More Benazir post-mortem

The AP had a fuller version of comments quoted yesterday from Bhutto’s spokeswoman Sherry Rehman, who had been with Benazir when she was shot and rode with her as she was rushed to the hospital:
“She was bleeding profusely, as she had received a bullet wound in her neck. My car was full of blood. Three doctors at the hospital told us that she had received bullet wounds. I was among the people who gave her a final bath. We saw a bullet wound in the back of her neck,” she said. “What the government is saying is actually dangerous and nonsensical. They are pouring salt on our wounds. There are no findings, they are just lying.”

The same AP story reported that Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema, who gave the press conference saying — preposterously — that Benazir died from banging her head on a lever of the sun roof in the car in which she was riding, “stood by the government’s version of events, and said Bhutto’s party was free to exhume her body for an autopsy…[And he] defended the government’s ability to carry out its investigation. He said an independent judicial probe should be completed within seven days of the appointment of its presiding judge. ‘This is not an ordinary criminal matter in which we require assistance of the international community. I think we are capable of handling it’, he said”.

At-largely here shows photos shown on Pakistan’s Dawn TV of the assassin – clean-shaven, in a suit, with sunglasses (could it be a woman, Larisa asks?). Comments on democraticunderground here say that the suicide bomber, with white fabric over his(?) head, stays right behind the person with the gun:

image of Bhutto assassin firing - from Dawn News TV

image of Bhutto assassin from Dawn News TV


Meanwhile, the same AP story added, “White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Pakistan had not officially requested U.S. help. ‘It’s a responsibility of the government of Pakistan to ensure that the investigation is thorough. If Pakistani authorities ask for assistance we would review the request’, he said. A senior U.S. official, however, said Pakistan was already ‘discussing with other governments as to how best the investigation can be handled’. With the United States, the discussions ‘are about what we can offer and what the Pakistanis want. Having some help to make sure international questions are answered is definitely an option’, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no agreement had yet come from the discussions. There was no immediate confirmation from Pakistani officials”. This AP report is posted here.

One of the things I’ve been wondering about is why Benazir studied for two Bachelor’s degrees — the first from Harvard, the second from Oxford in the U.K. — instead of going for a Master’s. Then, a New York Times story made me realize that it was all about networking, about making contacts, rather than earning one degree or another. (But a second bachelor’s degree would also be a bit easier than going for a Master’s … especially if Benazir is one of those girls who just want to have fun.)

