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Benazir's Homecoming.
October 18, 2007 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Two-time Former Pakistani PM, Benazir Bhutto Returns After 8 years. The leader of a Pakistan's most progressive and liberal political party, but tarnished by serious corruption and money laundering charges, Benazir Bhutto landed in Karachi today welcomed by thousands, reminiscent of her return to take on a previous military dictator in 1986. Bhutto has recently lost popularity because she has sought a deal with General Musharraf and tried to obtain an amnesty from corruption charges. Can she use her thunderous return to overcome such setbacks and lead the second largest Muslim country again?
posted by Azaadistani (40 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
People must have short memories. I guess she's a step up from Musharraf? Maybe. Pakistan's political landscape must be particularly bleak.
posted by chunking express at 8:29 AM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Pakistan's political landscape must be particularly bleak.

It is, and has been pretty much since the country was born in mass slaughter, in particular since the only two real statesmen it started out with, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, died soon after its creation (Jinnah of tuberculosis and cancer in 1948, Liaquat assassinated in 1951). After that it was coup after coup (in 1953 and 1954, and the decisive one in 1958), military rule, war, and corruption. Poor Pakistan. It's doomed to a long period of struggling to achieve a normal political life.
posted by languagehat at 8:56 AM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


At last we will learn the truth about Dr.Khan,if she actually follows through,
posted by hortense at 9:22 AM on October 18, 2007


Chunking_express quite rightly alludes to the fact that things were not all sweetness and light under Benazir Bhutto. Had Musharraf not intervened, things could conceivably be much worse today.

Beyond this, despite what we've learned these past few years about Al Qaeda recruits coming from middle to upper middle class homes, isn't Pakistan the very embodiment of the idea that poverty and economic hopelessness breed extremism?

Based on this bit from the CIA world fact book, it appears now there's at least some reason to be optimistic about Pakistan's plight:
IMF-approved government policies, bolstered by generous foreign assistance and renewed access to global markets since 2001, have generated solid macroeconomic recovery the last five years. The government has made substantial macroeconomic reforms since 2000, most notably privatizing the banking sector. Poverty levels have decreased by 10% since 2001, and Islamabad has steadily raised development spending in recent years, including a 52% real increase in the budget allocation for development in FY07, a necessary step toward reversing the broad underdevelopment of its social sector. The fiscal deficit - the result of chronically low tax collection and increased spending, including reconstruction costs from the October 2005 earthquake - appears manageable for now. GDP growth, spurred by gains in the industrial and service sectors, remained in the 6-8% range in 2004-06.
I'm not quite sure what Mrs. Bhutto has in mind, but hopefully there are some trends here that can helped to continue.
posted by psmealey at 9:30 AM on October 18, 2007


I remember her from '86. I would have done her, now not so much.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:48 AM on October 18, 2007


Beyond this, despite what we've learned these past few years about Al Qaeda recruits coming from middle to upper middle class homes, isn't Pakistan the very embodiment of the idea that poverty and economic hopelessness breed extremism?

Extremism, maybe, but you can't be a good terrorist without a good education.
posted by delmoi at 10:01 AM on October 18, 2007


She is not all sweetness and light, but what really gets me is that Pakistan chose her as a leader twice while the mouth breathers in this country still wonder if we are ready for a woman president. That is a fucking disgrace.
posted by 2sheets at 10:35 AM on October 18, 2007


the mouth breathers in this country still wonder if we are ready for a woman president

Considering we've a pretend cowboy (who's fraid of horses) for the past 6+ years, I think we're ready for marginally less testosterone in the Oval Office.

But you're right, it is disgusting, especially when you consider that at least one American woman had been head of state decades ago already.
posted by psmealey at 10:41 AM on October 18, 2007


Look, it’s not that the country isn’t ready for a female president, it’s that the country isn’t ready for the lack of a wealthy white male christian protestant president. I mean, with Kennedy that went from a 100% unbroken line to mere overwhelming dominance. The election of another non-white wealthy white male christian protestant would literally double the number that have been elected so far.
So looking at it proportionally, y’know, that’s huge.

And no, she can’t use her thunderous return to overcome such setbacks without an unbiased judiciary and legal system.
Although she could lead the place.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:51 AM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


So my mother asked me about Nawaz Sharif during his own recent return/expulsion episode, "Is he a good guy?"

I said, "Well, he was democratically elected (for what that's worth) ... and he was accused of massive corruption. But I've always figured that's just the way they do things there, and so the charges were probably true. It was just a matter of somebody being able to use them as leverage at the right time."
posted by dhartung at 11:54 AM on October 18, 2007


The BBC is reporting "[s]everal blasts have occurred near the motorcade carrying Pakistani ex-PM Benazir Bhutto, during her triumphant homecoming after eight years in exile." Some injuries but not her.
posted by Abiezer at 12:43 PM on October 18, 2007


Looks like a mess there. I guess the ISI is wasting no time.
posted by 2sheets at 12:52 PM on October 18, 2007


CNN is reporting 30 killed but Bhutto unharmed (no link yet).
posted by tommasz at 1:05 PM on October 18, 2007


CNN Link
posted by wowbobwow at 1:28 PM on October 18, 2007


Aaaand they are blowing people up.

