Benazir Bhutto: A Critique
Benazir Bhutto's assassination is another body-blow for Pakistan, whose trajectory is every day appearing more and more distinct from that of its estranged sister, India. The killing has already caused widespread rioting; if government involvement in the shooting is proven, or at least widely suspected, it might even push Pakistan into full-scale civil war.
The fatal assassin's bullet in Benazir's neck removes from the scene a courageous, secular and liberal woman who continued to fight on despite a suicide bomb attack aimed at eliminating her the day of her return from exile, and who shrugged off the clear danger to her life that further campaigning entailed.
It gives further momentum to Pakistan's religious extremists in their campaign to turn Pakistan into a Taliban-like Islamist state, and may well lead to the postponement of the January 8 election...
Benazir's death is also, of course, a personal tragedy, both for the striking woman who embodied the hopes of so many liberal Pakistanis, and for her family. Benazir Bhutto has three children who will now be left motherless, and a party-the most popular in the country-which will be left leaderless. She has no clear successor, and trained up no one as a deputy who can easily fill her shoes. As she said herself in her last speech, shortly before being killed, "Bomb blasts are taking place everywhere", "The country is in great danger."
The West always had a soft spot for Benazir. Her neighbouring heads of state may have been figures as unpredictable and potentially alarming as President Ahmadinejad of Iran and a clutch of Afghan warlords-but Benazir has always seemed reassuringly familiar to Western governments.
She spoke English fluently because it was her first language. She had an English governess, went to a convent run by Irish nuns, and rounded off her education with degrees from Harvard and Oxford. For the Americans, what Benazir Bhutto wasn't was possibly more attractive even than what she was: she wasn't a religious fundamentalist, she didn't have a beard, she didn't organise mass rallies where everyone shouts 'Death to America', and she doesn't issue fatwas against Booker-winning authors-even though Salman Rushdie went out of his way to ridicule her as the Virgin Ironpants in Shame.
However the very reasons that make the West love Benazir are the same that leave many Pakistanis with second thoughts. Her English may be fluent, but you can't say the same about her Urdu which she speaks like a well-groomed foreigner: fluently but ungrammatically. Her Sindhi is even worse: apart from a few imperatives, she is completely at sea.
Equally, the tragedy of Benazir's end should not blind us to her as astonishingly weak record as a politician. Benazir was no Aung San Suu Kyi, and much of the praise now being heaped upon her is misplaced. In reality, Benazir's own democratic credentials were far from impeccable. She colluded in massive human rights abuses, and during her tenure, government death squads in Karachi were responsible for the abduction and murder of hundreds of her MQM opponents. Amnesty International accused her government of having one of the world's worst records of custodial deaths, killings and torture.
Within her own party, she declared herself the lifetime president of the PPP, and refused to let her brother Murtaza challenge her for its leadership. When he was shot dead in highly suspicious circumstances outside her home, Benazir was implicated. His wife Ghinwa, and her daughter Fatima, as well as Benazir's own mother, all firmly believed that she gave the order to have him killed.
As recently as this autumn, Benazir did and said nothing to stop President Musharraf ordering the US and UK-brokered "extraordinary rendition" of her rival Nawaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia, and so remove from the election her most formidable rival. Many of her supporters regarded her deal with Musharraf as a betrayal of all her party stood for.
Benazir also, famously, presided over the looting of Pakistan. In 1995, during her rule, Transparency International named Pakistan one of world's three most corrupt countries. Bhutto and her husband, Asif Zardari-widely known as 'Mr 10 Per cent'-faced corruption charges in Pakistan, Switzerland, the UK, and the US.
Moreover, personally, as well as intellectually, she was a lightweight, with little grasp of economics; nor did she subscribe to any firm political philosophy. Benazir's favourite reading was royal biographies and slushy romances: on a visit to her old Karachi bedroom, I found stacks of well-thumbed Mills & Boons lining the walls; a striking contrast to the high-minded and cultured Indira Gandhi, in some ways her nearest Indian counterpart in their flawed centrality to their respective nations' histories.
Partly as a result of this lack of ideological direction, Benazir was a notably inept administrator. During her first 20-month-long premiership, astonishingly, she failed to pass a single piece of major legislation, and during her two periods in power she did almost nothing to help the liberal causes she espoused so enthusiastically to the Western media. It was under her watch that Pakistan's secret service, the ISI, helped instal the Taliban in Pakistan, and she did nothing to rein in the agency's disastrous policy of training up fundamentalist extremists to do the ISI's dirty work in India and Afghanistan.
