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Who wants Benazir Bhutto dead?

Posted By Fe'reeha On 22nd October, 2007 @ 2:32 am In South Asia, Religion, Pakistan | 33 Comments

After the suicide attack on Benazir Bhutto’ home-coming celebration killed as many as 136 supporters on Thursday, the big question still remains - who was behind the attacks?

Bhutto’s first speech after the carnage was notable because it grabbed the attention and admiration of a number of people, some of even those who usually stay detached from political activities in Pakistan.

An undeterred Benazir Bhutto donned a black armband on Friday as she vowed not to be frightened by the murder attempts. The body language was loud and clear. Twice she snapped at people’s ringing mobiles and on several occasions made sure her words were heard exactly she meant them. As she stood among a crowd of hundreds she seemed to be signalling to not only the media but also to her enemy that this is Butto’s daughter and she would stand unmoved. Her resolution could not go unnoticed even by her worst critics.

The Bhutto family history has been written with blood.

Her father and the father of Pakistan People’s Party, Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged at the gallows under a military regime, and her two brothers, Shahnawaz and Murtaza Bhutto died in suspicious circumstances. The death of the latter caused a rift within the party and resulted in a family feud.

If anything, Benazir understands what death means and how close it can be. In her own words the attacks were not exactly a surprise. Pakistan’s government and the security agencies had given her warnings about them. Some warnings even came directly from the militants. The pro-Taliban militant leader, Baitullah Masood, said he would target her with suicide attacks.

While Ms Bhutto steadfastly and innocently discarded the threats saying “a Muslim would not harm a woman because he would burn in hell”, the stark reality remains that a large number of pro Taliban Muslims would hate her precisely because she was a woman.

Let’s not be in denial about the distorted teachings that still exist in the hearts of many where a Muslim woman leadership would not be accepted as Islamically appropriate.

Earlier this year, the Chief Minister of Sindh publicly termed female leadership a hazard. He stood by his comments despite much hue and cry raised by Benazir’s party members and human right activist Aasma Jehangir. The hatred for a female ruler exists in Pakistan and that too in with the Islamic parties. One would have hoped that the moderate powers of Pervaiz Musharraf had made Pakistanis more enlightened. This sadly does not seem to be the case.

Some people have even blamed Ms Bhutto for using the Pakistani people for her own egoistic show of a grand home coming. However, a general sense prevails that Bhutto was a victim. The aftermath of the attacks suggests the killers meant business. In her own words: “There was one suicide squad from Taliban elements, one suicide squad from Al Qaeda, one suicide squad from Pakistani Taliban and a fourth, I believe a group from Karachi.”

Whoever was behind the attack, the fact remains these were attacks on the very core of apparent sovereignty of Pakistan. The terrorism about which Pakistanis and Muslims around the world had been slumbering in denial about, stands at the very heart of their own country now.

With the Indo-Pakistan anti-terror mechanism [1] set to meet on Monday, I am sure there will be a number of issues that the two countries can talk about.


33 Comments To "Who wants Benazir Bhutto dead?"

#1 Comment By Zak On 22nd October, 2007 @ 9:52 am

I am afraid I don’t buy a lot of whats written in this piece, confusing the Bhutto arrogance for charisma is an easy mistake to make. The Bhuttos are essentially a feudal family, Benazirs two stints in power and in opposition were marked by large scale levels of political opportunism and mismanagement. What was her contribution to womens empowerment during that time? You’d be hard pressed to name even an attempt at pushing through reforms.

In ideological terms Benazir did not mind in supporting religo-political parties which backed her in the mid 90’s and she initiated the policy of backing the taliban (what the movement turned into however cannot be attributed to her)

Also the Baitullah Mahsud story has been rubbished by many top journalists in Pakistan.

#2 Comment By Rumbold On 22nd October, 2007 @ 11:01 am

Good article Fe’reeha. I thought that Imran Khan’s comments on the matter were an absolute disgrace:

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/10/21/do2101.xml

In it he blames Bhutto for holding a rally. He does not actually blame the people who blew themselves up. He really has turned into the George Galloway of Pakistani politics: an unhinged media star on the far left with plenty of newspaper inches but no real support.

