I haven’t said anything about Benazir Bhutto’s death because I have and had very mixed feelings about what her return to Pakistan might actually mean. I am sorry she died and the unspeakable way she died, but I have a less than glowing opinion of her due to reading The Economist every week she was in power in the 90s and reading Richard Reeves excellent book: “Passage to Peshawar: Pakistan: Between the Hindu Kush and the Arabian Sea,” which gives much background on why and how General Zia got to power and stayed in power in Pakistan. As I recall, three or four horrendously wealthy landowning families, the Bhuttos are one of them, have always had all the power in Pakistan, except when the military grabbed it. I’m probably naïve, but ruling nobility and democracy don’t usually get along so well. Although in some cases, like Spain after Franco, the formerly exiled nobility make it look okay. But Spain, even under the Franco regime, was more developed and ready to rejoin the West and democracy than Pakistan is, was and might ever be.
And Ms. Bhutto’s government in the 90s was messy. She might have come to power through some kind of elections, but she ruled like pasha and didn’t have much traction with the people when she was removed from the prime ministership for alleged corruption (again, as in 1988) in 1996.
I don’t pretend to know what the solution for Pakistan is, but I was and am still sure it wasn’t Benazir Bhutto or any member of the Bhutto family. They are part of Pakistan’s feudal, backward, xenophobic, intolerant, paranoid problem, not it’s forward-looking democratic solution. If there is one; Pakistan might end up a military-backed theocracy and there’s not a damn good, bad, or indifferent thing the U.S. can do about it. Other than offer every woman in Pakistan whose family will send her a first-class full scholarship education and citizenship in the U.S. But we don’t offer that to our own women, so probably that’s not going to happen.
If real darkness descends on Pakistan, it’s not really the U.S.’s fault, but then again the U.S. really didn’t try to actually improve things there. As Richard Reeves points out, the U.S. will put up with any kind of monster as long as it’s our kind of monster. Which is why my stupid country supported General Zia in the 80s to support the mujahideen and has supported General Musharraf to fight the mujahideen in the 00s. Our foreign policies definitely make our own problems for our U.S. and then our government makes even more problems trying to solve them (sometimes militaristically, see Iraq, Panama and Haiti).
So, I’m sorry for Ms. Bhutto’s murder, but I never thought she was Pakistan’s savior. I’m not sure there is a one for that poor country until the mullas are pried off the educational system for the poor, which means Pakistan would have to make an educational system for the poor, women are emancipated and educated, and the U.S. stops propping up vampires like Zia, Musharraf, and, yes, to a lesser extent, the Bhutto family.
And that, other than to highly recommend Mr. Reeves’s book, is all I have to say on this subject, which is why comments are off.
Happy new year, everyone, better days a’comin’, please God, haven’t we suffered enough?