Monday, December 31, 2007

A good year for Pakistan? Maybe

Benazir Bhutto gave Pakistan false hope of these enlightened values two decades ago. In a shocking display of ineptitude, Pakistan's first woman premier failed to pass a single piece of major legislation during her first 20 months in power. According to Amnesty International, Bhutto's particular brand of democracy while in office - in the words of historian William Dalrymple, "elective feudalism" - brought some of the world's highest numbers of extrajudicial killings, torture, and custodial deaths. Transparency International characterized hers as one of the world's most corrupt governments.

Bhutto revealed her true colors during an interview when she was asked whether she would travel second class as leader of the opposition under the Nawaz Sharif government's austerity measures. In fury, the "people's representative" asked the interviewer if he knew who she was, who her grandfather was, and stated that she was a Bhutto, not an ordinary person, and that Bhuttos never traveled second class. Autocratic to the last, she willed ownership of her "populist" political party....

As much as anything, Bhutto's recent about-face on the issue of supporting an independent judiciary has been galling.

Bhutto issued repeated statements while in exile that rebuked President Pervez Musharraf for ousting the chief justice of Pakistan and undermining the judiciary's independence. Yet after Musharraf passed the National Reconciliation Ordinance in October 2007 without trouble from a purged judiciary, Musharraf won Benazir over: The ordinance allowed him to withdraw pending cases of corruption against her.

Bhutto changed her tune. She claimed that the judiciary that Musharraf had purged may not have been independent anyway. Moreover, Bhutto is said to have issued an ultimatum to her right-hand man, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, who was also lead counsel for the deposed chief justice. She informed him that either he was with the chief justice or with the Pakistan People's Party. The Cambridge-educated politician-cum-human-rights lawyer remains under house arrest and a supporter for judicial independence. He also withdrew his application to contest the elections.

Unfortunately, Bhutto's unashamed hypocrisy has constantly been overlooked by Pakistan's hopeless masses and also by her Western allies, a constituency that she gave utmost importance. In the West's desperation to find a formidable answer to Pakistan's mullahs and increasingly dictatorial generalissimo (Musharraf), it overlooked Bhutto's ugly track record.

-The true colors of Benazir Bhutto

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