#3 Comment By Sid On 22nd October, 2007 @ 11:25 am

So Rumbold, you’d support a corrupt military dictatorship masked by an even more corupt, morally bankrupt feudal elite to give it the spurious respectability of a civilian democracy? This is the democracy you’d like implemented in Pakistan, is it?

And you like to think of yourself of an exponent of liberal democracy and Interventionism? You couldn’t be more in-credible if you, and Muscular Liberals like you, took to wearing curly wigs and big orange shoes and squirted water out of a plastic flower in your lapels. Which you probably do anyway.

#4 Comment By Sid On 22nd October, 2007 @ 11:36 am

ok, that was bit harsh.
I’m over-egging the illustration, you probably don’t wear the wig.

#5 Comment By Sofia On 22nd October, 2007 @ 12:16 pm

Rumbold…it’s ok for BB to sit with her bodyguards etc. but what of the ordinary ppl that she should have had some responsibility for?? she knew about the death threats..i’m not saying the perpertrators shouldn’t be condemned but she could have had something a little more low key…

#6 Comment By Roger On 22nd October, 2007 @ 12:22 pm

Presumably her supporters were as well aware of the risks they ran as Ms Bhutto was, Sofia. However, it’s worrying when a corrupt feudalist is regarded as the best hope for Pakistan and even more worrying when it’s Pakistanis that see her so.

#7 Comment By Rumbold On 22nd October, 2007 @ 12:25 pm

Sid:

“So Rumbold, you’d support a corrupt military dictatorship masked by an even more corupt, morally bankrupt feudal elite to give it the spurious respectability of a civilian democracy? This is the democracy you’d like implemented in Pakistan, is it?”

I think that Bhutto’s return will help ease Pakistan back into democracy, which is a good thing. What are the alternatives?

“You couldn’t be more in-credible if you, and Muscular Liberals like you, took to wearing curly wigs and big orange shoes and squirted water out of a plastic flower in your lapels. Which you probably do anyway.”

I used to do that, but was sacked for not clowning around enough.

Sofia:

“It’s ok for BB to sit with her bodyguards etc. but what of the ordinary ppl that she should have had some responsibility for?? she knew about the death threats..i’m not saying the perpertrators shouldn’t be condemned but she could have had something a little more low key…”

I recognise that there is something in that argument, it just seems wrong that a leading politican should not be able to campaign in her own country for fear of suicide attacks.

#8 Comment By Sid On 22nd October, 2007 @ 12:53 pm

I think that Bhutto’s return will help ease Pakistan back into democracy, which is a good thing. What are the alternatives?

Not if she is nothing more than a civilian mask for a military government, which is what is being dictated by Washington.

The alternatives? How about strengthing civil society and democratic institutions? Implementation of essential Reforms of the political parties (like Zak mentioned above) and creating an independent judiciary (something which Musharaf hated, by the way). All of these measures are supported by pro-democracy liberals like Imran Khan, btw.

Why do you muscle-bounds think that democracy is best served in Pakistan by supporting the most illiberal and undemocratic (and not to mention the most astronomically corrupt) players?

#9 Comment By Rumbold On 22nd October, 2007 @ 12:59 pm

Sid:

“How about strengthing civil society and democratic institutions? Implementation of essential Reforms of the political parties (like Zak mentioned above) and creating an independent judiciary (something which Musharaf hated, by the way).”

I agree with all these proposals. Musharraf however is unlikely to do this things, so one of the ways to dilute his power is to have a freely-elected prime minister who has a democratic mandate from the people.

#10 Comment By Sid On 22nd October, 2007 @ 1:13 pm

She’s being parachuted in to lend a civilian face to a military dictatorship. How is this “a democratic mandate from the people”?

#11 Comment By Rumbold On 22nd October, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

Sid:

“She’s being parachuted in to lend a civilian face to a military dictatorship. How is this “a democratic mandate from the people”?”

She will have no position until she contests the elections. That is what I meant.

#12 Comment By Sid On 22nd October, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

So it’s ok to support a parochial military dictatorship and its marriage of convenience with a corrupt millionairess who will be buying her way to election victory under the aegis of the USA, rather than pro-democracy movements because Islamist nutters don’t like women leaders? I think you’ll find that you’re completely representative of pro-Benazir/Musharraf coalition supporters from the West, Rumbold.

