An interesting analysis of politics in Pakistan (apologies for a long excerpt);
WHEN Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, the killers struck in Rawalpindi, an ancient garrison town, on the edge of a leafy park named for another Pakistani who had served as prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan; he was assassinated in the park in 1951. Barely a mile away, Ms. Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, another former prime minister, was hanged in 1979 at the city’s central jail. One of the doctors who failed to reanimate Ms. Bhutto at a Rawalpindi hospital was the son of a doctor who similarly failed to save Liaquat Ali Khan.
The killings varied widely — Liaquat Ali Khan was shot by a Pashtun separatist; Mr. Bhutto was hanged after a court appointed by a military dictator found him guilty of murdering a minor political opponent from Baluchistan; and the question of who sent the suicide bomber and the gunman who attacked Ms. Bhutto on Dec. 27 is the subject of an investigation in which the Pakistani police will be assisted by experts from Scotland Yard.
Still, the historic coincidence of all three leaders dying in Rawalpindi, in the same quarter of the city, has underscored how often violent death has rewritten the political map of Pakistan, and, too, how slender is the thread that sustains the country’s hopes of establishing a stable democracy.
For 60 years since its founding in the partitioning of British India, Pakistan has seesawed between military dictatorships and elected governments, and now new hope for stability is being placed on the chance that democracy there can be revived…
William Dalrymple, a British author who has written widely about India and Pakistan, put it bluntly in an article for Britain’s left-of-center Guardian newspaper in 2005. “As Pakistan shows, rigid, corrupt, unrepresentative and flawed democracies without the strong independent institutions of a civil society — a free press, an independent judiciary, an empowered election commission — can foster governments that are every bit as tyrannical as any dictatorship,” he wrote. “Justice and democracy are not necessarily synonymous.”
Historians trace some of Pakistan’s problems to the British conquest of Moghul India, when centuries of Muslim rule in the subcontinent gave way to an era when Muslims, always suspect among the British for resisting their new colonial masters, became ever more an underclass.
When the struggle for Indian independence began in earnest in the 1920’s, the leadership rested mainly with Hindus — especially Gandhi, whose philosophy was egalitarian, secular and nationalist. In the 1930’s, the Muslim League began agitating for a separate Muslim homeland, but power within the league rested with Mohammed Ali Jinnah, an elitist, British-educated Bombay lawyer with a taste for expensively-tailored suits and little affinity for the common man. He would become Pakistan’s founding father.
Many of those who gathered around Jinnah were from the feudal landowning class, and tribal leaders. With scant interest in democracy, their concerns centered more on the protection of their ancestral privileges. When the British abandoned the struggle to fashion an independent India that would keep Hindus and Muslims together, the landowning aristocrats and the tribal chiefs became the political elite of Pakistan. From the beginning, they vied for power with the generals, in a struggle that intensified when the revered Jinnah died soon after Pakistan was established.
Partition in 1947 was accompanied by widespread killing by Hindu and Muslim militants, and more than 10 million people migrated across the new frontiers. For Pakistan, much the smaller of the two new nations, survival as an independent state became the prevailing concern, empowering the generals. Three wars with India further entrenched military power. And in 1958, after a decade in which the army worked behind the scenes to unseat weak civilian leaders, Gen. Ayub Khan, Pakistan’s first military ruler, declared martial law.
Beginning in the 1950’s, the United States wielded strong influence with the generals, who allied Pakistan with the West in the cold war, then in the struggle in the 1980s against the Soviets in Afghanistan and, since 2001, in the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Long before President Bush made Mr. Musharraf an ally, American policy was based on a hard-nosed assessment of America’s strategic interests that favored the generals over civilian politicians.
The politicians made these choices easier by their own failings in power. Among these was Ms. Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He came to prominence as foreign minister under a martial-law government led by Gen. Yahya Khan, then emerged from the civil war that gave birth to Bangladesh in 1971 to win election as the first civilian head of government in a truncated Pakistan.
A charismatic leader with a bent for political intrigue, Mr. Bhutto set the path for much that followed. Pakistani historians say his six years in power were marked by rampant disregard for the constitution he drew up in 1973, by widespread arrests of political opponents, and by deployment of the army to quell restiveness in the provinces.
Having founded the Pakistan People’s Party with a strongly egalitarian charter, he turned it into a vehicle for enhancing his personal power, abused civil liberties he had championed on the hustings, and showed little interest in social programs. Overthrown by Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq in 1977, he was given what many Pakistani lawyers regarded as a perfunctory and stage-managed trial for the murder of the Baluchistan politician, and hanged.
For Discussion: As an economist advising the British Empire in 1947, would you have advised the British government to create Pakistan. Use a cost/benefit framework to analyze.