Bhutto as anyone, and their ability to carry out operations inside Pakistan has been demonstrated before.

    But of course, the same can be said of Musharraf and others. The greater irony may well be that both the authoritarians and the fundamentalists in Pakistan will find that the people, from the elite to the will, will not be willing to accept the chaos and destruction promised by those who were behind Bhutto’s murder.

    And here, by the way, is a key difference between the situation in Pakistan, and the situation in Afghanistan or Iraq. Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan and Iraq are trying to prevent the creation of a central government. Authoritarians and fundamentalists in Pakistan are trying to pull down a more stable central government whose legitimacy was acknowledged, even if many were unhappy with it. Many in Pakistan (as reinforced by many of the interesting Desicritics posts) clearly see that the authoritarians have failed to live up to their promises, and that the fundamentalists offer nothing but social and economic regression.

  • Lumpy

    Alec. I get the impression that you’re spinnning for someone’s party line. i’m just not sure yet if it’s the terrorists the authoritarians or the international socialists.

  • Alec

    Lumpy – RE: I get the impression that you’re spinnning for someone’s party line. i’m just not sure yet if it’s the terrorists the authoritarians or the international socialists.

    How sad for you.

    I think that simplistic allegiance to any ideology is the hobgoblin of weak minds.

    I note that instead of bringing something to the table, some new fact, or even informed opinion, you have to resort to pointless ruminations about my possible motives. This is, of course, a waste of your time.

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    I do think it strange that initial reports coming from the hospital stated that Ms. Bhutto had been shot as many as three times and that one of those wounds was lethal. Then, hours later they say that she was not shot at all, nor were there any shrapnel wounds. Would trained doctors make such a mistake?

    What I’ve heard regarding the supposed phone intercept came from Musharraf’s people. Is there any outside confirmation of this call. its substance and source?

    There was no love lost between Bhutto and Musharraf. That he or his followers may have been the instigators of either or both assassination attempts is certainly not a stretch, no less likely than an al qaida or talaban operation. To accept the word of Musharraf’s people unquestioned is ridiculous. Hell, maybe it was Bush settling some outstanding chits.

    B-tone

  • alessandro

    Great. A sequel to JFK?

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Regarding the intercepted phonecall. Yes, it does come from the Musharraf administration, but I see no reason not to believe them at this point. If they didn’t want Bhutto in Pakistan they could have kept her out rather than letting her in and allowing her to stir people up. I just don’t see the motive for assassinating her. It just seems like a dumb move for someone in Musharraf’s position.

    As for how she died, the current explanation is that the blast from the bomb slammed her head down on the roof of the car and the neck wound was from the crank for the sun roof. The bomb blast explains hitting the car with killing force fairly convincingly.

    Dave

  • Alec

    re: Regarding the intercepted phonecall. Yes, it does come from the Musharraf administration, but I see no reason not to believe them at this point.

    Because, why?…. The problem here is that whether or not one believes the Musharraf regime is not based on anything that is either tangible or definitive.

    RE: If they didn’t want Bhutto in Pakistan they could have kept her out rather than letting her in and allowing her to stir people up.

    Really? The Bush Administration, and Bhutto supporters, were pushing big time for Musharraf to allow Bhutto to re-enter the country as part of a power-sharing arrangement. Musharraf was between a rock and a hard place. Do you really think that he would have been able to count on dollars in military aid from the Bush Administration had he refused to let Bhutto return?

    And let me be blunt here: exactly why would Musharraf want to share power? In retrospect, attempting to force Bhutto onto Musharraf seems like one of the greatest blunders in political history ever.

    RE: I just don’t see the motive for assassinating her. It just seems like a dumb move for someone in Musharraf’s position.

    Huh? Sometimes people do dumb things. Compare what happened here with the murder of Benigno Aquino. Even though he was accompanied by foreign journalists and an impressive security force, he was murdered at the airport before he could even step onto the ground.

    The Marcos regime claimed that a Communist hit man was responsible, just as Musharraf is eager to blame “terrorists” or al Qadeda in order to cloak himself with US support. It is almost pathetic that many in the US are eager to accept this explanation.

