Musharraf survives assassination attempt

Lost in the ongoing coverage of the mosque standoff in Pakistan is the news that President Pervez Musharraf has survived an assassination attempt — in the same spot where a Pakistani strongman of decades gone by was targeted:

Coincidentally, the plane of Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, another Pakistani president who came from the military and was allied to the United States, was fired on as it overflew the same neighborhood in the 1980s.

Zia later died in a mysterious aircrash, along with the U.S. ambassador. There has long been speculation enemies inside the military assassinated him.

Which brings to mind a piece published just days ago in the International Herald Tribune, all about the military's take on Pakistan's political stalemate:

Historians and columnists have been outlining the precedents, recalling how Pakistan's three previous military rulers exited from power. None were under happy circumstances, and none bode well for Musharraf.

The longest-ruling general, Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, who seized power in 1977, died in 1988 in a plane crash, the cause of which remains a mystery. The strongest possibility is that the plane was sabotaged, possibly by a bomb – or even, according to one theory, by a knockout gas – hidden inside crates of mangoes, a gift that was put on board the presidential plane at the last minute.

This being mango season, the old story has gained a lot of currency lately. "He either goes the mango crate way or he goes gracefully," as one serving military officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.