Posted by: Randy Allgaier | December 28, 2007

The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto- What’s next for Pakistan? The Pakistani elections should be postponed so the election can be real and not a sham.


Benazir Bhutto, like any leader of a nation that has a tradition rife with corruption, military coups, and assassination of leaders had her flaws. But she was undeniably a courageous leader. Her return to Pakistan two months ago raised hopes that her country might find its way toward democracy and stability. Her assassination on Thursday is yet one more horrifying reminder of how far Pakistan is from both — and how close it is to the brink. No blogger with his or her salt could take off the usual holiday hiatus without addressing this appalling act.

Ms. Bhutto’s death leaves the Bush administration with no visible strategy for extricating Pakistan from its crisis or rooting out Al Qaeda and the Taliban, which have made the country their most important rear base.

One thing is clear- Bush and Company believe that the elections should go on as planned in Pahkistan in order to show the world that they are serious about having a free and open election and a democratically elected country. PLEASE! With one party banned from participating due to the sham that Musharaf made of the Pakistani Supreme Court and Bhutto’s own party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), in turmoil with the assassination of its titular leader.

Senator Chris Dodd was correct today. As much as we want to see free and open elections, they will not happen under the current circumstances. There would be one party in the election- Musharaf – a President who originally came to power in a military coup d’etat. In order to have a fair, open and free election, the Pakistan Peoples Party should be given ample time to regroup and find new leadership that can take up Ms. Bhutto’s mantle.

Benazir Bhutto was a bridge. She was able to successfully bridge the east and the west, she bridged various factions in Pakistan and most importantly she bridged the role of women in a culture that is known to demean women by being an elected female Prime Minister in a Muslim nation.

Bhutto was an amazingly accomplished woman. Benazir Bhutto was born to Begum Nusrat Ispahani, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of a prominent Shia Muslim family of Larkana , in Karachi in 1953. After completing her early education in Pakistan, she pursued her higher education in the United States. From 1969 to 1973 she attended Radcliffe College at Harvard University, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree with cum laude honors in comparative government. She was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
The next phase of her education took place in the United Kingdom. Between 1973 and 1977 Bhutto studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She completed a course in International Law and Diplomacy while at Oxford. In December 1976 she was elected president of the Oxford Union, becoming the first Asian woman to head the prestigious debating society.

Pakistan was born out of violence and that violence has remained- to one extent or another ever since. In 712, the Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh and Multan in southern Punjab. The Pakistan government’s official chronology states that “its foundation was laid” as a result of this invasion. This would set the stage for several successive Muslim empires in the Indian subcontinent, including the Ghaznavid Empire, the Ghorid Kingdom, the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. During this period, Sufi missionaries played a pivotal role in converting a majority of the regional Buddhist and Hindu population to Islam. The gradual decline of the Mughal Empire in the early eighteenth century provided opportunities for the Afghans, Balochis and Sikhs to exercise control over large areas until the British East India Company gained ascendancy over South Asia.

The rebellion, also known as the Indian Mutiny, in 1857 was the region’s last major armed struggle against the British Raj, and it laid the foundations for the generally unarmed freedom struggle led by the mostly Hindu Congress Party. However, the Muslim League rose to popularity in the late 1930s amid fears of under-representation and neglect of Muslims in politics. On 29 December 1930, Allama Iqbal’s presidential address called for an autonomous “state in northwestern India for Indian Muslims, within the body politic of India” Muhammad Ali Jinnah espoused the Two Nation Theory and led the Muslim League to adopt the Lahore Resolution of 1940 (popularly known as the Pakistan Resolution), which ultimately led to the formation of an independent Pakistan.

Pakistan was formed on 14 August 1947 with two Muslim-majority wings in the eastern and northwestern regions of the British Indian Empire, separated from the rest of the country with a Hindu majority, and comprising the provinces of Balochistan, East Bengal, the North-West Frontier Province, West Punjab and Sindh.

The partition of the British Indian Empire resulted in communal riots across India and Pakistan—millions of Muslims moved to Pakistan and millions of Hindus and Sikhs moved to India. Disputes arose over several princely states including Jammu and Kashmir whose ruler had acceded to India following an invasion by Pashtun warriors, leading to the First Kashmir War (1948) ending with India occupying roughly two-third of the state. From 1947 to 1956, Pakistan was a Dominion in the Commonwealth of Nations. The republic declared in 1956 was stalled by a coup d’etat by Ayub Khan (1958–69), who was president during a period of internal instability and a second war with India in 1965. His successor, Yahya Khan (1969–71) had to deal with the cyclone which caused 500,000 deaths in East Pakistan.

Economic and political dissent in East Pakistan led to violent political repression and tensions escalating into civil war (Bangladesh War of Independence) and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and ultimately the secession of East Pakistan as the independent state of Bangladesh.. Estimates of the number of people killed during this episode vary greatly, from ~30,000 to over 2 million depending on the source.

The Pakistani military has played an influential role in mainstream politics throughout Pakistan’s history, with military presidents ruling from 1958–71, 1977–88 and from 1999 onwards. The leftist Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, emerged as a major political player during the 1970s and led by his daughter Benazir Bhuttp was the only real threat to Pakistani military rule.

