Who murdered Benazir Bhutto? U.S. authorities don’t know. They may never know. And they’re not ruling anything in or out.
To recap our debate yesterday, the first-blush assessment from most experts held that al-Qaeda is responsible. Others, including political adversaries of Pervez Musharraf, then suggested Musharraf’s government was at least culpable, given the porousness of security Bhutto received in the garrison city of Rawalpindi where she was assassinated. Still others caution that Pakistani Islamic terrorist groups with agendas distinct from al-Qaeda’s might be more likely candidates.
That appears to still be the lay of the land. Bhutto’s party, the Pakistan People’s Party, is demanding an official inquiry, though it’s unclear (to me at least) whether Musharraf has agreed to one. But here’s one development to watch in the event of a probe. In the Los Angeles Times, Josh Meyer reports that Pakistan hasn’t yet replied to U.S. investigators who’ve offered to help.
Some U.S. intelligence experts and analysts said that there are so many tangled alliances between the extremist groups and Pakistani government agencies that it would be virtually impossible to get to the bottom of who killed Bhutto unless the perpetrators came forward — with proof. The FBI has offered to send investigators, but Pakistan has not responded, FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said.
Maybe it’s a sovereignty question for Pakistan. But without some kind of outside assistance in an inquiry, Musharraf’s government will be investigating itself. Few in or outside of Pakistan will be satisfied with that. An ex-U.S. intelligence official with deep Pakistan experience told me yesterday that it’s unlikely anyone in Pakistan doesn’t already believe Musharraf had something to do with the slaying.
And that’s not something that U.S. intelligence officials are ruling out, either. al-Qaeda tends not to shoot people at close range, or pull off decoy suicide bombings. Eli Lake of the New York Sun reports that U.S. intelligence officials want to make sure they know where all of Pakistan’s special-forces units were at the time of Bhutto’s assassination.
American and Pakistani military leaders are seeking to account for what may be renegade commando units from the Pakistani military’s special forces in the wake of the assassination of Pakistan’s opposition leader and former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. …
A working theory, according to this American source, is that Al Qaeda or affiliated jihadist groups had effectively suborned at least one unit of Pakistan’s Special Services Group, the country’s equivalent of Britain’s elite SAS commandos. This official, however, stressed this was just a theory at this point. Other theories include that the assassins were trained by Qaeda or were from other military services, or the possibility that the assassins were retired Pakistani special forces.
“They just killed the most protected politician in the whole country,” this source said. “We really don’t know a lot at this point, but the first thing that is happening is we are asking the Pakistani military to account for every black team with special operations capabilities.”
One thing is clear. No one should expect closure on Bhutto’s murder. After all, it’s up to Musharraf to determine whether clarity is or isn’t in his interest.