#13 Comment By sonia On 22nd October, 2007 @ 1:49 pm

ahem. well i suppose its all relative. looking at the messes in pakistan and bangladesh, i suppose people have given up hope and will be clutching at straws.

not many female leaders in the sub-continent have done much for women’s rights. i wont say thats cos they didnt want to - but there’s no reason why we should assume that just because someone is a woman, they will try and promote women’s rights. that is a fairly naive position, and particularly when a woman is really only popular because of who her family is. lets not fool ourselves that benazir, khaleda zia, or sheikh hasina would have had their support had they not come from the families they came from - (and marriage in khaleda’s case). people are ‘tribal’ and loyalty is to an institution, not an individual.

anyway, all leaders are human and i’ve not seen too many of them promote human rights, so. plus what can one person do anyway? all this focus on leadership is a red herring - and has always been -just that. a

so this is all moot really, its like believing the military govt. in bangladesh are going to ‘wipe’ out corruption as if it is something you can ‘wipe’.

#14 Comment By Sofia On 22nd October, 2007 @ 2:01 pm

Our own female leader did little for womens rights aswell..
as for BB being able to campaign in peace in her own country …she was also widely accused of bringing her country to bankruptcy as well..i’m actually surprised she hasn’t been shot by now..

#15 Comment By Sunny On 22nd October, 2007 @ 2:45 pm

Shariq already made the case for Bhutto returning last week, there’s no point at taking pot-shots at Rumbold for it.
Feudal family it may be, it is still better than a military dictatorship, and hopefully now both Bhutto and Musharraf can work together to disarm the militants that they created before the country collapses into civil war.

India has been corrupt for decades, but a corrupt democracy may still be preferred to no democracy at all.

#16 Comment By Sofia On 22nd October, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

“India has been corrupt for decades, but a corrupt democracy may still be preferred to no democracy at all.” I wish I could say that I disagreed with this in theory as well as in practice, but reality is harsh…

#17 Comment By Rumbold On 22nd October, 2007 @ 3:24 pm

“Shariq already made the case for Bhutto returning last week, there’s no point at taking pot-shots at Rumbold for it.”

Thanks Sunny.

#18 Comment By Sid On 22nd October, 2007 @ 3:25 pm

Luckily there are braver people who are willing to fight back than lie back supinely and accept the wisdom that a military-democracy is better than a corrupt democracy.

Bangladesh is resisting the “Pakistanisation” of it’s democratic process as well you know. There we can see a similar spectacle of civilian/military “cross-dressers” pretending a military takeover of democractically elected government is efficacious as long as there is even a pretence of military-civilian power sharing.

Luckily in Bangladesh the pro-democracy movement is hugely popular, and seems to be having none of it, and they’re giving the military none of the open-armed welcome they would expected.

Most people who live in this kind of situation do not accept this form of democracy as democracy at all and it should, rightly be resisted by anyone who supports democracy.

#19 Comment By Rumbold On 22nd October, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

Sid:

“Luckily there are braver people who are willing to fight back than lie back supinely and accept the wisdom that a military-democracy is better than a corrupt democracy.”

I am not rying to set up a ’strawman’ here, but aren’t both pretty bad? Nobody is saying that Musharraf is ideal, just that a Musharraf-Bhutto alliance makes the best of a bad situation.

“Luckily in Bangladesh the pro-democracy movement is hugely popular, and seems to be having none of it, and they’re giving the military none of the open-armed welcome they would expected.”

My knowledge of Bangladeshi politics is somewhat limited (so please forgive any errors), but didn’t the army only take over because of the treat of civil war after the BNP had put in a puppet caretaker government in order to rig the elections? And didn’t the constitution of Bangladesh actually give them the right to do this? I am not defending military government, just wondering.

#20 Comment By Sid On 22nd October, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

My knowledge of Bangladeshi politics is somewhat limited (so please forgive any errors), but didn’t the army only take over because of the treat of civil war after the BNP had put in a puppet caretaker government in order to rig the elections? And didn’t the constitution of Bangladesh actually give them the right to do this? I am not defending military government, just wondering.

