Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bhutto, Pakistan, and what comes next?

I wrote most of this post before Bhutto was arrested as part of a wider crackdown.
"Across Punjab Province on Thursday an estimated 500 workers of Ms. Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party were arrested in the government’s latest sweep of its opponents. By Friday morning, party officials said, the number detained in the past three days had climbed to 5,000."
Benazir Bhutto wrote an Op-Ed for the NY Times on Wednesday. Is it political grandstanding or sincere patriotism? She was almost killed by a bomb last week, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

“The United States alone has given the Musharraf government more than $10 billion in aid since 2001. We do not know exactly where or how this money has been spent, but it is clear that it has not brought about the defeat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, nor succeeded in capturing Osama bin Laden, nor has it broken the opium trade. It certainly has not succeeded in improving the quality of life of the children and families of Pakistan.

The United States can promote democracy — which is the only way to truly contain extremism and terrorism — by telling General Musharraf that it does not accept martial law, and that it expects him to conduct free, fair, impartial and internationally monitored elections within 60 days under a reconstituted election commission. He should be given that choice: democracy or dictatorship with isolation.”

Apparently, all the lobbying worked.

I’m in the middle of Karl E. Meyer’s The Dust of Empire: The Race for Mastery of the Asian Heartland. It’s a combination of histories of Central Asian countries. There was a lot about the making of Pakistan that I did not know.

Benazir Bhutto is the descendent of a long line of powerful, wealthy Pakistanis. Her father was a ruler who was ousted and executed. He and she herself are/were often accused of “corruption,” a vague charge that everyone is apparently guilty of.

Meyer writes:

“With Benazir Bhutto, one encounters another major recurring theme—the persistance of a powerful landowning elite that colides repeatedly with the meritocratic military, a competition that gives bargaining leverage to the third major force in Pakistan, the Islamic establishment, with its political parties and its ubiquitous religious schools.”

In the end, who or what will rule Pakistan come February?

No comments: