Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Benazir Bhutto’s ‘Wisdom’ on Iraq

I recall one of Benazir Bhutto remarks, when she said something along the lines of: ‘I have sadly learnt to sacrifice political morality in favour of political pragmatism’.

Many would question her claim to having practiced any political morality after her 1988 election, but that is not the issue here.

So here is a humble message for her!

Okay BB,


(Side issue here: I recently read a news report that PPP seniors are now insisting that Benazir be referred to as ‘Mohatarma’ and not ‘BB/bibi’ as ‘Bibi was a term used for low class women’.

What a bunch of ignoramuses and what a load of ineffable codswallop!

‘Mohatarma’, is an Urdu term of extreme courtesy (which to my ears renders a woman positively geriatric). On the other hand ‘Bibi’ (or Lady) is a Persian word redolent of gentility.

Anyhow, not being any party’s appartchik, I reserve my God-given - and democratic - right to call Benazir Bhutto (or for that matter Bush, Bliar, Mush, Nawazu et al) exactly what I want.

So okay, BiBi!

There is such a thing as pragmatism and there is such a thing as sheer opportunism. Your recent performance on BBC’s Question Time was an illustration of opportunism run amok.

While I realise that you are absolutely convinced that your third chance at power depends on the Bush White House but even blatant obsequiousness has to have limits.

Can I remind you what you said on television on 23 March 2007?

Here is a gist of your pronouncements:
- The world is now a safer place for some, including the people of Iran, because of Saddam’s removal from power.

- Once the Iraqis are able to institutionalise democracy, the invasion and occupation will ultimately be called a success.

- There was a broad-based consensus behind the invasion of Afghanistan, whereas with Iraq, on the basis of faulty US intelligence, there was the perception of an imminent threat.

- Bush’s ‘surge’ (i.e. his plan to increase US troops) has a chance to wipe out the insurgents, the terrorists and the militants.

- If Iraqi democracy succeeds, then Bush and Tony Blair will be regarded as the champions of freedom, and democracy will spread to the rest of the Middle East.

It was just not me who was flabbergasted; this is what a Dawn editorial said about your performance:

…she might as well have added, pigs will fly. Although her utterances occasionally suggest otherwise, Benazir Bhutto isn’t a blithering idiot. The trouble is that, for all her invocations of democracy, for the past 20 years she has clung on to the belief that the road to Islamabad passes through Washington. The idea of speaking truth to power probably never even crosses her mind, and one can only assume she is unembarrassed by the fact that when it comes to Iraq, a military ruler such as Pervez Musharraf, despite being beholden to the US in a variety of ways, manages to sound much less obsequious.

Bhutto appears to have learned nothing during her years in Dubai, else she would have realised by now that the sine qua non of a political future, as far as she is concerned, is not the goodwill of the White House but the intellectual capacity to acknowledge and apologise for her abysmal record in office.


arisha18@yahoo.com said...

This is for the Unbelievers: The reality of the Taliban threat...It is not the West out to get all sincere Muslims but instead perhaps something closer to home - Other Muslims???

Taliban threat looms in Pakistan


04/10/2007 11:42 PM | By Amir Taheri, Special to Gulf News

As Nato forces prepare to face a massive "spring offensive" by the Taliban in Afghanistan, policymakers may be ignoring a greater threat looming in Pakistan.

My guess is that the Taliban offensive will either not take place or come as a caricature of what it is tipped to be. The Taliban have lost much of the popular base they once had, even among the Ishaqzai Pushtuns of the southeast.

They may be able to continue a low-level insurgency for years, largely thanks to support from Pakistan and Iran. Islamabad uses its carefully dosed support for the Taliban to exert pressure on President Hamid Karzai's government to allow Pakistan greater space in the politics of new Afghanistan.

Tehran indirectly supports the Taliban, through tribal chiefs, as part of the low intensity war it has been waging against the US for decades. However, neither Tehran nor Islamabad would want the Taliban to become strong enough to return to power in Kabul.

While Afghanistan is vaccinated against Talibanisation, Pakistan is not. Islamist parties sympathetic to the Taliban already control the regional government in the Northwest Frontier Province, one of Pakistan's four provinces, and have a foothold in the administration of another, Balochistan.