Benazir was a feudal landowner, whose family owned great tracts of Sindh. Real democracy has never thrived in Pakistan in part because landowning remains the principal social base from which politicians emerge. The educated middle class-which in India gained control in 1947-is in Pakistan still largely excluded from the political process. Behind Pakistan's swings between military government and democracy lies a surprising continuity of interests: to some extent, Pakistan's industrial, military and landowning elites are all interrelated and look after one another. The recent deal between Musharraf and Benazir, intended to exclude her only real rival, Nawaz Sharif, was typical of the way that the army and the politicians have shared power with minimal reference to the actual wishes of the electorate.
Today Benazir is being hailed as "a martyr for freedom and democracy", at least in the American networks. Yet in many ways she was the person who did more than anything to bring Pakistan's strange variety of democracy-really a form of 'elective feudalism'-into disrepute and helped fuel the growth of the Islamists.
Now, amid the mourning and shock, there is also some hope that Benazir's death could yet act as a wake-up call for the secular and moderate majority in the country. The PPP still contains many of Pakistan's most talented politicians-such as the leader of the lawyers' movement, the articulate Cambridge-educated Aitzaz Ahsan, or the stylish human rights activist, Sherry Rehman, who was a former editor of Pakistan's best newsmagazine, The Herald. If such people were to take over the party, rather than more Sindhi feudals like Benazir's corrupt husband, Asif Ali Zardari (today apparently the frontrunner at the beginning of the race), or the PPP's vice-chairman, Amin Fahim, they could open it up to the urban middle class, and steer the party into power as a genuinely democratic, meritocratic and moderate force for good.
If this were to happen, there is still a glimmer of hope that Benazir's death might yet strengthen democracy in Pakistan, and end the long and disastrous period of power-sharing between the country's landowners and their military cousins. But sadness at the demise of this courageous woman should not mask the fact that she was as much part of Pakistan's problems as its solution.
William Dalrymple's new book, The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857, has recently been awarded the Duff Cooper Prize for History.
Topics: Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan
Aitezaz was a part of the PPP the political party of Bhutto's, while he was also a part of the cabinet during the rule of PPP and have been responsible for brutal killings of numerous people as well as the famous massacre of women in Hyderabad, Sindh. He is definitely an intelligent lawyer with great command on Pakistani Law however that qualification is overshadowed by the brutality embedded in his personality. He is one of the sources who took the opportunity to lure the Chief Justice into political activism, not to mention he also represented the Chief Justice in his matter before the Judicial Inquiry Commission and then conducted as a lawyer in other cases being heard in the court of his own client the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry! which consititues commission of Conflict of Interest on part of both, the attorney & the Chief Justice.
Sherry Rehman whom I dont know very much about appears to be a highly qualified lady, however her political temperament as evident from her conversation & statements in the media are quite controversial & conspiratory, in a recent exchange on air briefly after BB's demise one of the Pakistani TV asked her opinion about the unrest and burning down of the Pakistani infrastructure while she responded by saying that it will not stop and may even go on to further extent if the Govt. of Pakistan did not say out loud what the PPP wishes to hear from it, this was a clear admission by her that the unrest in the streets of Pakistan was created and carried on by the PPP & supporters of Bhutto, I find such action on her part to be very immature & irresponsible specially since she represents a political party that is aspiring to win elections & rule the country!
learn your lessons from history.
Since she was a muslimah in accordance I prefer to offer my condolences to her family, relatives & supporters and pray for her forgiveness as we are directed.
May Allah SWT protect us from brutal & cruel rulers and bless our rulers with the wisdom convyed by our faith of Islam, ameen.
Her death is a sad episode, may LORD all mighty have mercy on her soul. Let's talk about her 2 terms as prime minister of Pakistan. Her achievements during this time are NONE with exception to tit for tat decisions against her political opponents, causing millions of dollars in loss to exchequer.
Late Benazir's brother was shot & killed during her regime as prime minister. Did she find his killers while being in power & with utmost authority? People close to her political party say "she was the mastermind to have him killed" Late Benazir's husband was known was Mr. 30% during her 2 terms as prime minister.
I would highly recommend reading this article "Dynasties in the name of democracy"
The media stated that Bhutto didn't appoint a successor. The average educated citizen of Pakistan with no formal military or family ties to Bhutto should be able to run for president. A democratic leader comes through the ranks not by appointment.
