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Benazir Bhutto Murdered… Pakistan tips just a bit closer to the edge December 27, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.


Whatever else one can say about Benazir Bhutto one cannot say that she wasn’t clearly enormously courageous on a personal level. That thought struck me when she returned to Pakistan, and that is evident in the aftermath of her (and many others) death. The next while is going to be filled with no end of finger pointing as to who is to ‘blame’ for this, and we’ll no doubt hear about her faults and flaws.

And the truth is there are those who will have at least some small part to blame in these events. Perhaps many. And yes, she had many faults and many flaws.

For leftists the PPP has been too compliant, too strategic, too caught up in the politicking within Pakistan. It actually contains at least one self-professed Marxist MP Manzoor Ahmed. George Galloway has a fine tribute to her here:

Benazir Bhutto is yet another martyr from a family whose tragedy would have taxed Shakespeare himself. Her father, both brothers and now she have been murdered one way or another whilst serving Pakistan. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party was hanged by the military tyrants who have sucked Pakistans blood since its foundation. Her brothers, Shahnawaz was poisoned, and Mir Murtaza was gunned down in much the same way as she now has been herself. I have no doubt that Benazir has been murdered by the dictatorship of General (Retd) Parvaiz Musharaf. The professionalism of the assassination, the way in which the killer managed to get within pistol range of the opposition leader, the decoy suicide bomb story all point to the intelligence apparatus of the dictatorship being involved in the crime. But it is worse than a crime, it’s a blunder. A terrible wave of violence and extremism will now sweep and perhaps break Pakistan. I was lucky enough to be Benazir’s friend from the time she arrived thin, bleeding from her ears as a result of ill-treatment in the Rawalpindi jail in the early 1980s. I was with her when she became the first elected woman leader of a Muslim country in 1988, with her too when she was twice deposed with western collusion and in her long exiles. She was the bravest woman I ever met, bright brave and beautiful. I planned to be with her on the campaign trail from January 2nd. I am broken hearted that I will never see her again

But, as well as personal courage, Bhutto represented – flawed as she was – at least in part some sense that there might be progress in Pakistan, and beyond. She was in herself an historic figure, the first female head of state of an Islamic country. This wasn’t a small achievement, it was arguably an epochal shift.

And the outcome of this? More chaos, a flawed democracy weakened yet further. A nuclear power destabilised just a little bit more. A remarkable woman murdered. Bitter news to have to hear.


1. ejh - December 27, 2007

Has George morphed into Brian Glanville? Glanville’s obituaries are much prized for their ability to make the high point of, say, Ferenc Puskas’ life, the day in which he caught a glimpse of Glanville…

Bhutto represented – flawed as she was – at least in part some sense that there might be progress in Pakistan, and beyond

I don’t know that she did. I’m quite sure she was viewed that way in Western news reports, where there’s always some Western-educated figurehead whose actual politics and views are not too closely interrogated, but if anyone were to ask what she actually stood for, what would it be? It’s hard to come up with anything more substantial or coherent than just “democracy”, but was that concept in Pakistan really reliant on – or particularly well-represented by – Benazir Bhutto?

I think most Western news coverage, not just of Pakistan, is deeply reliant on a view of the people concerned which takes the complications out of both the politics and the people and replaces them with simplicities. This is likely to prove unhelpful i nthe time ahead.


2. a very public sociologist - December 27, 2007

The murder of Benazir Bhutto is problematic for Pakistan on so many levels – I’ve tried to look at some of them in my analysis on my blog (plug, plug).

As for Bhutto herself as a person, I cannot remember where I read it now (so many blogs, so little time), but she was more than flawed. She’s certainly implicated in the murder of her younger brother, who was assassinated in 1996 under extremely suspicious circumstances. But none of this will matter to the bourgeois media, who will try and fete her as a Mandela-in-the-making.


3. Craig - December 27, 2007

Good Lord. Have some respect for the woman. She hasn’t even been buried yet.