Yawn.
posted by xmutex at 1:28 PM on October 18, 2007


will Musharraf let her stay? will they kill her?
posted by amberglow at 2:35 PM on October 18, 2007


at least one American woman had been head of state decades ago already
I thought you meant this one.

posted by kirkaracha at 3:50 PM on October 18, 2007


I don't want to sound like I'm making light of the attacks that have taken place (believe me, not a fan of crowd violence), but I can't help but giggle every time I hear her name. An ex's mom was at Radcliffe/Harvard at the same time as Bhutto, and had an old yearbook or sorority listing one with a great picture captioned 'Benazir "Bunny" Bhutto'.

We need more world leaders with college nicknames.
posted by pupdog at 5:19 PM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


pupdog: her nickname was actually 'Pinkie' which is even more cringeworthy.

Here's more detail on the blast.
posted by Azaadistani at 5:36 PM on October 18, 2007


126 dead but that number seems to be increasing hourly...
posted by Jimbob at 5:44 PM on October 18, 2007


will Musharraf let her stay?

She's actually Mushy's best friend right now. Bringing her back is his insurance policy.

This is quite a change of dynamic from her return from exile in 1986 (which has more on "Pinkie"), when she was defying the military government of Zia, who had had her father hanged and put her in prison. This time, the military government is protecting her.
posted by dhartung at 6:29 PM on October 18, 2007


Some of Harvard's most prestigious alumni have found the sports scene particularly engaging. In the early 1970's, a student known by her nickname as Pinky Bhutto attempted to gain a spot on The Harvard Crimson staff by writing an article on wrestling. She also became enamored of ice hockey, although her attempt to insert a puck into a birthday cake for one of the players ended futilely. As the story is told, she spent considerable time trying to unscrew the puck, as if it were a tin of shoe polish.

'I don't think she ever made the staff,'' said John Powers, a former Crimson columnist who later shared a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting at The Boston Globe.
posted by lukemeister at 6:47 PM on October 18, 2007


In the October 4 London Review of Books, Tariq Ali writes

The notion that the soon-to-return Benazir Bhutto, perched on Musharraf’s shoulder, equals progress is as risible as Nawaz Sharif imagining that millions of people would turn out to receive him when he arrived at Islamabad airport last month.

I think she blew her one shot to be an avenging angel.
posted by lukemeister at 7:00 PM on October 18, 2007


.
posted by Artw at 11:34 PM on October 18, 2007


will Musharraf let her stay? will they kill her?

He just tried. Well, the Pakistani version of the CIA/FBI did. The al-Qaida link is BS - an easy scapegoat. The military is not going to give up control to Benazir they will kill her first. I would bet any amount of money on it. All her advisors told her she was crazy to go back, it's a suicide mission.
posted by stbalbach at 6:15 AM on October 19, 2007


From Blood and Treasure:
"Interesting detail from yesterday’s attack on Mrs 30%:
Ms Bhutto, who praised those who died while protecting her as heroes, said she did not blame the government for the attack but called for an inquiry as to why street lights had been switched off during her procession.

"If the street lights had been on," she said "We would have spotted the suicide bombers...
She’s fingering the ISI for at least facilitating the hit."
posted by Abiezer at 7:40 AM on October 19, 2007


The al-Qaida link is BS - an easy scapegoat.

Really, who would suspect Al Qaeda, in the country where they were founded and the country which harbors Osama bin Laden and the city where Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was arrested and the city where Daniel Pearl was killed? Al Qaeda? That's just crazy talk!

I don't think you can cast this as if Musharraf is a dictator in control of all that happens in his country. In fact, it's largely that he's losing control that has brought Bhutto back. Is he an innocent? Of course not, but in this, I think he has more to lose than gain.

She’s fingering the ISI for at least facilitating the hit

I don't think that ISI involvement can be entirely ruled out. But it's important to recall that the ISI nurtured relationships with Islamists during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and even after 9/11 has been suspected of divided loyalties, and may well have been behind timed or electronically-activated bombings attempted against Musharraf himself. (If this had been a timed bombing, especially on a bridge, the fingerprints would be even clearer.)

But Musharraf, while he may not trust Bhutto entirely, has little incentive now to eliminate her. In fact she is largely his retirement plan.
posted by dhartung at 1:28 AM on October 20, 2007


Al Qaeda? That's just crazy talk!

