Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto-RIP

Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated. Her body has been taken to her ancestral family home in Ghari Khuda Baksh, near Larkana, in the southern province of Sindh. At 8:00 hours GMT she will be laid to rest, just after Friday prayers.

Pakistan will be in need of those prayers. The nation is now in a dark and dangerous place. Bhutto was possibly the only person who had the chops to move the nation away from Islamism and or the decent into madness. Pakistan is much closer now to the implosion and chaos that has always been the danger awaiting it.

Over the sixty years the nation has suffered under thirty years of military misrule and kleptocracy. Pakistan has never been a guiding light of stability nor a exemplar of Muslim rule. Born out of the chaos of the partition, Pakistan was a mangled, deformed, and painful delivery. Of the sub continental nations Pakistan was Avis to India’s Hertz, painful truth be told Pakistan was always running a distant second to India. In its wars with India, Pakistan was a three times looser. India also beat Pakistan to nuclear devices and to rocket delivery systems.

Things went from bad to worse in the late 70’s. The Russians set up shop north of the border and the USA decided to use Islam as a weapon to defeat the godless commies. This meant that the Saudis got Cart Blanche to import their odd interpretation of Muhammad’s teaching to both Afghanistan and to Pakistan. Enter Osama Bin Laden stage right. OBL managed to win friends and influence people in the Pakistan Military especially in the intelligence branch. When the godless commies pulled up stakes and went back to Moscow OBL and his unhappy campers stayed in the Pashtun badlands. The drift to Islamic extremism continued and amplified. With the Soviets gone from Afghanistan, Pakistan was no longer the front line in the Cold War. When the USSR fell apart, Pakistan was just another corrupt third-world cesspool of no consequence. Pakistan lost what little love Washington had for it by building and detonating a nuclear device. The sorry story of A.Q. Khan and his spreading of nuclear joy over the world became know the poobahs of D.C. Pakistan got clobbered with U.S. sanctions.

The malign neglect of Washington ended on September 11, 2001; suddenly Pakistan was once more on the front lines of a war-this one on terror. Unfortunately for all concerned the leader of this war was George W Bush. Bush poured some five billion dollars in to the black hole that is the Pakistani government. It is hard to say how much of that money now resides in secret Swiss bank accounts, squired away for that inevitable rainy day, but the USA got precious little for all that green. The tin-pot general de jour of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, has been playing a very dangerous double game with the W and his Islamist military. Musharraf has done almost nothing to curb the Muslim extremists while he has been more than happy to crack the heads of the secular reformers. All incurious George has done is to shovel more money to the Pakistani military. The Texan has supported Pervez to the hilt.

At least he had supported the general until it became painfully clear that Musharraf had zero popular support. Washington was behind Bhutto’s reemergence as a political option. The deal was that Bhutto would share power with the General. But this is the sub-continent and the deal quickly unraveled. The Saudi’s added to the confusion by dropping another ex-prime minister into the mix Nawaz Sharif; Pakistan politics devolved into a free-for-all between the three contestants. Added to the toxic mix were Musharraf’s declaration of Marshal Law and his sacking of the judiciary.

Washington was none too happy and Musharraf was forced out of his general’s uniform and pushed into elections. But Musharraf was not without some underhanded devices. He put Bhutto under house arrest “for her own protection” and then failed to protect her during her political appearances. Bhutto had to fall back on the protection provided by her PPP because the government was not providing adequate police protection. While the government may not have actively participated in the assassination plot, it passively contributed to Bhutto’s murder by its inaction. Musharraf is complicit in the murder of Bhutto.

But Musharraf has been too clever by a half. George W .Bush looked absolutely furious at his statement. It is no great mystery where that anger may be directed at. Look for Pervez to get no love from the Texan at all. In the short run the ex-general may hold on to power but in the long run look for him to retire “so as to spend more time with his family” The real question is what follows Musharraf now that Bhutto is no longer with us. Nawaz Sharif is tainted by both his Saudi connections and his rabid support for A.Q. Khan's Islamic bomb. Sharif was knee deep in all sorts of proliferation while at the helm of the Pakistani state. The PPP is now leaderless and the most of the secular reformers are beat down, beat up, and disorganized. That leaves the field to the Taliban wanna-bes. Pakistan is a bit further down the Islamist rabbit-hole thanks to this political murder.

But that is the least of Pakistan’s worries; the nation is also a lot closer to implosion. Pakistan is that much closer to being a totally failed state. If Pakistan fails, can US troops be that far behind? There is no way the US can allow a radical Islamic state or worse yet no state at all to possess all those nukes. If the US gets sucked into occupying Pakistan said occupation will make our present efforts in Iraq look like a genteel tea party in comparison. Unfortunately George W Bush could make this happen, the man is Midas in reverse-everything he touches turns into fertilizer. The slim reed of hope is that somehow the Pakistanis find a way to muddle though this mess. Is there a Pakistani man or woman who will rise to the occasion? Let us hope so—Washington is going to be perfectly useless in this regard.

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