EDITORIAL | Pakistani powder keg Bhutto or Bin Laden? Muslim World’s Choice

Almost without exception, whenever there is a faintly hopeful development in the Middle East or neighboring regions, it is met with extreme violence carried out by terrorist extremists determined to derail it. Last Thursday, 140 people were killed in the Pakistani city of Karachi, when suicide bombers detonated two explosions close to the armored truck of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who had returned to her native country in the hopes of resuming the office of prime minister in a power-sharing arrangement with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. Miraculously, Bhutto, whose return has been supported by moderate and pro-Western elements in Pakistan, one of the world’s largest mostly Muslim nations, survived the deadly attacks. Not surprisingly, the attacks were claimed by “a head of suicide attacks and a friend of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden,” who have threatened additional assassination attempts on Bhutto. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, a recent plot to kill Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was foiled by the arrest of the plotters before it could come to fruition.

The Islamic extremists who claim allegiance to Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden are diametrically opposed to everything Benazir Bhutto stands for. Farouk Naek, an attorney for Bhutto, received a letter stating that “no woman can be a prime minister, and a second assassination would be made with a knife,” possibly “by a woman commando.” In other words, according to Al Qaeda, a woman can never serve as a prime minister and help rebuild her country in a democratic and rational manner, but it is perfectly okay for a “woman commando” to murder such a person.


This latest horrific incident symbolizes the stark choice which the Muslim world confronts in the year 2007: Bhutto or Bin Laden? Will Muslim-dominated nations choose the path of rational and democratic leaders like Benazir Bhutto, or will they embrace the nihilistic and pointless destruction of Osama bin Laden and his ilk throughout the region?

Will the Palestinians support the more moderate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has renounced violence and terrorism and is willing to make peace with Israel, or will they embrace the Islamic extremist group Hamas, which adamantly refuses to renounce violence and refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, let alone making peace with the Jewish State?

In Lebanon, will the pro-Western and anti-Syrian elements be able to defeat the terrorist extremists of Hezbollah who want to return Lebanon to Syrian dominance in order that they can continue their terrorist attacks on Israelis? They must choose.

In Egypt, will the government of President Hosni Mubarak be able to hold onto power as a dependable peace process partner, or will the gains by the Islamic Brotherhood in recent parliamentary elections threaten its stability? Since his predecessor Anwar Sadat signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty back in 1979, Egypt has continued its diplomatic relations and efforts to expand the peace process with Israel. Mubarak is now in his late 70s and in declining health, and his eventual successor is not absolutely assured to continue his support of the peace process.

Egypt must choose between Mubarak’s path toward peace, or the Muslim Brotherhood’s absolute rejection of the right of a Jewish State to exist.

In Iraq, will the so-far frustrated efforts to create a moderate and responsible government succeed, or will extremist and terrorist elements among the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish populations prevail? Recent military actions by Turkey and Kurdish elements in the northern part of Iraq threaten to make the horrible chaos in Iraq even worse.

Time is running out for a moderate, pro-Western and stable government to emerge in Iraq, or perhaps some kind of “soft partition” into separate Sunni, Shia and Kurdish regions will be the way of staving off an extremist takeover in Iraq when the American involvement there comes to an end.

We hope that Benazir Bhutto will be spared any more assassination attempts, but it is unlikely that last week’s attack on her and her supporters will be the last. We also urgently hope that the forces of moderation, democratization and rationality represented by Bhutto will triumph over the insane fanaticism of Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, Hamas, and similar terrorist elements throughout the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian Subcontinent.