Friday, December 28, 2007

Bhutto's Death Changes Nothing

The assassination on 27 December 2007 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, of Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani prime minister, was regrettable not only because of her death but because of the deaths of others who were the victims of the suicide bomber who blew himself to smithereens after shooting Bhutto. Upon her return from exile a few weeks ago to run for Parliament, an unsuccessful attempt was made on her life that resulted in more than 150 deaths of others, so her presence in the country for a few days has cost many lives. The senseless riots over the country in the wake of her death have cost many more lives and destruction of property.

Government by assassination or power-grab is the rule rather than the exception in Muslim-dominated countries, so the murder was not a surprise. President Bush has expressed his regret at Bhutto’s death, but surely knows that in a country in which the population is less than 50% literate, and therefore ruled by religious fanatics who have the smarts to exploit the ignorant, that her presence would not have amounted to much vis-à-vis the maintaining of a democracy.

Government by theocracy is as damning as government by atheism, Pakistan mirroring the Soviet Union in this respect. Ruling via the tenets of Islam is as evil and murderous as ruling by the tenets of communism. Life is cheap in both systems, and the most bloodthirsty operatives are the winners. The ayatollahs and imams do not rule in Pakistan now, but have every intention of doing so, with the weapon of choice being terrorism no matter how many innocent people suffer and die.

Bhutto had envisioned a power-sharing plan with Pakistan President Musharraf but apparently abandoned that idea recently. Musharraf gained power in 1999 in a military coup, ejecting Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader who has also returned from exile recently. Sharif told angry PPP supporters at the Rawalpindi hospital where Ms. Bhutto’s body lay that he was with them and they would jointly avenge her death, according to The Hindu online newspaper. And so it goes…an-eye-for-an-eye…government by Islam, followed by 97% of the Pakistan population.

Benazir Bhutto was prime minister of Pakistan 1988-90 and 1993-96. She and her husband have been fighting criminal charges since her government was tossed in 1996, ironically by Sharif. Her younger brother, who opposed her positions while he was in the Pakistan parliament in the 1990s, was assassinated while she was prime minister in 1996. Ms. Bhutto ended her “tortured” 8-year exile in England and the United Arab Emirates when she returned.

The daughter of Bhutto’s murdered brother, Fatima Bhutto, wrote the following as published in the Los Angeles Times on 14 November: “It is widely believed that Ms. Bhutto lost both her governments on grounds of massive corruption. She and her husband, a man who came to be known in Pakistan as ‘Mr. 10%,’ have been accused of stealing more than $1 billion from Pakistan's treasury. She is appealing a money-laundering conviction by the Swiss courts involving about $11 million. Corruption cases in Britain and Spain are ongoing.” Actually, a Swiss court convicted Bhutto and her husband of money-laundering in 2003. These are not beautiful people.

What those who believe that American-style democracy will work everywhere don’t understand is that…well, it won’t work in perhaps most of the third world. The Middle East is a hotbed of theocracies – rule by the imams and the ayatollahs and the devil take the hindmost. Until the Islamic Jihad-freaks and religious fanatics are denied the opportunity to run governments, there will be no democracies in the Middle East, including Iraq and Pakistan. Since the Muslims are an essentially uneducated people, and since both education and integrity (at least to some degree) are vital in supporting a democracy, representative government is not possible for them. This is true, also, throughout Africa.

Al Qaeda has taken credit for the assassination, and that seems to be the case as the investigation unfolds. The Taliban could never countenance a woman in a position other than in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant and never seen in public except as in a head-to-toe burka. Her followers will blame Musharraf, as Sharif already has, even though Musharraf himself faces assassination on a daily basis. They’ve been proving their point by rioting, burning buildings, killing each other…absolute insanity, remindful of the rioting deaths in Afghanistan when Newsweek falsely ran an account of a Koran (Islam holy book) being flushed down the toilet at Guantanamo.

For better or worse, this country has to support Musharraf, no matter if he declares a state of emergency again and postpones the elections. He, too, has a finger on the A-bomb button, and one can only imagine the carnage if bin Laden’s gang ever acquired that finger. The U.S. road to the fight against al Qaeda runs through Pakistan and it must not be closed. Bhutto’s death – a not unusual occurrence – has changed nothing.

And so it goes

Jim Clark

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