Bhutto's deadly legacy

on January 5, 2008 with 0 comments » | ,

Tragic as her death at the hands of extremist Islamic terrorists may be, William William Dalrymple, author of the recent book, The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857 (on my to-read list for a while now), reminds us that Bhutto's legacy should not be distorted by this tragedy. Far from being a paragon of democracy and a ambassador of peace and good-will, a quick review of history would enlighten us to how she baited India through support of the Kashmir insurgency and encouraged Islamist militant groups to flourish in Pakistan and Afghanistan during her two reigns as PM.

Everyone now knows how disastrous the rule of the Taliban turned out to be in Afghanistan, how brutally it subjected women and how it allowed Al Qaeda to train in camps within its territory. But another, and in the long term perhaps equally perilous, legacy of Ms. Bhutto’s tenure is often forgotten: the turning of Kashmir into a jihadist playground.

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Benazir Bhutto’s death is, of course, a calamity, particularly as she embodied the hopes of so many liberal Pakistanis. But, contrary to the commentary we’ve seen in the last week, she was not comparable to Myanmar’s Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Ms. Bhutto’s governments were widely criticized by Amnesty International and other groups for their use of death squads and terrible record on deaths in police custody, abductions and torture. As for her democratic bona fides, she had no qualms about banning rallies by opposing political parties while in power.

Within her own party, she declared herself the president for life and controlled all decisions. She rejected her brother Murtaza’s bid to challenge her for its leadership and when he persisted, he was shot dead in highly suspicious circumstances during a police ambush outside the Bhutto family home.

Benazir Bhutto was certainly a brave and secular-minded woman. But the obituaries painting her as dying to save democracy distort history. Instead, she was a natural autocrat who did little for human rights, a calculating politician who was complicit in Pakistan’s becoming the region’s principal jihadi paymaster while she also ramped up an insurgency in Kashmir that has brought two nuclear powers to the brink of war.

Related:

The country and the region are facing an array of disasters just waiting to happen.

The Economist cover story last week considers Pakistan to be the world's most dangerous place!


There are plenty of contenders for the title of "world's most dangerous place", but Benazir Bhutto's assassination strengthens Pakistan's claim. We look at the country's shaky prospects ahead of the postponed election, now due to take place next month.

Update:
Just realized that Amit Varma has also blogged about Dalrymple's article.

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