Benazir around the web

Posted January 1, 2008 to Pakistan category.

A roundup of some of the commentary on Benazir Bhutto.

The short version - tragic, and it speeds up Pakistan's descent into chaos and violence, but she was no fairy princess. In hindsight, perhaps she wasn't as bad as her enemies would portray her, but she's nowhere close to the shining princess of democracy which some newspaper obituaries and american senators are making her out to be.

William Dalrymple: Pakistan's flawed and feudal princess

It's wrong for the West simply to mourn Benazir Bhutto as a martyred democrat, says this acclaimed south Asia expert. Her legacy is far murkier and more complex

[...]Today, Benazir is being hailed as a martyr for freedom and democracy, but far from being a natural democrat, in many ways, Benazir was the person who brought Pakistan's strange variety of democracy, really a form of 'elective feudalism', into disrepute and who helped fuel the current, apparently unstoppable, growth of the Islamists. For Bhutto was no Aung San Suu Kyi. During her first 20-month premiership, astonishingly, she failed to pass a single piece of major legislation. Amnesty International accused her government of having one of the world's worst records of custodial deaths, killings and torture.

Within her party, she declared herself the lifetime president of the PPP and refused to let her brother Murtaza challenge her. When he persisted in doing so, he ended up shot dead in highly suspicious circumstances outside the family home. Murtaza's wife Ghinwa and his daughter Fatima, as well as Benazir's mother, all firmly believed that Benazir gave the order to have him killed.

[...]Benazir Bhutto was a courageous, secular and liberal woman. But sadness at the demise of this courageous fighter should not mask the fact that as a pro-Western feudal leader who did little for the poor, she was as much a central part of Pakistan's problems as the solution to them.

The above is perhaps the best analysis.

Jemima Khan notes, As prime minister, Benazir Bhutto did little:

Of all the accusations levelled against her, including oligarchic looting of the Treasury ($1.5 billion according to Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau), political expediency and nepotism (her husband, known as "Mr Ten Per Cent" was made Minister of Investments), the most irrefutable was that she did almost nothing for Pakistan during her two terms in power.

As the first democratically elected female leader of a Muslim country her potential was limitless, but she never even tried to repeal the Hudood Ordinances, Pakistan's heinous laws that make no distinction between rape and adultery.

In fact, during her first, 20-month-long premiership she failed to pass a single piece of major legislation. Instead, she kowtowed to the mullahs. During her second term, her government backed the Taliban takeover in Kabul, providing them with military and financial support.

She also made deals with the military, whom she despised. The PPP, which Benazir inherited from her father and the only grass roots national party that Pakistan has ever known, became the Bhutto party and was run like a monarchy.

At the same time she depicted herself in the West as the answer to religious extremism and the last hope for democracy. A beautiful, Harvard- and Oxford-educated, Shakespeare-quoting, Queen's English-speaking Muslim woman - she was always "one of us" and easily forgiven.

The West lapped up the facile soundbites and overlooked the deeply flawed political record. Just as most Western commentators have done after her death.

Benazir's implacable courage was of course commendable, but that part of the world is bedevilled by people who, like her, are personally brave but politically weak. Sadly, her tragic death can't change that.

Empire Notes: Democracy is Dead, Long Live Democracy discusses the overblown western reaction to her death.

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto caps off Pakistan’s recent descent into hell. The last few years have seen the emergence of a tribal insurgency in Balochistan, an upsurge in conflict between state forces and jihadis in Waziristan, escalation of violent Shi’a-Sunni conflict, and, most recently, an epidemic of mass-casualty suicide bombings that have briefly caused Pakistan to eclipse Iraq in the news.

Tariq Ali comments on the backwardness of Bhutto's son inheriting a so called democratic political party:

Six hours before she was executed, Mary, Queen of Scots wrote to her brother-in-law, Henry III of France: "...As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him." The year was 1587.

On 30 December 2007, a conclave of feudal potentates gathered in the home of the slain Benazir Bhutto to hear her last will and testament being read out and its contents subsequently announced to the world media. Where Mary was tentative, her modern-day equivalent left no room for doubt. She could certainly answer for her son.

A triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif Zardari (one of the most venal and discredited politicians in the country and still facing corruption charges in three European courts) and two ciphers will run the party till Benazir's 19-year-old son, Bilawal, comes of age. He will then become chairperson-for-life and, no doubt, pass it on to his children. The fact that this is now official does not make it any less grotesque. The Pakistan People's Party is being treated as a family heirloom, a property to be disposed of at the will of its leader.

Nothing more, nothing less. Poor Pakistan. Poor People's Party supporters. Both deserve better than this disgusting, medieval charade.

Watching some of her better speeches on TV, in hindsight, she said all the right things - but actions speak louder than words. Passing her "democratic" political party on to her son - in this day and age it's sickening.

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