Bhutto's Legacy

Bhutto's Legacy
By HUSAIN HAQQANI; Wall Street Journal December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto's tragic assassination highlights the fears about Pakistan that she voiced over the last several months. Years of dictatorship and sponsorship of Islamist extremism have made this nuclear-armed Muslim nation of 160 million people a safe haven for terrorists that threaten the world. Bhutto had the courage and vision to challenge both the terrorism and the authoritarian culture that nurtured it. Her assassination has already exacerbated Pakistan's instability and uncertainty.

Riots have been reported from several parts of the country as grief has fanned anger against a government that is deeply unpopular. As Pakistanis mourn the death of a popular democratic leader, the United States must review its policy of trusting the military-dominated regime led by Pervez Musharraf to secure, stabilize and democratize Pakistan.

The U.S. should use its influence, acquired with more than $10 billion in economic and military aid, to persuade Pakistan's military to loosen its grip on power and negotiate with politicians with popular support, most prominently Bhutto's successors in her Pakistan People's Party. Instead of calibrating terrorism, as Mr. Musharraf appears to have done, Pakistan must work towards eliminating terrorism, as Bhutto demanded.

The immediate consequence of the assassination will likely be postponement of the legislative elections scheduled for Jan. 8. Bhutto's party led in opinion polls, followed by the opposition faction of the conservative Pakistan Muslim League (PML), led by Nawaz Sharif. Immediately after Bhutto's assassination, Mr. Sharif announced that he is now joining the boycott of the polls called by several smaller political parties. If Mr. Musharraf goes ahead with elections, it is unlikely that it would have much credibility.

In her death, as in her life, Benazir Bhutto has drawn attention to the need for building a moderate Muslim democracy in Pakistan that cares for its people and allows them to elect its leaders. The war against terrorism, she repeatedly argued, cannot be won without mobilizing the people of Pakistan against Islamist extremists, and bringing Pakistan's security services under civilian control.

Unfortunately, at the moment Bhutto's homeland (and mine) remains a dictatorship controlled through secret police machinations. Mr. Musharraf's regime has squandered its energies fighting civilian democrats instead of confronting the menace of terrorism that has now claimed the life of one of the nation's most popular political figures. His administration will have to answer many tough questions in the next few days about its failure to provide adequate security to Bhutto, particularly after an earlier assassination attempt against her on Oct. 18.

The suicide bombing on that day, marking her homecoming after eight years in exile, claimed the lives of 160 people, mainly Bhutto supporters. But the government refused to accept Bhutto's requests for an investigation assisted by the FBI or Scotland Yard, both of which have greater competence in analyzing forensic evidence than Pakistan's notoriously corrupt and incompetent law enforcement.

The circumstances of the first assassination attempt remain mired in mystery and a complete investigation has yet to take place. Television images soon after Bhutto's assassination showed fire engines hosing down the crime scene, in what can only be considered a calculated washing away of forensic evidence.

Bhutto had publicly expressed fears that pro-extremist elements within Pakistan's security services were complicit in plans to eliminate her. She personally asked me to communicate her concerns to U.S. officials, which I did. But instead of addressing those fears, Mr. Musharraf cynically rejected Bhutto's request for international security consultants to be hired at her own expense. This cynicism on the part of the Pakistani authorities is now causing most of Bhutto's supporters to blame the Musharraf regime for her tragic death.

In her two terms as prime minister -- both cut short by military-backed dismissals on charges that were subsequently never proven -- Bhutto outlined the vision of a modern and pluralistic Muslim state. Her courage was legendary. She stepped into the shoes of her populist father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, without much training or inclination for politics, after he was executed by an earlier military ruler, Gen. Zia ul-Haq.

She was demonized by the civil-military oligarchy that has virtually run Pakistan since 1958, the year of Pakistan's first military coup. But she retained a hard core of popular support, and her social-democratic Pakistan People's Party is widely regarded as Pakistan's largest political party.

In 1988, at the age of 35, Bhutto became the youngest prime minister in Pakistan's troubled history, and the first woman to lead a Muslim nation in the modern age. For her supporters, she stood for women's empowerment, human rights and mass education. Her detractors accused her of many things, from corruption to being too close to the U.S.

During her second tenure as prime minister, Pakistan became one of the 10 emerging capital markets of the world. The World Health Organization praised government efforts in the field of health. Rampant narcotics problems were tackled and several drug barons arrested. Bhutto increased government spending on education and 46,000 new schools were built.