4. ejh - December 27, 2007

I cannot remember where I read it now

Possibly on Blood and Treasure? Or try Tariq Ali recently in the LRB.

Juan Cole should (as ever) be read on this, too.

But none of this will matter to the bourgeois media, who will try and fete her as a Mandela-in-the-making.

Although to be fair her corruption was of such enormous proportions that it’s played a large part in the pieces I’ve so far read.


5. PamDirac - December 27, 2007

No one wants to dance on Bhutto’s grave, but a very public sociologist is right to observe that she had more than a few ‘flaws.’ (The case against was recently summarized by Tariq Ali in The London Review of Books at http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n24/ali_01_.html.)

Her murder is a crime and a disaster but Bhutto’s corruption has been glossed over or ignored in the Western press quite enough already, especially here in the States.


6. eamonnmcdonagh - December 27, 2007

Hitchens has a good piece here.



7. Roger - December 27, 2007

Can someone please explain GG’s quote “the decoy suicide bomb story” to me????


8. WorldbyStorm - December 27, 2007

I’m genuinely not certain that corruption has been glossed over. I’ve followed her career fairly closely since the late 1980s and her star definitely fell in the late 1990s with the allegations. I would say this though, the implication of direct involvement in her brothers death seems to me to be an overstatement – but it was on her watch. I also think it’s extremely important to note that – as with Iran – it is a mistake to ignore the very strong national self-identity (i.e. that internal Pakistani dynamics are probably much much more important than external US or other dynamics and that the players play the US and others off each other). As for genuine democracy in Pakistan – well as the saying goes, that’s be a nice idea, but Bhutto did in part and however poorly in implementation represent some broadening of the social and political horizon (and there are obvious – albeit strained – comparisons with the Irish polity in that respect).


9. ejh - December 28, 2007

I think there’s a strong tendency to simply present everything as “modernised pro-democracy figure sympathetic to West” on the one hand and “backward and suspicious people” on the other. Whereas it’s quite likely that large numbers of people, confronted with a wealthy individual who is either corrupt or has spent much of their life out of the country, or both, may simply be sceptical about the motives and the local knowledge – and indeed the political independence – of such a figure. I’m not just talking about Pakistan – you could say something similar about Ahmed Chalabi, for instance, or for that matter about Garry Kasparov.


10. WorldbyStorm - December 28, 2007

Fair point, but conversely it’s also important not to present everything in a ‘one size fits all’ narrative of malign individuals (wealthy or otherwise) who are simply tools either of individual greed or western influence or detach them entirely from genuine progress (whether that progress appears to coincide with western or indeed pecuniary interests). Nor is it always helpful to find recourse in some ‘local’ knowledge which may or may not exist (for example what are the progressive forces beyond the PPP on the ground that have a realistic chance of altering the situation there?). I guess what I’m saying is that either narrative, the unquestioningly unsceptical one, or the relentlessly sceptical one (neither of which I buy into, are particularly helpful to my mind…Bhutto helped in some areas, clearly massively hindered in others. Coming from a society where gender issues had a disproportionate effect and impact I’ll always reify even slight improvements in gender power relationships over my disdain for corruption for a host of reasons but I’m not blind or indifferent to the latter). The PPP remains the largest single party within Pakistan and a party that appears to contain populist / nationalist / some vague leftist / and indeed corrupt elements – again, how very Irish it seems to me for both worse, and indeed better.


11. Mick Hall - December 29, 2007


There is no other way to describe Ms Bhutto than one size fit all, she represented every thing that is wrong and rotten with Pakistani politics and not only Pakistani I might add. Dynastic to such a degree that personal ability was not a factor in her rise, you mention great wealth, well it is impossible to attain and retain great wealth in Pakistan without acting corruptly.

Not only did she steal and flaunt her great wealth, but her husband was not called Mr 10% for nothing, she was chair of the board of the family business whilst he was CEO and chief accountant and debt/favor collector.