The problems began in Oct 2006 after a popular uprising led by the opposition against a wholly corrupt BNP government. After much politicking, civil strife and the threat of a rigged election. The constitution of Bangladesh is unique in allowing a caretaker government which operates for 90 days to see the handover of power between the 2 major parties.

On 11 Jan, UN and EU withdrawal from the election procedures, chief advisor of the caretaker government Iajuddin Ahmed (the current president) announced a state of emergency in Bangladesh after weeks of political crisis over the upcoming elections. Within hours of the state of emergency declaration, President Ahmed announced his resignation.

Since then the army has been in power under the facade of a civilian component, but it is becoming increasingly apparent by the nature of the political purge that followed, and the repressive nature of its exercise of power, that the military is in power ex-judicially as well as ex-constitutionally.

#21 Comment By sonia On 22nd October, 2007 @ 5:01 pm

rubbish. the interim government was meant to take over in order to hold free and fair elections - as this was a constitutional requirement.

the military backing was an unpleasant surprise.

#22 Comment By sonia On 22nd October, 2007 @ 5:08 pm

sorry - i meant rubbish to what rumbold was saying, not to what sid said, which is a very good summary.

and Rumbold - i dont know where you are from, but just because there is something in the Constitution country - does not mean it makes it OK. i’m not sure if you’re familiar with Bangladesh’s history - but there is a lot to learn, its a young country. Can i please remind you that constitutionally speaking, women cannot pass down citizenship rights to their children, it passes down the male line. Are you going to say you think there is not a problem with this?

#23 Comment By Sid On 22nd October, 2007 @ 5:09 pm

yep, the “military backing” is not only “an unpleasant surprise”, it’s also not constitutional.

#24 Comment By Rumbold On 22nd October, 2007 @ 5:49 pm

Sid:

Thanks for that good account- Bangladesh is often neglected in world reporting,and most of my knowledge comes from small pieces in ‘The Economist’.

Sonia:

“Sorry - i meant rubbish to what rumbold was saying, not to what sid said, which is a very good summary.

And Rumbold - i dont know where you are from, but just because there is something in the Constitution country - does not mean it makes it OK. i’m not sure if you’re familiar with Bangladesh’s history - but there is a lot to learn, its a young country. Can i please remind you that constitutionally speaking, women cannot pass down citizenship rights to their children, it passes down the male line. Are you going to say you think there is not a problem with this?”

All I did was ask Sid whether what I thought happened in Bangladesh happened in Bangladesh. He said it was, and then expanded on his answer. I made no comment on whether the thought that the situation was good or not. As it happens, I do not, as periods without democracy damage countries, even if the reason for suspending democracy seems good at the time. How you inferred from that statement that I oppose female inheritance of citizenship I will never know.

Try comments #6 and #10 here:

[3] http://shorno.net/2007/06/21/womens-learning-partnership-for-rights-development-and-peace/#comments

#25 Comment By Sid On 22nd October, 2007 @ 5:57 pm

I am not rying to set up a ’strawman’ here, but aren’t both pretty bad? Nobody is saying that Musharraf is ideal, just that a Musharraf-Bhutto alliance makes the best of a bad situation.

Rumbold, yes both are pretty bad. But, I hate to remind you yet again, but you supported a military invasion of Iraq in order to rid the country of a repressive, authortarian, ex-military dictator; arguing that this was necessary to install democracy in the country.

And now in the case of Pakistan, not only are you choosing to ignore the grassroots democratic movement or reforms or forces who advocate the strengthening of democratic institutions, but you’re also willing to support the status quo of an authorotarian, repressive military dictatorship bolted on with the sham of a civilian component as a pretence of democratic norms.

Please believe me that I don’t have it in for you, really, when I ask, when are you going to stop pretending your values are consistent?

#26 Comment By Rumbold On 22nd October, 2007 @ 6:03 pm

Sid:

“But, I hate to remind you yet again, but you supported a military invasion of Iraq in order to rid the country of a repressive, authortarian, ex-military dictator; arguing that this was necessary to install democracy in the country.

