Pakistan today rejected offers of assistance in investigating the murder of Benazir Bhutto. That strikes me as entirely appropriate. Hillary Clinton, as I noted yesterday, committed an appalling faux pas in saying that “there is no reason to trust the Pakistani government.” If Clinton were President, this would be a major diplomatic blunder.
Pakistan’s government says it intercepted a call from an al Qaeda chieftain that proves al Qaeda was behind the assassination. Today, a spokesman for the terrorist denied any involvement, in a phone call–fittingly–to the Associated Press. The al Qaeda spokesman said, “The fact is that we are only against America, and we don’t consider political leaders of Pakistan our enemy.” That is ridiculous, of course. Al Qaeda has carried out any number of terrorist attacks against Pakistan and many other countries.
Bhutto’s supporters are accusing the government of a “cover-up,” mostly because of uncertainty about the exact cause of Bhutto’s death: was it a bullet wound, shrapnel from the bomb that the murderer exploded, or hitting her head on part of the sunroof of her vehicle? In principle, it shouldn’t be hard to answer this question, but I haven’t seen any explanation of why it makes any difference. She obviously died as a result of the terrorist’s attack, and why the government would have an interest in “covering up” the precise mechanism is a mystery.
The fact is that it doesn’t make any difference how competent and thorough the investigation into Bhutto’s murder is, nor does it matter whether it is carried out with or without international assistance. Millions of Pakistanis will subscribe to rumors and conspiracy theories, no matter how baseless they may be. The example of John Kennedy’s assassination is a depressing precedent. There is no event in human history which is known and understood with more certainty or in more detail than Oswald’s murder of Kennedy. Yet millions of Americans believe in various dumb conspiracy theories. It is too much to expect that Pakistanis will be more rational.
So it seems that if al Qaeda or another radical Islamic group killed Bhutto in order to sow disorder and undermine Musharraf’s government, that purpose is likely to be achieved to a considerable degree.
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