July 29, 2014

Benazir’s Death, Pakistan’s Abyss

Like her father and two brothers, Benazir Bhutto has met a violent death — with more violence for her country in the offing. Bhutto was certainly no political reformer. Earlier, when she was Prime Minister, her husband was dubbed “Mr. 10 Percent” for allegedly receiving kickbacks — providing the military with a pretext for removing her from power. Nevertheless, before she was assassinated, Bhutto’s party had been favored in the Jan. 8 national parliamentary elections. Instead, her nation is now in a dangerous state of disarray, with embattled dictator Pervez “Let’s Arrest the Supreme Court” Musharraf precariously clinging to power. Although Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is in safe hands (for now), the Bush Administration must swiftly reach out to the country’s democratic opposition before it is too late.

– Gautam Dutta

Comments

  1. Samreen says:

    In the wake of the recent tragedy, one cannot forget the past. Neither Bhutto nor Shariff have proven to be effective leaders given their time in office. I beg to differ on calling President Musharraf a “dictator.” Since President Musharraf has entered office, the country has experienced stability for almost a decade, relatively speaking. This was never the case during Bhutto’s ruling years in office. During her time in office, Karachi was the hot spot for continuous violence amongst ethnic and political groups. And often, her People’s Party was at the front of provoking this violence. Additionally, Pakistan experienced the highest rate of corruption during Bhutto’s two terms, for example, her husband’s famous “Mr. 10 Percent” title.

    Musharraf may be viewed as taking unilateral actions during his time in office, but his intention has always been to ensure political stability within the country. For example, when he suspended political parties in the past, it was in response to the continuous cycles of violence amongst political groups (PPP, PML, MQM, and JI). This proved to be a smart move when later reviewed because it stabilized the country after many years of heated violence.

    One must assess political trends within Pakistan to understand its political culture; what works and what does not. The PML-N is the opposing party currently, but I would not refer to them as holding democratic ideals. Wasn’t Nawaz Shariff exiled on counts of corruption when Musharraf declared a military coup in 1999?

    There has never been a democratic opposition in Pakistan, just an opposition. I stand by Musharraf because he has the country’s best interest in mind and is the best viable alternative to a leader in Pakistan.

  2. gautam says:

    Samreen,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. To be sure, Pakistan has not been well served by any of its past three leaders: Pervez Musharraf, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, or the murdered Benazir Bhutto. Yet for all their flaws, Sharif and Bhutto had been popularly elected, while Musharraf seized power through a military coup.

    I suppose we differ on a couple points. Is Musharraf a dictator? To stay in power, “President” Musharraf jailed much of the Supreme Court (including the Chief Justice); rounded up leading politicians; and beat, imprisoned, and muzzled many of the country’s top lawyers. If auditions were held for the role of dictator, Musharraf would play the part magnificently.

    Second, is a political party anti-democratic simply because some of its leaders are corrupt? (That’s a good question to ask Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Ted Stevens, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush.) In a democracy, the people have the right to pass judgment on their leaders — through the ballot box. The people of Pakistan have been denied this opportunity. Rather than enabling Musharraf, the Bush Administration must pressure him to hold meaningful elections as soon as possible.

  3. Samreen says:

    Thank you, Gautam. I agree with some of the points, but question how free and fair have any of Pakistan’s elections been? If one can assure election transparency in January or from previous elections, then I would agree that previous leaders were popularly elected. It is very common of political leaders in Pakistan to bribe voters (financially); a practice that has been occurring for decades. It is so common that is openly talked about in media and everywhere in Pakistan. So, here is where I have always questioned elected officials in Pakistan.

    The PML-N has not had a wonderful reputation, aside from their corrupt leader if one reads on their history on ensuring democracy within Pakistan (please read on what Shariff and his party were responsible for with amending the Constitution during his time). However, that does not mean they are all bad. The party has accomplished wonderful things for Pakistan, as have all parties and leaders to various extents.

    It should be noted that the least amount of corruption and the highest level of political stability for the longest period of time has only occurred during the rule of President Musharraf (and before him this was true under the military coup by Gen Ayub Khan).

    Musharraf did make a mistake with the Supreme Court, but evidence only suggests that he was behind the beatings of the lawyers (since the beatings were during violent protests with police reacting to it). And how transparent were the rulings of the judges such as Iftikar? I can only hope that when Pakistan decides to hold its Parliamentary elections that they are as transparent as they can be in Pakistan.

  4. Samreen says:

    PS Thank you for providing the other side of my argument. I think it helps one to be a critical thinker when reading. It is a messy subject area and can only hope the situation in Pakistan gets better soon.

  5. Mohamed says:

    Do Republicans ever have a bad day?This drives me crazy, too. I’m glad you ptieond it out.If things don’t go our way, then the enemy’ is desperate and it means we must redouble our efforts.If things do go our way, then our leaders are brilliant, and it means we must redouble our efforts.I’m all for democracy, but it’s not a panacea and it isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition, either. Democracy didn’t prevent the American Civil war, and it won’t solve any of the problems in Pakistan for the forseeable future. It certainly hasn’t done much for Iraq, either. Forcing democracy on an unstable social, ethnic, or political situation is like pouring gasoline on a fire in hopes of making it burn out faster .Pakistan has been, directly or indirectly, a major player and promoter of terrorism in the region for decades. The Pakistani government has lost control of the terrorists it has spawned and groomed. Somehow this means we have to support the Pakistani government even more, and somehow democracy is the way to make things right again. The stupidity is breathtaking.

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