I think his point might be that Al Qaeda doesn't really exist, or hasn't really in any meaningful way since about 2002. It's mostly a construct of the Bush and Blair administrations. A bogeyman. What you have now is actually far worse, less organized, insidious, widespread, etc.
posted by psmealey at 7:19 AM on October 20, 2007


dhartung, I didn't say it was "crazy talk" but it is BS. Musharraf is just one guy, Benazir is a threat to the entire military government in Pakistan. The ISI is the real culprit here, al-Qaida is everyones favorite bogyman. Think about the timing, why would al-Qaida choose right now to kill her, she has not even won the election, as an act of terror, killing a "candidate" for office is not exactly what terrorists usually do. They would wait till she wins, kill her and plunge the country into chaos. It's the ISI that wants her dead before she wins an election.
posted by stbalbach at 9:20 AM on October 20, 2007


But isn't Musharraf still the Military's guy there? They put him in, after all. Isn't it all the other groups that want him gone and not the military?

I'm totally confused. He brought her in why? How does it help him? How does it hurt various factions that want him gone?

Musharraf is just one guy, Benazir is a threat to the entire military government in Pakistan.
That's what i think--so why would she be insurance for him?
posted by amberglow at 10:07 AM on October 20, 2007


Is she poison to all the other groups or something? hopelessly corrupt? un-loved or hated by all of them?
posted by amberglow at 10:08 AM on October 20, 2007


amberglow, she represents a civilian democratic government, a threat to the powers that be. The charges of corruption and those of her husband are almost surely not true, or overblown.
posted by stbalbach at 10:38 AM on October 20, 2007


that i knew---what i don't get is why Musharraf would be either helping her or working with her or vice versa, and/or why they would both be saying they're working together while other sub-factions try to kill her.
posted by amberglow at 10:51 AM on October 20, 2007


ISI, the Pakistani Army, the Kashmiri freedom fighters / terrorists, the Taliban, al Qaeda... these are not completely separate entities, a lot of divided loyalties and grey areas... the Venn diagram of membership in these groups would make your head spin.

Remember that nutso-cuckoo invasion of India by Pakistan a few years back? Guess who was heading the Pakistani army at the time?

I never understood why the US backed this fucker, but then they also back the Saudi monarchy and lots of other bad men. Strange days.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:00 AM on October 23, 2007


what i don't get is why Musharraf would be either helping her or working with her or vice versa

Just for the sake of argument, maybe Musharraf is a patriot who used strong arm tactics to save his country from a far worse plight (islamic extremists taking over) and is now making deliberate strides to pushing Pakistan back towards pluralist democracy?

Yeah, yeah, I know, it's pretty far-fetched, but in my less cynical moments, I like to toy with the idea that people in power are out for something other than personal enrichment or aggrandizement.
posted by psmealey at 11:23 AM on October 23, 2007


if he wasn't a dictator who had taken power in a coup, i'd consider that, psmealey, but can't buy it. He needs the extremists to help keep people in line, i think.
posted by amberglow at 1:19 PM on October 23, 2007


what i don't get is why Musharraf would be either helping her or working with her or vice versa

Mushy was fighting a losing battle with the court system, which he has not been a powerful enough dictator to dislodge, overrule, or ignore. He has pissed off just about everybody who has supported him in the past, largely by being chummy with the US and under US pressure reducing tensions with India. The conflict with India is the entire raison d'etre for the Pak military and they loved it when he was prosecuting the Kargil War (up on the Kashmiri glaciers), not so muich when the border tensions ease.

In any case, the article I linked to above told how the US, through Rice especially, pressured him to make a deal with Bhutto in order to save his presidency. Her becoming President, or a rejiggered executive-level Prime Minister, is possibly the only way that Musharraf gets to retire alive (probably to someplace like Virginia).

Meatbomb is absolutely correct about the Venn diagram thing. There probably isn't a single person in the upper reaches of the ISI, the military, or the nominal civilian government right now who can't be plausibly connected with more than one group, if only as a means of survival.

How does it hurt various factions that want him gone?

Since she strengthens the chance, via popular support, of a transition to civil society, she increases the chances of a civilian-led cleansing of the military. This would probably be done on the excuse of eliminating ties to al Qaeda and the Taliban (who were in many views put in power with the help of the ISI), but will also threaten powerful generals working with Islamist militants to destabilize Indian control of Kashmir.

Now, it's certain that no civilian government will have an easy time of things regaining any level of control over a long self-sustaining military. Nawaz Sharif waited until Musharraf was in a plane outside Pak airspace before he fired the guy, and look how well that worked. Bhutto, on the other hand, may have sufficient popular support making a repeat move difficult. That's at least one view of her threat.

Now, sure, there's always the possibility of a Reichstag/false flag operation. With cut-outs anything is possible. But as I said I think Musharraf personally has more to lose if she's dead, so if this did come from the military, it came from factions trying to make things more difficult. For him, for her, for the US.

I'll tell you what's bogus, though. The idea she's bandied about that this is Zia's old crew trying to settle a score. Unless she really was behind that plane crash after all ...
posted by dhartung at 1:36 AM on October 25, 2007


is she really that willing to prop him up? why? would she actually have any real power?
posted by amberglow at 11:07 AM on October 25, 2007


I don't know the answer to either of those questions, amberglow. But she is there, and there was some kind of backroom deal, according to many reliable sources. Condi may know more, but she isn't talking.
posted by dhartung at 1:28 AM on October 27, 2007




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