The NYTimes article today, entitled How Bhutto Won Washington, reported that “Ms. Bhutto, the Pakistani opposition leader and two-time prime minister, who was assassinated in Rawalpindi on Thursday as she campaigned for the office a third time, had a more extensive network of powerful friends in the capital’s political and media elite than almost any other foreign leader. Over the years, she scrupulously cultivated those friends, many from her days at Harvard and Oxford. She was rewarded when her connections — at the White House, in Congress and within the foreign policy establishment — helped propel her into power in Pakistan … She arrived at Harvard in the fall of 1969 as a primly dressed 16-year-old, bewildered by American customs … But Ms. Bhutto adapted, and quickly befriended not only Mr. [Peter W. Galbraith, identified in the NYTimes piece as “a former United States ambassador and a longtime friend of Ms. Bhutto’s”] Galbraith but E. J. Dionne and Michael Kinsley, now both columnists for The Post, and Walter Isaacson, the president of the Aspen Institute and a former managing editor of Time. By the time she got to Oxford, Ms. Bhutto drove a sports car, and she soon became president of the Oxford Union debating society. ‘I remember her being very intense’, Mr. Isaacson recalled. ‘But she had this really big smile, and she had this ability to be charming’. Ms. Bhutto’s first important trip to Washington was in the spring of 1984, when Mr. Galbraith, then a Democratic staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, acted as her host and tutor. By then she was 30 years old and scarred from the bloody politics back home. Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had been president and prime minister of Pakistan but was hanged in 1979 on the orders of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, Pakistan’s military ruler. Ms. Bhutto, who had spent months in prison and years under house arrest, was now leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party of her father and determined to oust General Zia. Her goal in Washington was to persuade conservative Reagan administration officials that they would be better off with her in power. It was not going to be easy: Ms. Bhutto’s father was known for his fiery anti-Western rhetoric, and she had marched against the Vietnam War at Harvard. ‘What she was up against was her reputation of being this anti-American radical’, Mr. Galbraith said. ‘So we spent a lot of time talking about what messages she needed to convey’. In meetings with key members of Congress at the time — among them Senator Charles H. Percy, the Illinois Republican who was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Representative Stephen J. Solarz of Brooklyn, who was a senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee — Ms. Bhutto, under Mr. Galbraith’s tutelage, expressed her support for democracy and the mujahedeen ‘freedom fighters’ who were battling the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. ‘She was this completely charming, beautiful woman who could flatter the senators, and who could read their political concerns, who could persuade them that she would much better serve American interests in Afghanistan than Zia’, Mr. Galbraith said. On that same trip, Mr. Galbraith introduced Ms. Bhutto to Mark Siegel, a political operative who had been executive director of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Siegel was taken with Ms. Bhutto and supported her cause. He became a lobbyist for the government of Pakistan when Ms. Bhutto was in power. Most recently he was her collaborator on a book scheduled for publication in 2008. ‘I started to walk the halls of Congress with her in 1984, and she developed poise and confidence and maturity’, Mr. Siegel said. ‘She also understood how important these relationships were’. Still, he said, ‘I would have dinner parties at my house in the beginning, and it was not so easy to get journalists and congressmen and senators to come’. That changed in November 1988, when Ms. Bhutto’s party won a plurality in Parliament in the Pakistani elections but fell short of a majority. As Mr. Galbraith tells it, Reagan administration officials went to Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Pakistan’s acting president, and told him that since Ms. Bhutto commanded the most votes, he would have to invite her to form a government. Ms. Bhutto became prime minister on Dec. 2. ‘And that was the direct result of her networking, of her being able to persuade the Washington establishment, the foreign policy community, the press, the think tanks, that she was a democrat, that she was a moderate, that she was going to be against the Soviets in Afghanistan’, Mr. Galbraith said … Although Ms. Bhutto was twice expelled from office on charges of corruption, she kept up her visits to Washington, usually several a year. She would call on administration officials and members of Congress willing to see her as well as reporters and editors at The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Soon her American Christmas card list, excluding people in government and Congress, was up to 375 names. ‘She understood the nature of political life, which is to stay in touch with people whether you’re in or out of office’, said Karl F. Inderfurth, the former assistant secretary of state for South Asia who attended a dinner for Ms. Bhutto at the Willard Hotel on her last trip to Washington, in September. ‘She was a superb political operative’. Like other foreign leaders, Ms. Bhutto engaged a public relations firm to arrange meetings for her with administration officials, members of Congress and journalists. For the first six months of 2007, the firm Burson-Marsteller took in fees of close to $250,000 for work on behalf of Ms. Bhutto”. This NYTimes analysis is published here.

Another NYTimes article, an opinion piece, said that “Much has been made since her death of her apparent recklessness. But she had done her calculations and reached the conclusion that the only way she could rally her supporters was by going to them. ‘She wasn’t as reckless as people are making her out to be’, the former police officer told me over the phone. ‘The bulge that you saw under her shalwar kameez wasn’t extra pounds that she had put on during exile. She always wore a bulletproof vest in public’.”

Well, but she also put on some extra pounds, and you don’t need to look at her midriff to see it — it was evident in her face, and neck, and hands.

Anyway, this same NYTimes piece reported that “In the London press conference [just before her return], she was asked about her deal with Mr. Musharraf, which was going to allow her to return without facing charges for the rampant corruption that occurred under her watch. It was a question that had become the bane of her existence. Suddenly, her calculated, irritated voice mellowed and she spoke like the naïve, passionate activist I had seen as a child: ‘I lost my father. Both my brothers were killed violently. Scores of my party workers have died in the struggle for democracy, and now our citizens are being killed indiscriminately every day. We have to stop this. And in order to stop this I’ll talk to anyone that I have to‘ … Throughout her career there were attempts to portray her as a Westernized woman of questionable character. Shortly after her death, I was talking with another friend, one who had never thought much of her. ‘Remember those leaflets we used to collect before her election?’ he asked. He was referring to the 1988 election campaign, when her political rivals hired planes to throw leaflets with photographs that were doctored to show her wearing bikinis and miniskirts and dancing at college parties. It did not stop the people from voting her into power. For Pakistan’s military-mullah establishment, she always remained a bad girl. Not just any ordinary privileged heir to a political dynasty, but a girl half the nation swooned over; a sharp political operator, a speaker who even in her stilted Urdu could have a million people dance to the wave of her hand. And she was not a revolutionary by a long shot — but she could bring people to her rallies, and more important, polling stations by promising them jobs and reasonable electricity bills. On Thursday a heartbroken Bhutto-lover called and left a teary message on my voice mail. He just wanted to share his grief, but reminded me of something else: ‘She might have lost her political battle, but look at it this way. She raised three kids, took care of an ailing mother and still managed to stay in South Asia’s most notorious arranged marriage’.” This opinion piece in the NYTimes is published here.

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