Of greater concern, however, is the heightened profile of Taliban-style groups in Punjab and Sind, two provinces that account for 80 per cent of the country's population.

The rise of Taliban-style groups in Pakistan is due to two factors.

The first is President General Pervez Musharraf's semi-official alliance with Islamist parties that, though not as radical as the Taliban, have worked hard to increase the role of religion in the nation's politics. By imposing religion as a measure of all things, they have enabled hardline elements to pose as sole true custodians of Islam.

The second factor is Musharraf's refusal to allow Pakistan's moderate parties to rebuild themselves under leaders of their choice. These parties were severely restricted and their top leaders chased out of the country in 1999 when Muharraf seized power in a bloodless coup.

The elimination of the mainstream parties led to a paradoxical situation in which a general, who takes the secular Turkish republic as model, found himself allied to Islamists of various shades.

Ataturk, the father of the Turkish model, created two secular parties, one to form the government, the other to act as loyal opposition and government-in-waiting.

Musharraf, who aspires to become the father of the Turkish model in Pakistan, did the opposite. He banned the secular parties and let Islamists into the government by the back door.

Musharraf violated the Turkish model in another way. He combined the presidency with his position as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, something that Ataturk had never done.

Despite these contradictions, Musharraf remains an indispensable figure in Pakistani politics for the near future. He enjoys solid support within the armed forces, and appeals to segments of the urban middle classes.

More importantly, he seems to be everyone's second choice, at a time that neither the Islamist groups nor the mainstream parties are in a position to impose their respective first choices.

Fast approaching

The Musharraf presidency is fast approaching a fork in the road. In one direction lies the path to tighter military rule backed by obscurantist religious parties ready to sacrifice political and social freedoms at the altar of a narrow vision of Islam.

Another direction points to genuine democratisation that could immunise Pakistan against all forms of Talibanisation.

The moment of choice will come later this year, when Pakistan is scheduled to hold a general election.

The question is whether Musharraf would allow the mainstream, non-Islamist parties to reorganise freely and enter the election with leaders of their own choice.

In recent weeks several countries, including the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia, have worked behind the scenes to broker a deal between Musharraf and party leaders in exile.

And if our sources are right, an agreement is in the making between Musharraf and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. As leader of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Bhutto is arguably the strongest democratic figure in her nation's politics.

Musharraf might find it more difficult to make a deal with Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister whom the general has forced into exile.

Musharraf should forgive, if not forget, past grievances and allow Sharif to return home and play his part in opposing the threat of religious extremism.

In exchange, Bhutto and Sharif should drop their long-held opposition to Musharraf's plan to seek a further five-year term as president.

Despite his mistakes, Musharraf remains the only prominent Pakistani figure capable of forging a consensus. Retaining him as president in a system that gives the prime minister and the parliament more power would be a wise move for Pakistan.

To make that possible, Musharraf should abandon his demand to combine the presidency with the command of the army for five more years.

That would enable him to emerge as a genuine standard-bearer of the Turkish model in Pakistan, a model based on two key principles: the separation of mosque and state, and the role of the military as the custodian of the constitution and not as ruling elite.

Amir Taheri is an Iranian writer based in Europe.

Anonymous said...

You know Mahi your becoming quite annoying. Your quoting a right-wing hack name Amir Taheri. Who is featured not in reputable newspapers but usually tabloids like the NY Post and Daily News.

By the way ONLOOKER's post was about BB...did you even bother to read it?

I hope you read my reply to your comment on the last post.

Great job on ONLOOKER. I agree with you but i believe strongly that she never steps foot in Pakistan again let alone lead the nation.


Anonymous said...

Dear AAS,
Amir Taheri, for those of us who read books is the author several authoratative books. His column is run all over the world ( and yes the NY Post is one outlet) but the others are not tabloids. Those who only blog occasionally and that to anonymously should learn not to be dismissive about people like Benazir Bhutto and Mr. Taheri - people who have accomplished something in life - whether we agree with them or not. That is called civilzed behavior. MAHI