Thousands of teachers were recruited with the understanding that a secular education, covering multiple study areas (particularly technical and scientific education), would improve the lives of Pakistanis and create job opportunities critical to self-empowerment. But Pakistan's political turbulence, and her constant battle with the country's security establishment, never allowed her to take credit for these achievements.

For years, her image was tarnished by critics who alleged that she did not deliver on her promise. During the early days after Mr. Musharraf's decision to support the U.S.-led war against terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11, conventional wisdom in Washington wrote her off. But Pakistan's constant drift into extremism, and Mr. Musharraf's inability to win Pakistani hearts and minds, changed that.

Earlier this year, the United States and the United Kingdom supported efforts for a transition to democracy in Pakistan based on a negotiated settlement between Bhutto and Mr. Musharraf. She was to be allowed to return to Pakistan and the many corruption charges filed against her and her husband, Asif Zardari, were to be dropped.

Mr. Musharraf promised free and fair elections, and promised to end a bar imposed by him against Bhutto running for a third term as prime minister. But on Nov. 3, his imposition of a state of emergency, suspension of Pakistan's constitution, and arbitrary reshuffling of the country's judiciary brought that arrangement to an end. He went back on his promises to Bhutto, and as elections approached, recrimination between the two was at its height.

Benazir Bhutto had the combination of political brilliance, charisma, popular support and international recognition that made her a credible democratic alternative to Mr. Musharraf. Her elimination from the scene is not only a personal loss to millions of Pakistanis who loved and admired her. It exposes her nation's vulnerability, and the urgent need to deal with it.

Mr. Haqqani, a professor at Boston University and co-chair of the Hudson Institute's Project on Islam and Democracy, is the author of "Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military" (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005). He has served as adviser to several Pakistani prime ministers, including Benazir Bhutto.


Anonymous said…
Mr. haqqani glosses over Mohartama's many failings presumably because of his links to her as well as a desire not to speak ill of the dead. But her niece Fatima Bhutto wrote an article in the LA Times last month where she all but accused her aunt of direct complicity in the death of her father. Apart from murder, Benazir can just as easily be accused of a host of heinous crimes that did nothing the for the democratic ideals she loudly and frequently espoused including looting taxpayers' monies, arms trafficking, abetting fundamentalism etc.
Anonymous said…
Mr. Haqqani is an acolyte of Bhutto family.
Anonymous said…
Haqqani is Pakistan's Ahmed Chalabi
Anonymous said…
Skepticism tinges support for Bhutto
The Pakistani opposition leader is still popular, but some wonder what she has to offer after two disastrous stints as prime minister.
By Bruce Wallace, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 3, 2007
KARACHI, Pakistan — Benazir Bhutto's image is visible throughout Lyari, one of Karachi's oldest and most desperate neighborhoods. It is stamped on political posters that can't paper over cracks in the buckling buildings and billows out on bedsheets that hang from rooftops and flutter with every breeze that lifts the dust and stirs the garbage.

Despite a decade in exile, Bhutto is still a presence in this multi-ethnic inner-city ghetto of 1.6 million people that has been solidly behind her Pakistan People's Party since the 1970s, when it was led by her father. Yet even in Lyari, along the rutted alleys that double as outdoor schools and past the dozens of "Chinese Dentist" stores, there is only tempered enthusiasm for the woman campaigning to recapture the prime minister's job she held twice in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Related Stories
- Musharraf to end emergency rule by Dec. 16
- Musharraf takes oath as civilian president
- Musharraf steps down as military chief
- For many Pakistanis, a state of economic emergency

Neither democracy nor martial law has made much difference to the lives in Lyari. Sewage runs through the alleys as it always has, and jobs are hard to find. Outsiders continue to come to the neighborhood to buy their hashish, the drug commerce fueling gang wars that police show little inclination to stop.

Bhutto's brand of secular politics has always leaned heavily on the rhetoric of social and economic justice, designed to appeal to the Pakistani underclass. But as she launched her election campaign over the weekend in the northern city of Peshawar, her previous stints in office were being widely remembered as disappointing, the promises of a fairer society scuttled amid charges of personal corruption and the expedient decision to cater to Muslim extremists.

"Nothing changed for us when she was in power," says Lal Baksh Rind, a longtime community activist in Lyari and a political rival of Bhutto's PPP. Rind acknowledges that Lyari is still Bhutto's turf. But he says few people believe reelecting her will end their despair.

