Saturday, December 29, 2007


By: Bernard Chazelle

Benazir Bhutto's assassination is a tragedy for her relatives and those of the 20 others who died in the attack. It is a sad day for her supporters.

Ms Bhutto was courageous to the point of recklessness. Her father was both Pakistan's great hope and bitter disappointment. But she lacked his considerable political skills. Upon her return to Pakistan at Bush's behest, Musharraf made mincemeat of her. It is doubtful he had anything to do with her death: in fact, his political future is now in jeopardy. If anyone besides her killers has blood on their hands, it is Bush, who sent her to her death in a harebrained scheme.

Bhutto's two stints as Prime Minister were marked by massive corruption and gross incompetence. But she agreed to do America's bidding and so she was merely, in the words of the New York Times, "imperfect."

In the corridors of power in Islamabad, few will mourn her passing. In fact, Agatha Christie could have written the script: the victim is dead and all the usual suspects have reason to celebrate. The military hated her; the master triangulator Musharraf couldn't stand the thought of the power-sharing agreement the US was trying to shove down his throat. Her nemesis and chief rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had been mentored by Zia-ul-Haq, the man who killed her dad. The Inter-Services Intelligence (the infamous ISI) wished her dead. So did the Islamists and tribal leaders.

Pakistani politics is not for the faint of heart. One can imagine Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, muttering to himself: "And they think we are the crazy Muslim country!"

One man wasn't too thrilled by yesterday's events: Bush. His entire Pakistan policy is in tatters. For this he can also thank torture-loving John "Musharraf is our indispensable ally" Negroponte. The US gave Musharraf $11 billion in 6 years and the good general used that money to rid Pakistan of the last vestiges of American influence. He may well meet Benazir's fate one day or be ousted by his former protege and replacement as Army Chief, Ashfaq Kiyani, but don't discount his extraordinary survival skills. In particular, for years now Musharraf has been running circles around American policymakers; or, for that matter, the imperial satraps manning the fort at the New York Times.

Washington must now call for new rules

Washington must also demand

[Washington] must insist that

Washington will need to send the same message

How about "Washington must learn to mind its own business"?
Now, on to the nut graf.

American policy must now be directed at building a strong democracy in Pakistan that has the respect and the support of its own citizens and the will and the means to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
This is a statement of breathtaking ignorance. A strong democracy in Pakistan that had the respect and the support of its own citizens would have neither the will nor the means to fight the Taliban, an organization that Pakistan helped create in the 90s to pacify its Tribal Areas and maintain its influence in Afghanistan. The US is losing the war in Afghanistan and is pressuring Pakistan to fight the good fight for us. Trouble is, Islamabad has long nurtured a careful relationship with the tribal belt and has no desire to start a full-fledged civil war within its borders. The low-level skirmishes that the Pakistani army wages (and usually loses) in Balochistan and the North-Western regions are more than it can handle.

Bush got mad at Musharraf for negotiating with the Taliban. Never mind that
Britain and the US are currently in negotiation with the Taliban in Afghanistan. (Has the NYT noticed that European diplomats were expelled from Afghanistan last week?) The hypocrisy is staggering.

Speaking of which, President Bush said this today:

The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy
Forget about the use of words: the "cowardice" of suicide bombers; the murderous extremists (not to be confused with the murderous moderates). How can Bush speak of those "trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy"? What democracy? The US has been propping up a dictator to the tune of $11 billion for 6 years, and The Decider goes after the Underminers of Pakistan's democracy...

Why must Orwell always have the last word?

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