She and her ilk have worked hard keeping the economically poor in Pakistan in poverty and ignorance, they do not live in great poverty by accident but because people like Miss Bhutto will it.

I say bluntly the human race is better off now this wretched specimen of a woman is dead, for her and her ilk are responsible for the dreadful situation Pakistan is currently in. She should have stayed at home and counted her ill gotten gains and at least 20 plus people would not now be dead.

I might add George Galloway’s statement is an absolute disgrace to praise a women who ended her life as the willing tool of the most reactionary US president in decades made me want to puke.

Have the left slipped to such a low level of consciousness that we no longer rejoice in an exploiters demise, whilst I did not wish her dead, I see no reason to be a hypocrite now she is. She was not courageous, simple vain and over confident, one only had to see this silly woman waving from the sun roof of her car to understand that she believed the great satan would protect her. She never gave a thought to those of her supporters who would be killed if she were attacked, she simply epitomized the me, me, me, age we live in..

Some may feel my comments are a bit harsh, but I have not read so much drivel in the media about Bhutto since Diana was killed,


12. WorldbyStorm - December 29, 2007

Mick, I still think you underestimate the importance of a woman gaining power in an Islamic state. I think that you also overstate the significance of the US in terms of the internal politics of Pakistan. As for rejoicing in exploiters demise, she’s human, we’re human, she made some progress on some fronts, prevented it on others. From the start I’ve noted the dichotomy of her nature/achievement/failure.

You say that you don’t wish her dead, but that the human race is better off with her dead. I think that’s contradictory, and I also think that it misses the point about how humans work within given political environments. Pakistan doesn’t appear to have a significant degree of class consciousness, or to have mechanisms to harness that which exists. Therefore… reformist, corrupt or whatever we have to work with what is there. Bhutto was part of an environment where corruption was endemic. She probably acted within that environment.

And when it comes down to it with respect I disagree with you profoundly, she was courageous, was willing to put herself in situations where her safety was clearly compromised.

As for thoughts for supporters… well, vain or not, all political activity, here there and everywhere puts someone at risk. That’s not an argument to stop. Indeed most leftists would consider it an argument to continue.

That she wasn’t the receptacle of our dreams or hopes is in some respects meaningless. No one is. No one can be. The best we can hope for in many many societies on this planet is that there is slight, moderate or minor change… It’s not great, but that’s reality.


13. WorldbyStorm - December 29, 2007

If I can add, I agree with you completely in terms of finding the political situation in Pakistan a nightmare. I think I said above that it was clear Bhutto was no saint from the early 1990s. Arguably she wasn’t very progressive and what improvements came about were crumbs from the table (BTW I like Hitchens point about the Electra complex she had). But the form of the flawed democracy in Pakistan are such that I’m at a loss to see how things would or could have worked out otherwise. Army/Elites produce leaders. That’s the way it has been and that’s the way, as Tariq Ali suggests it looks to continue into the future.


14. Phil - January 1, 2008

Technical note: your main RSS feed has been broken since you posted this; it can’t handle those weird characters in George’s eulogy. (No jokes about George, eulogies and weird characters, please.)


15. WorldbyStorm - January 1, 2008

Thanks Phil. I’ve cleaned it up and think that should have helped…


16. Phil - January 1, 2008

Not quite – it’s now objecting to the rogue full-stop in the phrase “the decoy suicide bomb.story”, which presumably is another weird character masquerading as a full stop.

Happy New Year, by the way!


17. WorldbyStorm - January 1, 2008

And to you… what is it with this text?


18. Phil - January 1, 2008

Dunno, but it’s still fooped – there’s a weird ‘vertical arrow’ character lurking just ahead of a couple of possessive apostrophes.


19. WorldbyStorm - January 1, 2008

Weird. The feed seems okay from my side of things… Blast GG. And all his pomps and ceremonies…


20. Bradley - January 7, 2010

A very motivating article, frankly I read a lot more information from this article


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