    RE: As for how she died, the current explanation is that the blast from the bomb slammed her head down on the roof of the car and the neck wound was from the crank for the sun roof. The bomb blast explains hitting the car with killing force fairly convincingly.

    As I have noted, this explanation is not being accepted by many Pakistanis and is being directly contradicted by other people who were actually on the scene.

    In the absence of an independent forensics examination, including an examination of Bhutto’s body, any claims that an “explanation” is “convincing” doesn’t really mean much.

    By the way, the aftermath of the murder of Benigno Aquino may be useful in suggesting what might happen in Pakistan following the murder of Benazir Bhutto. From Wikipedia:

    The death of Benigno Aquino transformed the Philippine opposition from a small isolated movement to a massive unified crusade, incorporating people from all walks of life. The middle class got involved, the impoverished majority participated, and business leaders whom Marcos had irked during martial law endorsed the campaign–all with the crucial support of the military and the Catholic Church hierarchy. The assassination showed the increasing incapacity of the Marcos regime—Ferdinand was mortally ill when the crime occurred while his cronies mismanaged the country in his absence. It outraged Aquino’s supporters that he, if not masterminding it, allowed the assassination to happen and engineered its cover-up. The mass revolt caused by Aquino’s demise attracted worldwide media attention and Marcos’ American contacts, as well as the Reagan Administration, began distancing themselves. There was global media spotlight to the Philippine crisis, and exposés on Imelda’s extravagant lifestyle (most infamously, her thousands of pairs of shoes) and “mining operations”, as well as Ferdinand’s dictatorial excesses, came into focus.

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    I agree with Alec to the extent that we should at least be circumspect regarding the story coming from the Musharraf camp. I think it’s unclear just who will benefit from Bhutto’s death. Musharraf may. But if things continue to turn to shit in Pakistan, it may be that Musharraf’s days are numbered. His entire regime could come apart at the seams.

    I believe it is true that Bhutto’s return was encouraged, perhaps forced by U.S. interests. Musharraf has been walking a very delicate balancing act between pressure brought to bear on him by the U.S. and the various factions in his own country who harbour no love for us. For every card he plays into our hand, he must also deal one to those who would otherwise have his head.

    Dave, you are usually very cryptic about unsubstantiated claims, yet you seem willing to accept the Musharraf line on the Bhutto killing without question.

    While there is currently no solid evidence counter to Musharraf’s position, nor has there been any way to confirm it. That Musharraf pretty much controls all of the information regarding Bhutto’s death, the intercepted cell call, etc., what independent confirmation can there be? While it’s wrong to assume they are lying, neither is it smart to accept their word unquestioningly.

    I’m not sure what it means for the U.S. regardless of who was behind Bhutto’s murder. What IS important is maintaining control of Pakistan’s nukes in friendly hands.

    B-tone

  • bliffle

    Musharaf is a mathematician and chess player and I doubt that he would have made such a dumb move, which would accomplish nothing and damage him. He had already reduced the position of PM to a figurehead and that could only serve his interests as window dressing.

    One must look for someone who would gain by eliminating Bhutto and harming Musharaf. Al Queda is a handy suspect, but mideast politics has many possible suspects.

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    blif,

    As you say “mideast politics has many possible suspects.” I doubt that any of us commenting here really know who might benefit from Bhutto’s death. Musharraf may be a smart cookie. As I noted above, he has been playing a pretty dicey game balancing between the west and a variety of factions within his country. But, with Bhutto’s return, the squeeze was on. Even if, as you note, the PM position now has no teeth, still, just the presence of Bhutto in the government could have caused Musharraf a variety of headaches. She would likely have been very vocal and wouold have endeavored to make herself as much of a squeeky wheel, or a fly in Musharraf’s ointment as possible.

    I don’t know the answer, of course, but anything is possible. Just take note of the thread concerning Bhutto’s David Frost interview in which she claims that bin Laden had been murdered, AND the subsequent censoring of that same interview apparently by the British government. Maybe she was talking about ‘another’ Osama bin Laden. It just makes things even crazier. What if bin Laden IS dead? We just can’t assume anything. Just having that little tid bit out there adds to the mix of crazy craziness, don’t ya think?

    B-tone

  • Tyrone Gangsta

    Dion looks more like a coward every day.