There are many theories and allegations being tossed around to explain Benazir Bhutto's assassination. The conclusive truth may never be known. It seldom is in major political assassinations. The assassinations of Kennedy and Indira Gandhi, for example, continue to be subjects of fierce controversy. Dr Henry Kissinger is credited with a perceptive observation. He thought it futile to attempt identifying the conspirator behind any major political assassination. Instead, he advised, focus on who benefits most from the murder.
Who benefits most from Benazir's death? Certainly not Musharraf himself. The crude, ill-timed assassination, and the Pakistan government's unconvincing declarations and explanations, have all but destroyed Musharraf's reputation and made his future uncertain. But the forces that have been exploiting Musharraf, and sections of the Pakistan security establishment, have hugely benefited.
As has been pointed out earlier, what distinguished Benazir from others was her explicit commitment and resolve to help consolidate South Asia on the lines of the European Union. Her death doubtless provided relief to forces that did not relish change in the balance of power in Asia implicit in such a development.
Security analysts have pointed out that Benazir's assassination would not have been possible without criminal negligence of the Pakistan security establishment. From this, critics hastily concluded that the murder was committed by sections of the Pakistan government, not by terrorists. But why should they assume that complicity of one precludes collaboration of the other? One suicide bomber did die along with Benazir. Does not that point to involvement of terrorists? Whether or not in collusion with sections of Pakistan 's security establishment ?
Based on telephonic and e-mail messages allegedly intercepted by the Pakistan intelligence ' one purportedly communicated to Italy by Al Qaeda -- the Pakistan government had stated that Al Qaeda plotted the assassination. Al Qaeda's Taliban pointsman was allegedly Baitullah Mehsud. Mehsud's spokesman has denied any involvement of his outfit. Whom should one believe? Circumstances do suggest that deliberate or unintended negligence by Pakistan 's security personnel was exploited by terrorists to kill Bhutto. The question is: which terrorists?
This is where Benazir's commitment to consolidate South Asia into one entity provides a clue. Pakistan was quick to nail Al Qaeda's number two, Al Zawahiri, and Taliban's Baitullah Mehsud as the plotters of Bhutto's murder. True, Mehsud and Zawahiri are said to be politically linked. But both Zawahiri and Mehsud recently changed direction to range themselves against Musharraf and China . Mehsud's brother is reckoned to have been responsible for the deaths of Chinese engineers inside Pakistan . It was that act which compelled Musharraf to crack down against the terrorists holed up in Lal Mosque. And it was the military action against the Lal Mosque clerics that set in motion the chain of events leading to the current confrontation between the Pakistan army and the terrorists.
It was conjectured earlier by this writer that under Zawahiri Al Qaeda's attitude towards China changed after it came to be known that China was providing arms to Iranian backed jihadis. The Washington Times of June 5, 2007 reported this. The newspaper said the Bush administration covered up this information 'to protect its pro-business policies toward China, and to continue to claim that China is helping the United States in the war on terrorism'. But, as this scribe pointed out, Al Qaeda was unlikely to overlook the Chinese-Iranian nexus. China, which has signed mega energy deals with Iran, got caught in the Sunni-Shia rivalry. Forced to choose, China had no option but to side with Iran and the Shiites. Chinese arms to Iran can be used only by Shiite insurgents in Iraq and in Afghanistan . Would that be acceptable to Al Qaeda Sunnis? That could well be the reason for the Al Qaeda and the Mehsud-led Taliban targeting the Chinese inside Pakistan . The Lal Mosque inmates owing allegiance to Al Zawahiri did likewise. That evidently provoked Chinese pressure and the Pakistan army's crackdown. The Pakistan government's prompt accusation against Al Qaeda and Baitullah Mehsud appears therefore to be a red herring. Time will tell if the new leaders of Benazir's party remain committed to creating a South Asian Union.
So, which forces benefit most from Benazir Bhutto's assassination? Make a guess.