And now in the case of Pakistan, not only are you choosing to ignore the grassroots democratic movement or reforms or forces who advocate the strengthening of democratic institutions, but you’re also willing to support the status quo of an authorotarian, repressive military dictatorship bolted on with the sham of a civilian component as a pretence of democratic norms.”

We both asked ourselves what would be best for Iraq, and what would be best for Pakistan? We came up with different answers, but that does not mean that either of our values are inconsistant. I support democracy in Pakistan, and the strengthening of institutions, and to this end I believe that the best way to achieve this is by Bhutto returning, and hopefully the institutions will also be helped. Saddam Hussein was far far worse than Musharraf, and if it had not been for gross American incompetence after the invasion things would probably be a lot better.

#27 Comment By Sid On 22nd October, 2007 @ 8:07 pm

Rather, I think it highlights that the reasons for invading Iraq, whether wiberal intervention, installation of democracy or what have you, were nominal at best and just simply a pretext for Bush to make a revenge attack on raq and placate a USA looking for a bogeyman post-9/11. Right-wingers like you and the Pro-war Left fell in line, and rocked yourselves to sleep at night over the thought that it was a pro-democratic exercise - when it clearly was nothing to do with installing democracy and more to do with US corporates contract-swapping exercise.

And your high-minded altruism for democratic process shows itself to be muddled, misinformed and, sorry to say, simple ignorance of the circumstances by your support of a status quo, which is a military autocracy conjoined to a sham civilian facade of a feudal, elite family-based power brokerage.

In that sense, your choices are wholly consistent.

#28 Comment By Rumbold On 22nd October, 2007 @ 8:50 pm

Sid:

“Rather, I think it highlights that the reasons for invading Iraq, whether wiberal intervention, installation of democracy or what have you, were nominal at best.”

Elmer Fudd was said to be a strong supporter of the first one. Heh.

“And your high-minded altruism for democratic process shows itself to be muddled, misinformed and, sorry to say, simple ignorance of the circumstances by your support of a status quo, which is a military autocracy conjoined to a sham civilian facade of a feudal, elite family-based power brokerage.”

I want to see democracy thrive in Pakistan, and I think that Bhutto returning is better than Bhutto not returning.

#29 Comment By Chris Stiles On 22nd October, 2007 @ 9:57 pm

I want to see democracy thrive in Pakistan, and I think that Bhutto returning is better than Bhutto not returning.

Which is fine - but strikes me as a little bit akin to sympathetic magic. The last time Bhutto was there (by this i mean just before she left), Pakistan might have been more democratic than it is now. There’s no evidence to suggest that she will help the present situation though. After all, her arrogance masquerading as statesmanship played its own part in getting Pakistan to where it is.

That said, she could pleasantly suprise us all. I wouldn’t hold my breath, and the circumstances that she’s returned in are hardly auspicious.

#30 Comment By Sajn On 22nd October, 2007 @ 11:12 pm

Arguably Musharaf has done more to strengthen the Judiciary in Pakistan than any of the “elected” leaders.

Imran is more part of the raving Right Wing than loony Left Wing. For all his criticisms of BB and others, he has no problems in cosying up to the MMA nuts.

Pakistans best hope is with a democratically elected Musharaf/Aziz combination and BB/PPP as an effective opposition. BB in power would not work with the current situation.

#31 Comment By Sunny On 22nd October, 2007 @ 11:24 pm

Well, things are different now. Most parties in Pakistan cosied up to and fostered the religious militants to win their proxy wars in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

Now that the baby snake has grown up to threaten its master, they have to confront it and kill it…. or it will take them into destruction.

#32 Comment By Sid On 22nd October, 2007 @ 11:29 pm

you silly wabbit, Wumbold!

#33 Comment By fugstar On 22nd October, 2007 @ 11:51 pm

theres very little similarity between her return and bangladesh really.

go Imran! you da man!


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URLs in this post:
[1] set to meet: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/PoliticsNation/PM_writes_to_Musharraf_soothes_Bhutto/articleshow
/2475406.cms

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/10/21/do2101.xml: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/10/21/do2101.xml
[3] http://shorno.net/2007/06/21/womens-learning-partnership-for-rights-development-and-peace/#comments: http://shorno.net/2007/06/21/womens-learning-partnership-for-rights-development-and-peace/#comments