Killed Benazir Bhutto?
The death of former Pakistani
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is being mourned by millions of Pakistanis.
She had a profound public base despite staying out of her country for
nearly a decade and dogged by corruption and nepotism charges.
Her death, however, should not come as a surprise at all. For the past
three decades, Pakistan has been turned into a "Jihad factory'
under the guidance of the US and other Western powers. After 9/11 when
Pakistan launched a war on its own people in the name of "War on
terror', it was not uncanny to predict that the Jihadis who were nourished
previously will turn against their old allies -- the politicians and
the military and the innocent people of Pakistan will get caught and
entangled as a collateral.
Bhutto a martyr for democracy in Pakistan? Many of the Pakistani political
parties are calling it a set-back for democracy which could be seriously
contested, but her death is certainly a blow to the electoral exercise.
Strangely, exiled leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement MQM, Altaf Hussain
called her "martyr of democracy'. Altaf Hussain's MQM is blamed
for hundreds of terrorist actions that led to the deaths of thousands
of people in Karachi. The world's "greatest democrat' George Bush
has claimed that Benazir laid down her life for the ideals of democracy.
was indeed a very popular woman politician of her country, but she was
by no means a democrat. During her tenure as twice Prime Minister of
her country, she stifled the growth of democracy and undermined the
democratic institutions. She not only concentrated in herself the absolute
power of the country, but also assumed the title of chairperson for
life of her political party -- Pakistan People's Party (PPP).
Asif Ali Zardari is generally seen as the villain who tarnished Benazir's
image through corruption and violence. Zardari, a jagirdar or landlord
used his traditional violent methods to subdue his opponents and used
the government power of his wife to extract benefits through his various
corrupt, and often violent deals. He was alleged to be involved in the
killing of Murtaza Bhutto, Benazir's brother. Asif Zardari had even
maintained private jails where he tortured his opponents. This all happened
while Benazir Bhutto's "democratically elected' government was
record for corruption surpassed all the pervious governments as she
amassed huge assets mostly in Dubai, the UK and other Western capitals
plundering the assets of her country. Her government was involved in
the massive human rights violations particularly in Karachi where the
MQM militants had virtually brought the financial capital of Pakistan
to a grinding halt. The reaction of the Benazir government was ruthless
operations that killed thousands of innocent and unarmed civilians.
Benazir was portrayed as the "modern and moderate' face of Pakistan
who could help fighting Jihadists, this fact is conveniently buried
that it was her government that helped formation of Taliban whose legacy
continues to ruin Pakistan, Afghanistan and beyond.
return from self-exile, Benazir went beyond all decency and decorum
to appease the US and other Western powers. Her assertions that she
was not opposed to the American operations in the Pakistan's tribal
areas to fight "terrorism' and would allow disgraced scientist
AQ Khan to be interrogated by the US showed her desperation for power.
Power was all that mattered and she showed no regard to the public feelings
or her country's integrity. She even talked tough about Jihadis and
was willing to follow the course of General Musharraf's military response
to the crisis rather than any political negotiation to rid the country
of growing extremism.
Who killed Benazir?
no doubt that Benazir Bhutto had many enemies. After her rhetoric against
Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalists, her list of enemies grew
"deal' between Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, she was seen
as main challenge to the current government. This is important to note
that General Musharraf allowed Bhutto into Pakistan only after tremendous
US pressure. When she arrived in Pakistan in October last, the millions
of people who came to receive her gave sleepless nights to the government
authorities. This ultimately paved way for the return of Nawaz Sharief
another former Prime Minister who was earlier deported as soon as he
landed in Pakistan.
the Jihadists and Al-Qaeda had allegedly vowed to kill her, the current
Pakistani regime headed by General Musharraf can not be absolved and
will be the greatest benefactor of her death. Another rival who may
have been willing to see her dead are Chaudhry Brothers -- Chaudhry
Pervez Illahi and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain of Pakistan Muslim League
Q, the political partner of General Musharraf. The Chaudhry Brothers
were the bitterest opponents of Benazir's homecoming and tried unsuccessfully
to stop President Musharraf from doing a deal with Bhutto.
terrorists attacked Benazir's homecoming rally on October 18, 2007,
she blamed former Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Ilahi. Chaudhry Brothers
have had well documented connections with the Jihadist extremists and
are well known to use violence for their political goals.
Even if President
Musharraf's government may not be directly involved in her killing,
it can not be absolved of inaction in protecting her. Despite being
on the "hit list' of terrorists and extremists, Benazir was not
provided ample security cover. The deterioration of Pakistan's intelligence
and security apparatus to predict or stop suicide bombings can be gauged
by the number of rising fatal bombings in and around the highest protected
area of the Army Headquarters GHQ in Rawalpindi. Benazir Bhutto was
also killed in Rawalpindi not far from the country's military headquarters.
of Pakistan is fraught with instability and the death of Benazir has
further undermined the internal security of Pakistan. After her death,
her party could win the majority of seats if the elections go ahead,
but there is no single leader that could hold the Pakistan People's
Party (PPP) together. Unfortunately, Benazir's legacy for her party
is highly undemocratic and there is a chance that the PPP could split
with many contenders and claimants for the throne. This could create
further divisions among the Pakistan's fractured polity.
There is no doubt that the death meted out to Benazir Bhutto is tragic
and testing for Pakistan. But there are some positive things that seem
to be coming out of this national tragedy. In his reaction and speech
to the nation, President Pervez Musharraf declared a three day "official
mourning' when the national flag will fly at half mast. This is for
the first time that the death of an opposition leader has been recognised
officially. Similarly, Islamist Jama'at-e-Islami while condemning the
terror act has called for a general strike. Other political parties
from a wide spectrum of persuasions have condemned the killing and offered
attack on Benazir's convoy on 18th October 2007 that killed nearly 150
Pakistani civilians precipitated the anger of Pakistanis against the
terrorism and extremism. There was a massive public recognition and
reaction against the extremist ideology. Benazir's death might act as
a catalyst to unite the Pakistani nation and strengthen their resolve
to fight the menace that has engulfed the country thanks to its willingness
to act as proxy to the alien interests in the region.
Musharraf's government can offer initiatives to value the public opinion
of Pakistanis in this time of multiple crisis and bring about a real
national reconciliation, Pakistan could emerge from the challenges that
are not only threatening the core values of its society, but also the
very existence of the country and its people.
Murtaza Shibli is the editor of Kashmir Affairs, London
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