Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mayhem in Pakistan

All hell has broken loose in Pakistan. There has been a terrorist attempt on the life of Pakistan's once and probably future Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. Thankfully, Ms. Bhutto appears to have escaped but at least 115 persons have been killed and there are many wounded. Wretchard at Belmont Club notes that the Taliban had threatened Ms. Bhutto, who had said: "I don’t believe that a true Muslim will attack me. . .I believe Islam forbids suicide bombings." A Reuters report cited by Wretchard says that the attacker in yesterday's incident was a suspected suicide bomber, so possibly Ms. Bhutto will want to re-examine her premises somewhat. Perhaps she has: AP reports that this morning she is blaming the attack on Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Also, according to the Pakistan Daily Times (cited by Wretchard), Ms. Bhutto's husband, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari is fingering "some elements within the government [i.e. the Musharraf regime], including some ministers" as the perpetrators. How Mr. Zardari -- himself an interesting specimen, who did eight years in jail on assorted never-proven corruption charges -- knows this to be so is not apparent. In any case, this statement was before Ms. Bhutto's accusations today. Meanwhile, Ms. Bhutto (perhaps understandably) wants the head of the Pakistani Intelligence Bureau, (the domestic intelligence in the Ministry of Interior, not to be confused with Inter-Services Intelligence) -- retired General Ijaz Shah -- sacked.
Truth in blogging, I've never been much of an admirer of Ms. Bhutto, who has always struck me, perhaps unfairly, as somebody who tells her western admirers too much of whatever she thinks they want to hear. Moreover, some of her western friends are just unbearably stupid. It was during Ms. Bhutto's period in power that the Taliban became powerful in Afghanistan, and her government materially assisted this process, although, to be fair, this policy was mostly pursued by the military and intelligence bureaucracies, over which it is questionable that she ever had much control. Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters, in his excellent piece yesterday in the New York Post skewers her as a "feudal landlord posing as a democrat."
In any case, I question Ms. Bhutto's wisdom in returning to Pakistan at present: which is an unmanagable mess if ever there was one. In the best-case scenario, which is really no good at all, Ms. Bhutto's reported deal with General Musharraf works out for her, and she regains some measure of power. But to what end ? Nine chances out of ten are that Ms. Bhutto's next stint in government is simply a hiatus between the present military government and the next one.
Happy talk about democracy, and government by political bosses who have little to recommend them other than their status as civilians and the fact that they are Former Office Holders, or the daughters of former big-wigs doesn't give Pakistan what it needs -- which is to build some national institution outside of the Army that happens to work. All things being equal, Ms. Bhutto would probably be safer, and about as useful to her country if she had the income of her estates shipped to London or New York, and spent her days writing articles and appearing on the talking-heads shows lamenting the policies of whoever is dictator of Pakistan at the moment.

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