So putting it simply- Pakistan has never been a paragon of stability. But President Bush has put all his eggs in the Musharaf basket for our nation’s hopes for security in a part of the world where we have exerted a huge hand in destroying.

Ms. Bhutto’s death leaves the Bush administration with no visible strategy for extricating Pakistan from its crisis or rooting out Al Qaeda and the Taliban, which have made the country their most important rear base.

Betting America’s security (and Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal) on an unaccountable dictator, President Pervez Musharraf, did not work. Betting it on a back-room alliance between that dictator and Ms. Bhutto, who had hoped to win a third try as prime minister next month, is no longer possible.

That leaves Mr. Bush with the principled, if unfamiliar, option of using American prestige and resources to fortify Pakistan’s badly battered democratic institutions. There is no time to waste.

With next month’s parliamentary elections already scrambled, Washington must now call for new rules to assure a truly democratic vote.

That means a relatively brief delay to allow Ms. Bhutto’s party, probably the country’s largest, to choose a new candidate for prime minister and mount an abbreviated campaign. Washington must also demand that Pakistan’s other main opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, be allowed to run. And it must insist that Mr. Musharraf reinstate the impartial Supreme Court judges he fired last month in order to block them from overturning his rigged election.

Mr. Musharraf is stubborn. Washington will need to send the same message to Pakistan’s military leaders, perhaps the ex-general’s only remaining backers.

Ms. Bhutto and her father and political mentor, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, were democratic, but imperfect political leaders — imperious, indifferent to human rights and, in her case, tainted by serious charges of corruption. The father was deposed by a military coup and then hanged. The daughter was twice elected and twice deposed. But both had one undeniable asset: electoral legitimacy — legitimacy that the generals and the Islamic extremists could only seek to destroy or, in Mr. Musharraf’s case, hope to borrow.

The Bush administration has to rethink more than just its unhealthy and destructive enabling of Mr. Musharraf. It also must take a hard look at the billions it is funneling to Pakistan’s military. That money is supposed to finance the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. As a report in The Times on Monday showed, Washington hasn’t kept a close watch, and much of it has gone to projects that interested Mr. Musharraf and the Pakistani Army more, like building weapons systems aimed at America’s ally, India. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda and the Taliban continued, and continue, to make alarming gains.

While the Presidential candidates should have the tact not to utilize this tragedy for political fodder (yes Mr. 9/11 Giuliani and Mr. “Let’s Double Guantanomo Romney- I mean you!) the issue should be addressed tactfully as the loss of a leader, the loss of an ally, the loss of a woman, the loss of a wife and the loss of a mother. There are tactful and appropriate ways to address this catastrophic world event while being sensitive to the personal saga that is being played out in Ms. Bhutto’s family.

The United States cannot afford to have Pakistan unravel any further. The lesson of the last six years is that authoritarian leaders — even ones backed with billions in American aid — don’t make reliable allies, and they can’t guarantee security.

The New York Times in its usually eloquent style wrote in an editorial that “American policy must now be directed at building a strong democracy in Pakistan that has the respect and the support of its own citizens and the will and the means to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Pakistan is a nation of 165 million people. The days of Washington mortgaging its interests there to one or two individuals must finally come to an end.”


Responses

  1. Excellent background and analysis video on Benazir Bhutto and Pakistani politics:

    Aijaz Ahmad: Democracy movement in Pakistan not dead (The real News Network): http://www.therealnews.com/web/index.php?thisdataswitch=0&thisid=744&thisview=item

  2. I agree that the Bush administration really needs to step up to the plate and end its shameless, unconditional toleration of Musharraf and his dictatorial measures up until now. It must demand that Sharif be allowed to participate, and the independent judges be reinstated. If elections are held in less than 2 weeks, they will not be credible, the poll results will most certainly make a mockery of the democratic process. To ensure some semblance of stability in Pakistan, the elections must restore some of the public’s trust in the government.

  3. Hi Randy, It’s been a while and I just wanted to stop by and see what liberal hijinks you have been up to. I must say, you have not disappointed 🙂
    I find it strange that, for the most part, the liberal masses are/will/have blamed Bush for everything in the world that goes wrong, but here you have decided to “suggest” a good course of action for our Commander in Chief instead of “chopping his presidential weenie off.”

    Your desired path is one I will not disagree with, but something tells me it will never happen.

  4. It’s so good to hear from you! I always look forward to your comments—- you are one of the few conservatives that actually engages in thoughtful debate with me on this blog. I do not censor what people say on this site- unless it is profanity and hateful. Maybe that is censorship of a sort- but I have had to stop a few rather nasty exchanges (oddly enough – not with me but between readers!). But you, my friend, tend to be one of my favorite conservative readers!

    No not even I can blame the death of Bhutto on Bush. Pakistan has been a mess since its creation. It is remarkable to me that the places in the world that are among the most volatile and unstable- are the ones where the British Empire had control and cut up the territory in absurd ways when it decided to (or were forced to) leave. The British had an influence on India – Pakistan and the entire Middle East in ways that continue to resonate today.

    That’s probably why I get so scared when I see the US engaging in what I consder imperialistic behavior. It always ends in a disaster.

    WIth all that’s been going on in politics lately- I have had much to think about and I assume I will have a few new articles on line to raise your blood pressure very soon! Happy New Year!


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