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De Borchgrave: Bhutto Death Imperils Afghanistan

Thursday, 27 Dec 2007 03:18 PM

By Jim Meyers

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The assassination of his friend, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, has created a massive crisis in Pakistan according to famed journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave, former editor in chief of the Washington Times and presently director and senior adviser for Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax, de Borchgrave recalled that Bhutto had advised against his joining her when she returned to Pakistan in October on the grounds it was too dangerous — an opinion verified when a few hours after her return she was the target of an assassination attempt that left 140 people dead and 320 wounded.

Newsmax: Who do you think was behind this assassination?

de Borchgrave: It could be any number of the extremists who wanted to see her dead including the MMA, a political/religious coalition of six parties on the extremist right who certainly didn’t want her to come back to Pakistan. She knew that she had all sorts of enemies who wanted her dead — she was fully prepared to meet that fate, she was willing to take a chance — a chance she didn’t want me to take.

Newsmax: What is the current situation in Pakistan as a result of her death?

de Borchgrave: Now the future is obviously clouded with uncertainty. I can’t see military rule changing any time soon. On the other hand, military rule is no longer under the command of President Musharraf now that he’s taken off his uniform. The only other democratic leader not an extremist is Nawaz Sharif, who is also back [from exile] but I can’t see this election campaign going forward with only one candidate, Nawaz Sharif, on the democratic side.

It’s unpredictable and also highly volatile and dangerous because Pakistan is one of the world’s eight nuclear powers. According to various public opinion polls, 48 percent of the country approves of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban — the political/religious crazies. It’s an incredibly volatile mix. Anything can happen.

Newsmax: Isn’t it true that the extremist elements are profiting from this?

de Borchgrave: Of course. The more chaos the better for these people. Benazir Bhutto knew that we could not possibly succeed in Afghanistan until that border between Afghanistan and Pakistan was brought back under government control. It is now under al-Qaida and Taliban control, with the army in effect having been defeated there. They’ve lost over 1,000 with 3,000 injured — it was a very unpopular campaign in the federally administered tribal areas on the border because they’ve always been free of any kind of army interference ever since independence.

Sixty years ago it was agreed that the army would stay out of the federally administered tribal areas.

On both sides of the border these tribes are the same: Pashtun tribes on both sides of the border. They don’t recognize the Durant line which is the artificial border created by British colonialism in 1893. That border is not recognized by an awful lot of people — mostly political religious fundamentalist extremists.

The great danger is that these people will be able to prevent us from being able to succeed in what we are trying to accomplish in Afghanistan.

Newsmax: What kind of future do you see for Musharraf?

de Borchgrave: It’s pretty cloudy. I would imagine that a man who has survived nine assassination attempts will have to face his tenth. The last assassination attempt was when he was taking off from the airport when an anti-aircraft gun fired a round from a rooftop at his plane. They missed.

Musharraf is still the principal barrier to the process of Talibanization of his own country. He is, in my judgment the only one who can make democracy happen again. Allowing Benazir Bhutto back from exile was a sensible first step, but that’s gone now, so again I think the future is unpredictable.

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