"Some people think that if she comes back she will give them jobs -- that's why they will vote for her," he says, sitting cross-legged on his bed in a tiny, damp house beneath a portrait of Karl Marx and a painting of Iranian soldiers burning U.S. flag.

"But fix Lyari? The infrastructure is so bad -- no sewers, no services. No politician can fix it."

Bhutto, however, is not shying away from raising expectations. Her platform for elections scheduled to be held Jan. 8 is a cascade of promises designed to appeal to the millions of poor left out of much-trumpeted economic growth under eight years of rule by President Pervez Musharraf.

Bhutto has pledged to give at least one year of employment to each of Pakistan's poorest families, and to offer micro-financing for 5 million people to start small businesses. She also vowed that, by 2015, all children ages 5 to 10 would be enrolled in school.

The theme of social and economic justice was a hallmark of the PPP under its founder, the revered Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir's father, who was hanged almost three decades ago after a military coup by Gen. Zia ul-Haq. Benazir's supporters acknowledge that part of her appeal derives from her father's legacy, and his face is a ghostly presence on many of the posters and billboards touting his daughter's return to politics.

That's especially true in Lyari, which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto saw as a place to build a political base during his rise to power. It was during Bhutto's time as prime minister that Lyari was given its first underground sewage system and schools were built, and the era is remembered as a time when politicians paid attention.

The Bhutto name still resonates here.

"Democratic institutions are not very powerful and people think there is no reason to vote," says Mohammed Asghar Baloch, a member of Lyari's vibrant community of east African descendants.

"But there are some who think that whenever a Bhutto comes to power the lower classes will get jobs. That's what they are hoping for now," said Baloch, who runs a government school in Lyari.

Although much of the chattering class debate in Pakistan focuses on constitutional issues, economic themes formed the backbone of Bhutto's campaign launch in Peshawar, a stronghold of religious parties. Even her pitch for resolving the confrontation between the government and Islamic extremists is rooted in economics.

"The Pakistan People's Party will give them security, peace and employment," she said, referring to the region's conservative, ethnic Pashtun population. She added that she would "bring development to their areas so their problems will be solved."

Bhutto is unlikely to make major electoral inroads in the north. But she is counting on the pitch for economic justice to win voters in the heavily populated south and east of the country, where the election probably will be decided.

"The poor don't care about the charges of corruption against her; they care about jobs and education for their kids," says Aisha Gazdar, a Karachi-based documentary filmmaker. "It doesn't matter that some people may be angry at her from the last time. There's also a feeling of: 'Let's give her a second chance, because she can't be as bad as before.' "

Bhutto's critics are less forgiving, insisting that her record as prime minister should be taken as an indication of what another term would look like.

"She showed she was capable of great violence," says Fatima Bhutto, who is a sharp critic of her aunt. "Her last government was marked by assassination squads and torture cells."

Fatima Bhutto's fury stems in large part from the slaying of her father, Mir Murtaza Bhutto. He was shot to death by police in 1996 while his older sister was prime minister. An investigative tribunal later ruled that the incident had to have had the blessing of higher authorities.

The Bhutto family is now a house divided, with Fatima accusing her aunt of being "an enabler for Musharraf and the White House, marching to any orders so long as it lands her in the prime minister's office."

Bhutto's willingness originally to let herself be cast as potential partner for Musharraf in a deal pushed by the Bush administration shows that she is "incredibly out of touch with the ground," Fatima Bhutto says. "People don't take kindly to having their country sold out."

Other analysts note that Bhutto, while wounded by her dismal record in office, remains an attractive candidate.

"She's the most popular individual in Pakistan now," argues Syed Jaffar Ahmed, director of the Pakistani Studies Center at the University of Karachi. "She committed mistakes in government that cost her a lot of credibility. But she has made up some of what she had lost."

Yet Pakistani elections are messy affairs, with all parties guilty of buying votes and stuffing ballots, making predictions difficult. That is one unstated reason why the opposition parties are divided and unsure whether to boycott the election.

Musharraf has had eight years to build local support on the ground. Meanwhile the networks of Bhutto and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, her main opposition rival, have atrophied.

"Benazir has a lot of support in Lyari, but there is a lot of rigging during elections," says Rind with a wry smile. "Many people don't vote. But others cast their vote for them."

Popular posts from this blog

What happened between Musharraf & Mahmood after 9/11 attacks

How many libraries are there in Pakistan?

"Society can survive with kufr (infidelity), but not injustice":