Today's Reading Assignment
...from the pages of the Los Angeles Times. In an op-ed published today, Pakistani poet and writer Fatima Bhutto makes the case that her aunt, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, is not the woman who can restore democracy in her native land. Quite the opposite; Fatima Bhutto makes the case that her aunt is actually profiting from the recent declaration of emergency rule:
The reality, however, is that there is no one better placed to benefit from emergency rule than she is. Along with the leaders of prominent Islamic parties, she has been spared the violent retributions of emergency law. Yes, she now appears to be facing seven days of house arrest, but what does that really mean? While she was supposedly under house arrest at her Islamabad residence last week, 50 or so of her party members were comfortably allowed to join her. She addressed the media twice from her garden, protected by police given to her by the state, and was not reprimanded for holding a news conference. (By contrast, the very suggestion that they might hold a news conference has placed hundreds of other political activists under real arrest, in real jails.)
Ms. Bhutto's political posturing is sheer pantomime. Her negotiations with the military and her unseemly willingness until just a few days ago to take part in Musharraf's regime have signaled once and for all to the growing legions of fundamentalists across South Asia that democracy is just a guise for dictatorship.
She also reminds us that the former Prime Minister is no stranger to corruption--the same charges leveled against Pakistan's current leader, General Pervez Musharraf.
It is widely believed that Ms. Bhutto lost both her governments on grounds of massive corruption. She and her husband, a man who came to be known in Pakistan as "Mr. 10%," have been accused of stealing more than $1 billion from Pakistan's treasury. She is appealing a money-laundering conviction by the Swiss courts involving about $11 million. Corruption cases in Britain and Spain are ongoing.
It was particularly unappealing of Ms. Bhutto to ask Musharraf to bypass the courts and drop the many corruption cases that still face her in Pakistan. He agreed, creating the odiously titled National Reconciliation Ordinance in order to do so. Her collaboration with him was so unsubtle that people on the streets are now calling her party, the Pakistan People's Party, the Pervez People's Party. Now she might like to distance herself, but it's too late.
And, lest we forget, Benazir Bhutto has her own tied to Islamic radicals:
Ms. Bhutto's repeated promises to end fundamentalism and terrorism in Pakistan strain credulity because, after all, the Taliban government that ran Afghanistan was recognized by Pakistan under her last government -- making Pakistan one of only three governments in the world to do so.
Obviously, Fatima Bhutto has reasons to be angry with the former Prime Minister. Her father --Benazir Bhutto's younger brother--was killed in 1996, in what was described as a carefully-planned police assassination. Benazir Bhutto's role in the murder has never been explained, but a three-judge Pakistani panel concluded that the killing could not have occurred without approval from a "much higher" political authority.
While Benazir Bhutto often receives fawning coverage from the western press, it is clear that she is less popular at home that we would believe. Which leads to an obvious question: if Musharraf goes down the tubes--and Ms. Bhutto can't muster enough support--who does the U.S. support?
As with many elements of the Pakistan "problem" there are few easy answers, or palatable choices.