Pakistan: The story behind the story
The turmoil we see in the Muslim, nuclear-armed nation of Pakistan is caused by radical Islamists, not by President Pervez Musharraf. The majority of Pakistanis are both moderate and tired. They are tired of radical Islamist’ violence. They are tired of the political efforts of the leftists to make Pakistan a purely secular state.
The majority of Pakistanis are moderate in that they hope the plan hatched a few weeks ago by President Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto might, eventually, come to pass. Mrs. Bhutto is the titular head of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). If elected Prime Minister next January, she was supposed to recognize Musharraf as Pakistan’s civilian president.
The heart of the violence stems from the Federally (meaning locally) Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). “Federal” is a euphemism for the fact that no power, be it British, Russian, Chinese or Pakistani has ever been able to “govern” the tribes living in terrain that would scare a mountain goat. Wisely, Osama bin Laden and his sort are hiding among the ungovernable tribes.
Eight hours before former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto boarded the flight that would take her back to homeland from which she and her family were expelled eight years ago, she phoned my colleague United Press International and The Washington Times editor-at-large, Arnaud de Borchgrave. Mrs. Bhutto gave him a list of names of those most likely to assassinate her when she arrived in Karachi.
Arnaud offered to accompany Mrs. Bhutto; however, it is a good thing that he did not because, shortly after her arrival in Karachi, a bomb killed 142 and wounded over 400. Miraculously, Mrs. Bhutto escaped unharmed.
Mrs. Bhutto fled back to Dubai; however, as of this writing, she is back in Pakistan. While Mrs. Bhutto fled back to Dubai President Pervez Musharraf decided the Supreme Court would not recognize his recent reelection and, without proper recognition, the Musharraf-Bhutto deal would work. So, Musharraf suspended the Constitution, packed the court (as FDR tried and failed to do in this country) and locked up hundreds of lawyers. Hard to fault that last part.
Some background on Arnaud de Borchgrave: Probably no one reporting today has better access to the world’s movers and shakers on both sides of the war between the radical Muslims and the Judeo-Christian world than Arnaud de Borchgrave. Born a Belgian nobleman, he served in the Royal Navy in World War II. He dropped the title “Count” long ago; however, crowned heads from London to Tokyo have not forgotten his origins.
Speaking immaculate French, English and some Arabic, Arnaud often gets the story without the need for a local interpreter, who may or may not portray the nuances of what Arnaud is being told. Accompanied by his beautiful wife, Alexandra, the pair is welcome in the gilded halls and the corridors of power around the world.
Wonder Wife and yours truly have known Arnaud and Alexandra for almost 20 years. Among other places, we’ve traveled together to Moscow (back when the communists ruled), to Seoul, South Korea, and even toured the DMZ together. For writers seeking depth and context for their columns, it is wonderful to follow in the wake of Arnaud. He opens doors other writers cannot breach.
As Mrs. Bhutto was preparing for her previous return to Pakistan, she e-mailed Arnaud saying, “I very much want you near me and will have you seated next to me for the final leg to Karachi…” Later, when Mrs. Bhutto phoned Arnaud a list of likely assassins, it made better sense for Arnaud to remain in Florida with the list.
Furious that Musharraf could not prevent the attempt on her life, Mrs. Bhutto has reneged on their deal and is calling for Musharraf’s ouster; however, one suspects that’s just for show.
A Jeffersonian democracy in Pakistan is not a choice. The choice is which dictator’s finger is on the nuclear trigger: that of U.S.-friendly, President Musharraf, or Osama bin Laden.
William Hamilton is a syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today. Writing as William Penn, he and his wife, Penny, are the co-authors of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2007. William Hamilton.