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How safe are we?

"Benazir Bhutto Shot Dead" - as I looked at this headline on 27th December, I was shocked - though not as much as I was when I read "Rajiv Gandhi assassinated" way back in 1991 (I was just 10 years old then). The reduction is shock was not just because I had grown up and that Benazir was not a politician from my own country - but also because after Lal mazjid, terrorism has become more and more mainstream in Pakistan.

However, there are some aspects of the assassination which are different from Rajiv Gandhi's assassination which make it much more worrisome than the former.

1. Ubiquity of Terror Agents - and failure of Administration
The Pakistani Administration (namely the Army) claims that "[Benazir] herself contributed to the incident by standing [and] that none of the other occupants in the bullet/bomb proof car died." Which effectively means that the assassin was just waiting for Benazir to step out of her bullet proof vehicle.

It seems quite unlikely that he "knew" that she was indeed going to stand up - probably she herself made the decision to stand up at that moment. What is more probable is that the assasin either had been following Benazir in each and every town she went to or different assassins were 'appointed' by their organization to take chances and this one succeeded.

The possibility of the 'organization' planning this meticulously and trying at each instance is more likely given that Benazir was being attacked ever since she landed into Pakistan on October 18.

What is scary here is not that the administration was not able to prevent the assassination per se - but that in spite of the 'organizations' having a planned and ubiquitous presence around Benazir - the administration has not been able to uncover their movements. This also speaks of the poor level of intelligence Prez Musharraf is relying on for his own security and more so to run Pakistan.

2. Absense of a Organized Militia
Dhanu - the assassin of Rajiv Gandhi, was trained by a militia - the LTTE. As much as we might call LTTE a terrorist 'outfit', structurally it is an organized military. It has its commanders, it mission directors, its military plan - heck even a territory to guard. Most importantly, they follow a political (and not ethnic or religious) doctrine.

However, the Benazir's assassin belongs to one of the many small (and fragmented) wings which only loosely form the "Jehadi" or "Anti-west" terrorist brotherhood. Each one of them have similar but different political goals and inclinations. More importantly, they do not have a 'planned and coordinated' strategy [though specific operations might be planned]. They are like a startups if we were to term the LTTE as a SME.

So, failure of the our governments (Pakistani and Indian) against the LTTE (or the Taliban) sounds still acceptable still because as an organization they are far more mature than a terrorist outfit.
But what makes this assassination scarier is that the Pak-Administration is supposed to be far more 'matured' than these terrorist outfits (especially being an Army!).

3. Limited War - how prepared are we
An issue tangential to the point 2, but slightly different is that governments (and their military) across the world are increasingly being exposed as incapable to waging this new war. While IPKF could have strategized warring against LTTE was based on its previous experiences - armies can no more hope to do so against the new terrorists.

And there is hardly any previous battle which can help us with this learning - we need to write new rules, need to do new studies and need to develop newer strategic and operational methods to combat the new ways of waging 'limited wars' against civilization.

4. Its a Civil War - damn it! And we in India are vulnerable
The scariest part of the assassination is the risks it spells for India. While in Pakistan, the Jehadis might just hate the politicians, in India they hate the people too. And anyway, they don't care for civilian losses (as a military usually does) as long as their religious and operational goals are met.

The above fact coupled with the inability which governments across the world have demonstrated to understand and combat terror, is what makes Benazir's assassination an intimidating symbolic message from 'the brotherhood' to the world!!

As for Benazir, I agree with GB about her life and death - sympathies to the fellow brethren in Pakistan! You lost a leader, but so did we 17 years ago - with elections round the corner, the ball is in your court - make the best of the opportunity that you have.


  1. Me back to posting on kashencounters.

    Happy new year Nikhil.Its a leap year, so leap ahead ! :)


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