From the January 2008 Idaho Observer:

Bhutto’s Assassination: Who Gains?

By F. William Engdahl

A little more than 2 months after her triumphant Oct. 18, 2007 return from a seven-year, self-imposed exile in Dubai, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was publicly assassinated.

Assassination of prominent political leaders, presumably protected by the best security, is no easy thing. It requires agencies of professional intelligence training to insure that the job is done and that no person is caught alive who can lead to those behind the plot. Typically, from the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo in July 1914 to JFK, the person pulling the trigger is just an instrument of a far deeper conspiracy. So, too, in the assassination on December 27, 2007, of Pakistani former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Cui bono?.

What was behind the murder of Bhutto? At the moment she was assassinated, her Pakistani People’s Party (PPP) appeared about to win a resounding victory in the planned January 8 elections, thereby posing a popular challenge to the dictatorial rule of President Musharraf.

[Note: Musharraf declared martial law in Pakistan Nov. 16, 2007].

Musharraf’s government was indecently quick to blame "al-Qaeda," the dubious entity allegedly led by Osama bin Laden, whom Washington accused for masterminding the September 11 2001 attacks. Musharraf, just days after, declared he was "sure" al-Qaeda was the author, even though, on U.S. pressure, he has asked Scotland Yard to come and investigate. "I want to say it with certainty, that these people (al-Qaeda) martyred ... Benazir Bhutto," Musharraf said in a Jan. 3 televised address. He named Baitullah Mehsud, a militant tribal chief fighting the Pakistani Army, who has alleged ties to al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taleban.

Mehsud denied the charge. Had he been behind such a dramatic event, the desired propaganda impact among militant islamists would require taking open responsibility.

By linking the Bhutto killing to al-Qaeda, Musharraf conveniently gains several goals. First, he reinforces the myth of al-Qaeda, something very useful to Washington during this time of growing global skepticism over the real intent of its "war on terrorism." Second, it gives Musharraf a plausible scapegoat to blame for the convenient elimination of a serious political rival to his consolidation of one-man rule.

Notable also is the fact that the Musharraf regime has rejected making a routine autoposy on Bhutto’s body. Bhutto publicly charged that the government had refused to make followup inquiry after the October bombing which nearly killed her and did kill 134 followers near her auto. Bhutto accused Pakistani authorities of not providing her with sufficient security and hinted that they may have been complicit in the Karachi attack. She also made clear in a UK television interview Nov. 2, 2007, that she would clean out the Pakistan military and security services of corrupt and Islamist elements.

In the same David Frost interview, Bhutto also dropped the explosive news that Osama bin Laden had been murdered by Omar Sheikh Mohammad, a British citizen of Pakistani origin and an ISI Pakistani intelligence operative who "confessed" to the killing of Daniel Pearl. He was arrested in February, 2002. If Benazir‘s claim is correct, Omar Sheikh must have killed Osama before he was arrested in February, 2002. That would make all the Osama messages that have been periodically delivered to western media, at least the ones after Feb., 2002, clear forgeries.

Days after the Bhutto killing, Pakistani authorities published a photo alleged to be of the severed head of the suicide bomber who killed Bhutto. Severed heads, like a dead Lee Harvey Oswald, don’t talk or say embarrassing things. Also curious is the fact that Bhutto was killed in Rawalpindi, a garrison town, where every millimeter is controlled by the army security complex. The murder weapon was a Steyr 9mm, issued only to Pakistani Army Special Forces. Hmmmm.

It has been known for months that the Bush-Cheney administration has been maneuvering to strengthen their political control of Pakistan, paving the way for the expansion and deepening of the "war on terrorism" across the region.

Who was Bhutto?

The Bhutto family was itself hardly democratic, drawing its core from feudal landowning families, but opposed to the commanding role of the army and ISI intelligence. Succeeding her father as head of the PPP, Benazir declared herself "chairperson for life"—a position she held until her death. Bhutto’s husband, Ali Zardari, "Mr. 10%," is known in Pakistan for his demanding a 10 percent cut from those who received major government contracts while Benazir was prime minister. In 2003, Benazir and her husband were convicted in Switzerland of money laundering and taking bribes from Swiss companies as prime minister. The family is allegedly worth several $billion as a result. As prime minister from 1993 to 1996, she advocated a conciliatory policy toward Islamists, especially the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Harvard educated Benazir had close ties to U.S. and UK intelligence as well. She used the offices of neo-conservative U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos when she was in Washington. According to our informed reports, vice-President Cheney backed her as a "safe" way to save his Pakistan strategic alliance in face of growing popular protest against Musharraf’s declaring martial law late last year. The ploy was to have Bhutto make a face-saving deal with Musharraf to put a democratic face on the dictatorship, while Washington maintained its strategic control. According to The Washington Post of 28 Dec., "For Benazir Bhutto, the decision to return to Pakistan was sealed during a telephone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just a week before Bhutto flew home in October. The call culminated more than a year of secret diplomacy—and came only when it became clear that the heir to Pakistan‘s most powerful political dynasty was the only one who could bail out Washington‘s key ally in the battle against terrorism..As President Pervez Musharraf‘s political future began to unravel this year, Bhutto became the only politician who might help keep him in power."

In November, John Negroponte, former Bush Administration Intelligence Czar and now deputy secretary of state was deployed to Islamabad to pressure Musharraf to ease the situation by holding elections and forming a power-sharing relationship with Bhutto. But once in Pakistan, where her supporters were mobilized, Bhutto made clear she would seek an election coalition to openly oppose Musharraf and military rule in the planned elections.

A cynical U.S.-Musharraf deal?

Informed intelligence sources say there was a cynical deal cut behind the scenes between Washington and Musharraf. Musharraf is known to be Cheney’s preferred partner and Cheney, we are told, is the sole person running U.S.-Pakistan policy today.

Were Musharraf to agree to stationing of U.S. Special Forces inside Pakistan, "Plan B," the democratic farce with Bhutto, could be put aside and Musharraf’s sole rule could continue with Washington’s tacit blessing

On Dec. 28, one day after the Bhutto assassination, the Washington Post reported that, in early 2008, "U.S. Special Forces are expected to vastly expand their presence in Pakistan as part of an effort to train and support indigenous counter-insurgency forces and clandestine counterterrorism units," under the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, a major shift in U.S. Pakistani ties.

Until now Musharraf and his military have refused such direct U.S. control, aside from the agreement after September 11, extracted from Musharraf under extreme pressure of possible U.S. bombing, to give the U.S. military direct control of the Pakistan nuclear weapons.

The elimination of Bhutto leaves an opposition vacuum. The country lacks a credible political leader who can command national support, which leaves the military enhanced as an institution, with its willingness to defend Musharraf on the streets. This gives the Pentagon and Washington a chance to consolidate a military opposition to future Chinese economic hegemony in the region—the real geopolitical goal of Washington.

[Addenda: Ironically, on Jan. 12, 2008, Musharraf warned that if the U.S. were to send a military force into Pakistan to fight al Qaeda or Taliban forces, he would view it as an invasion. Musharraf did, however, say that he would consider joint military operations with the U.S. to continue the search for Osama bin Laden "if we have good intelligence."—DWH].

A little more than 2 months after her triumphant Oct. 18, 2007 return from a seven-year, self-imposed exile in Dubai, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was publicly assassinated.