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[Washington Babylon]

Bhutto: A short break from the hagiography


“I’m all in favor of Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan, but the fawning over the former Prime Minister by American political leaders and the media is way out of control,” I wrote back in October. “If she manages to stay alive, Bhutto’s return might well push her county back towards democracy. But she’s not a saint.”

Bhutto’s assassination was disgusting and depressing, but that doesn’t mean we should now suspend all critical thinking–and yet her sainthood status has now been confirmed in the saturation media coverage following her death.

A former U.S. intelligence official with whom I spoke had this to say:

Without being disrespectful of Bhutto’s memory or of her tragic death, a dispassionate analysis suggests that she was a calculating politician, regardless of the saintly mantle her followers and supporters are bestowing on her after her death. She did not accomplish much as prime minister; in fact, her tenure was marred by corruption, nepotism, and poor governance.

Unfortunately for Benazir, she was a creation of the West, but she had no chance of defeating Musharraf in the coming elections or expediting the return of democracy to Pakistan. She returned to Pakistan after securing a political deal with Musharraf, under U.S. auspices and guarantees; she naively thought she could beat Musharraf in the elections or that she could persuade him to give up power and restore democracy to that country.

Her U.S. supporters pushed her forward without a clear plan of how to deal with Musharraf or how to remove him should he resist U.S. pressure to go democratic. Let’s not forget that Musharraf only reluctantly allowed her to return and only begrudgingly voided the corruption charges against her. It was wishful thinking at best and ignorant at worst to have expected Musharraf to share power with Benazir or to tolerate an electoral victory by her. His donning a civilian suit in place of the military uniform has not made him a democrat. Benazir Bhutto was bound to fail had she lived, and it is doubly tragic that in death she is perceived as the savior of Pakistan.

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