State of the law in Pakistan

back cover bhuttoIs it too late to vote, yet again, in the poll to name the most important religion-news stories of 2007? The events keep unfolding all around us, one shock after another.

The Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated near the capital, Islamabad, on Thursday. Witnesses said Ms. Bhutto, who was appearing at a political rally, was fired upon by a gunman at close range, quickly followed by a blast that the government said was caused by a suicide attacker. ...

A close aide to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf blamed Islamic militants for the assassination, and said it was carried out by a suicide bomber. Ms. Bhutto's death is the latest blow to Pakistan's treacherous political situation, and leaves her party leaderless in the short term and unable to effectively compete in hotly contested parliamentary elections that are two weeks away, according to Hasan Askari Rizvi, a leading Pakistani political and military analyst.

The assassination also adds to the enormous pressure on the Bush administration over Pakistan, which has sunk billions in aid into the country without accomplishing its main goals of finding Osama bin Laden or ending the activities of Islamic militants and Taliban in border areas with Afghanistan.

No ghosts in that story at all. Right? The phrase "Islamic militants" covers it all, right now, and if that does not work then we have "extremist Islamic groups" mentioned later in the same story. All of this is, of course, linked to that great goal of the ages -- a form of government in a Muslim culture that is neither an Islamist state nor a military/royal machine. Is anything else possible?

Near the end, we read another quote from inside the current regime:

The [Musharraf] aide dismissed complaints from members of Ms. Bhutto's party that the government failed to provide adequate security for Ms. Bhutto. Ms. Bhutto herself had complained that the government's security measures for her Karachi parade were inadequate. The government maintained that she ignored their warnings against such public gatherings and that holding them placed herself and her followers in unnecessary danger.

Asked of the bombing was planned in the country's lawless tribal areas -- where Mr. bin Laden and other Qaeda members are thought to be hiding -- the aide said "must be, must be." Militants based in the country's tribal areas have carried out a record number of suicide bombings in Pakistani this year.

Here is my question, yet again. Is the word "lawless" accurate in that paragraph? There is no law at all, or is the form of the law the whole point?

Meanwhile, let's also flash back to that Newsweek cover story: "Where the Jihad Lives now." That's the package that proclaimed Pakistan the most dangerous nation in the world.

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