Pakistan’s Archduke Ferdinand
Vol: 75 Issue: 28 Friday, December 28, 2007
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was addressing a crowd from an open air vehicle in Rawalapindi when she was shot twice — once through the torso with the second, fatal shot entering her neck and damaging her spinal cord before exiting the side of her head.
Seconds after firing the shots, the gunman reportedly detonated a bomb he was wearing, killing at least twenty more people. According to published reports, Bhutto died soon after arriving at the hospital.
Within minutes of the first reports of the assassination, one pundit had already labeled it ‘Pakistan’s JFK’.
Ever notice that, (especially among the countries that hate the US the most) whenever they suffer a tragedy, it’s benchmarked against some similar American tragedy?
Afghanistan was ‘Russia’s Vietnam’, the ’03 Madrid rail station attack was “Spain’s 9/11” . . . and so on?
But about the only similarity between the JFK assassination and the assassination of Benizir Bhutto is that both of them were shot while in a car.
To this day, nobody is sure who killed JFK or why.
But within hours of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, a phone call, allegedly from Mustafa al Yazid, al-Qaeda’s operational commander in Afghanistan, cleared up both who and why.
“We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat (the) mujahadeen.”
Drawing a link between Bhutto’s assassination and Musharraf is therefore irrelevant — as are any burgeoning conspiracy theories.
Pakistan’s government and military is shot full of al-Qaeda operatives; the operation could be traced to the front door of the presidential palace and Musharraf could still credibly claim ignorance.
Politically, Benazir Bhutto was more Pakistan’s Hillary Clinton than she was Pakistan’s JFK. Bhutto herself had been in exile as the result of a corruption scandal, her father was executed for official corruption.
One of her brothers was mysteriously poisoned on the French Riviera, and another was convicted of hijacking a plane in 1983. He was later killed in a shootout with Pakistani police in 1996.
Benazir Bhutto carried a lot of baggage.
Pakistanis either loved Benazir or they hated her — and the country was pretty much divided down the middle along those lines.
So half of the country blames Musharraf for her death, evidence notwithstanding, and the other half doesn’t much care who killed her as long as she is dead.
There is another, more appropriate historical analogy that fits this scenario better — one that is far more worrisome than JFK.
Benazir Bhutto was part of a Pakistani political dynasty — her father had been prime minister, and she had served twice as PM in the 1990’s.
But the Bhutto’s were not a political dynasty in the sense of the Kennedy’s so much as they were in the sense of European royalty at the turn of the 20th century.
Many of the European royal dynasties of the early 20th century came to a conclusion the same way the Bhutto dynasty did — when the last member of the ruling family was safely dead.
In that sense, Benazir Bhutto’s assassination has more in common with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on June 28, 1914.
Archduke Ferdinand was riding in an open car when he was mortally wounded by a gunshot to the neck fired by a Bosnian terrorist.
Although the assassin was a member of a Serbian terrorist group known as “The Black Hand,” the Austro-Hungarian Empire held Serbia to blame for the murder.
The various surrounding countries allied themselves with either the Serbian Alliance (the Entente) or the Austro-Hungarian Empire of Franz Ferdinand.
History credits the assassination of Franz Ferdinand of Austria with setting in motion a series of diplomatic events that led, by the end of July, to the outbreak of the First World War.
Frankly, I prefer the Kennedy analogy to that of Archduke Ferdinand, even if it doesn’t fit quite as well.
Back in 1917, neither the Austrians nor the Serbs had nuclear weapons.