One thing that makes Pakistan a concern outside of its human rights issues is it stewardship of nuclear weapons. For that it should strive to achieve a more stable form of government. This can be done in Pakistan if laws are passed guaranteeing human rights, making it unlawful for a single president to revoke those rights- rights considered inborn- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. "We the people" is a great motto; because we live in a place in time where people don't need personal leadership on a national level. We can make our own personal choices. But we will never by productive adults if we are lead as children. The rule of law permits us to take responsibility. If we continue to encourage the personality cult we will be forever children. Lead by those interested only in themselves.
I really did enjoy reading this article a lot. It did shed a little more light on Bhutto. I can understand why some of the people did not like her.
I pray that the people of Pakistain will find peace through Allah. It seems to me that their leaders are about themselves, more than they about about helping the masses. And even the so called democracy. If there was a true democracy there, she would have trained someone else to take her place had something happened to her. Now, they want her son and her husband to lead her party. Pakistain really needs to get rid of theri corrupt system. This is a big reason why the instability is there today, in my opinion.
May Allah guide Muslims everywhere to the right path.
It is sad that instead of working for the nation she claimed to represent she spent her life lobbying in Washington for a job and in Pakistan defending litigations against her husband Mr 10% commission
(nickname of AA Zardari).
In contrast her father ZA Bhutto industrialized Pakistan (steel mill), founded Atomic program which fueled Nuclear aspirations not just in Pakistan but the Muslim world, strived for independent foreign policy, friendly relations with India (Simla Agreement) and USSR, banned sale of liquor to Muslims in Pakistan (hurt many feelings)...
I am astounded to the hysterical responds of her supporters after her death. They, it apparently seems almost worship her, as evident in the pictures taken at her grave after her funeral. She came from a lineage stock of born gifted thieves and robbers, her father too was legendary known as a corrupt leader and a possible murderer, hence Zia-ul-haq was right to remove and hang that man.
So what and why all this hysterical demonstrations, euphoria of violence by her supporters resulting from her death. Is she worth the mourning ? I, for once never shed a single tear upon her death. I was just shoched. But I'm amazed, some Pakistanis can't seem to differentiate between gold and rusty cooper, they seems even willing to die for her. And that husband of hers, here he was, giving a press conference, pointing fingers at various parties for the killing, as though he's a saint from Waristan. Such indepth hypocracy.
Pakistanis have a long way to go in democracy, they have to learn that idol worshipping of a figure on grounds of lineage does not work for democracy. That's plain stupidity. Even in Islam, there is no such nonsense.
May be now I should just change my mind from my earlier stand. Now my stand is this, while I still disagree with the killing, I would not condemn it. So what ? Benazir is also a murderer herself. It may be a good thing for Pakistan that she died.
May be that's how ALLAH put events in best sequence, from the wisdom or hikmah that ALLAH only knows.
She had her chance as the PM of the country - TWO TIMES! We elected her for OUR OWN betterment. But all she ever did was to grab the poor nations wealth (1,5 billion USD?) and her husband Zardari demanded 10% from all government deals. So her husband is today known as Mr 10%. Had she done her job in the first place then we would not have a military government today and terrorists walking around in our cities. What we see today is the result of the politics of the 90's which she helped to shape.
You may call me sick, twisted, even mad. But I was one of the persons who were in a way happy that Benazir is out of the picture. The only sad part is the way she had her exit and the unrest that came after her death - thats all.
It's just like what happened in Nigeria few years ago between two politians that led to one's death and the other been a suspect. This has nothing to do with religion at all. However, most of these middle eastern countries are islamic world. To my own point of view, i believe that's only thing that will work(islamic Law)not because am a Muslim but because truth must prevail.
As for the West interfaring in Pakistani government, they only filling there pocket, they put there money where they can eat not for so called love of Democracy in the region but because of their own selfish interests. Am not really concern about the West but about the Muslim leaders themselves who receive bribe to persecute their own people. Bhutto's death hurts me and I extend my condolense to her but I believe she served the interest of the West. How could she call some people Terrorists or Extremists why she knew for sure that the Terrorists wear suits and Black shoes if you understand. I am not probing anyone but I condenm the idea of Bhutto and Musharraf himself for allowing the West to bomb a Mosque. I am only concern about the future of islam and not selfish interest of Muslim leaders. Until we all unite and face these common enemies who are ready to kill and clean their hands(claim innocent) or else there will continue to be killings and robbery in the Muslim world. May Benazir Bhutto's soul rest in peace. I only obeject to her western ideaology of governing. I believe being a Muslim at least will safe Butto from Hell Fire. Let's all come together and stop beeing brainwashed by the so called 'Democracy'.Lets support the freedom fighters.