Pakistan Riots Continue; Clinton: ‘An inside job?’ Rehman: "A Cover-up"

Violence continued in Pakistan on Saturday, as did a virtual shut-down of the country, with most shops and businesses shuttered.

In the US, Sen. Hillary Clinton provoked controversy when she said, according to Newsday: ‘ “There are those saying that al-Qaida did it. Others are saying it looked like it was an inside job — remember Rawalpindi is a garrison city,” she said. ‘

She added that Pakistan’s

‘ “feudal landowning leadership,” led by Musharraf, has protected al-Qaida to preserve its tenuous grip on power. ‘

The Pakistani elite has a lot of landlords in it, but has diversified. The officer corps is no longer primarily from the landlord class. There are new industrialists and entrepreneurs.

The reason that the military has been reluctant to finish off the Pakistani Taliban in the north (which in turn hosts some al-Qaeda remnants) is because the Taliban are a useful way of projecting Pakistani power into southern Afghanistan. The Pakistani security establishment views the Karzai government as too beholden to Tajiks and as too close diplomatically to India and Iran. The Pakistani military thus has the difficult balancing act of containing the Pakistani Taliban inside Pakistan (so that it does not spill over onto Peshawar or Islamabad) but keeping it sufficiently alive that it can be deployed against Afghanistan.

In any case, it seems pretty clear that if Clinton wins the presidency, she is going to have bad relations with Pervez Musharraf, assuming he is still around in 2009.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s suspicions were underscored by Bhutto aide Sherry Rehman, who said that she saw bullet wounds in Bhutto’s head. She disputed a government report that Bhutto died from being thrown against a lever of her sun roof by the blast of a suicide bomb. She told CNN, “It’s beginning to look like a cover up to me . . .” Apparently PPP leaders suspect that Bhutto’s bullet wounds might point back to involvement by Musharraf’s security forces (did he use a standard police or army firearm?). A mere suicide bombing would apparently be easier to reconcile with the government’s allegation that a jihadi group was behind the assassination. The warring narratives about Bhutto’s death therefore appear to have a CSI sort of forensic concern behind them. Different physical evidence would point in different directions as to perpetrator.

Mobs roamed Karachi for a third straight day on Saturday, continuing to set fires and attack federal government property. AFP reports,, “On the second day of official mourning for the slain opposition leader, most people were unable to buy food or petrol, with almost all shops, fuel stations, banks and offices closed down.” In Karachi, food remained scarce, with vegetable markets closed and farmers unable to bring shipments in from the countryside.

The province of Sindh also continued to suffer disturbances on Saturday.

Over 40 persons have been killed in the three days of violence throughout the country, and scores injured.

In Peshawar, PPP wokers continued to stage protests. Most of the city was closed, and the streets were deserted except for the protesters.

An angry crowd set fire to the cable company, leaving Lahore, Peshawar and other major cities without access to the internet. International phone calls also became harder to make.

The Pakistan People’s Party will meet Sunday afternoon Pakistan time to choose a successor to Bhutto and to decide whether to contest elections, and when.

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