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War and Terror: Using Bhutto for Imperial Gain|
Posted on Monday, January 14 @ 10:27:52 UTC
by Stephen Lendman|
January 14, 2008
Benazir Bhutto led the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) as "chairperson for life" until her death. She was the privileged daughter of former Pakistan President and Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged in 1979 at the likely behest of Washington and replaced by military dictator General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. He later outlived his usefulness and died in a "mysterious" plane crash CIA may have arranged that allowed Bhutto to become Prime Minister in 1988.
She sought the post to avenge her father's death and twice held it as the first ever woman PM of an Islamic state - first from 1988 - 1990, then again from 1993 - 1996. In the end, she was too clever by half and it cost her. She lost out thinking she'd cut a binding deal with the Bush administration to return her to power a third time as Pervez Musharraf's number two and fig leaf democratic face in the scheduled January 8 elections, now postponed. On November 6, she may have been right when she returned from self-imposed exile. Like now, the country was in turmoil, and Washington arranged a power-sharing deal (so it seemed) to restore stability in the wake of this series of events:
-- Musharraf suspended Pakistan's Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in March, falsely accused him of "misconduct and misuse of authority," and used that excuse to remove a key official likely to block his plan for another five year term as President while illegally remaining chief of army staff (COAS) where the real power lies.
-- The response was outrage from opposition parties, lawyers organizations and human rights groups. They called the action unconstitutional and publicly rallied against it.
-- On October 6, Musharraf held a bogus election like all others in a country where democracy is a joke. It was stage-managed by the military, clearly unconstitutional, and Musharraf won all but five parliamentary votes and swept the Provincial Assembly balloting.
-- Afterwards, Pakistan's Supreme Court said no winner could be declared until it ruled if Musharraf could run for office in his joint COAS capacity. Constitutionally, he can't, protests erupted, the country has been in turmoil since, and Musharraf lost all credibility;
-- That was Bhutto's chance to return, again serve in the post she twice before held, and she thought her Washington allies arranged it. Maybe yes or maybe not. It didn't matter that she was being used - to be a democratic face and fig leaf adjunct to Musharraf's dictatorship, but whatever was then clearly changed by December 27 without Bhutto's knowledge. Now she's gone, and Musharraf nominally transferred his army chief post to close ally General Ashfaq Kayani last November. He also lifted a six week long state of emergency in mid-December ahead of the scheduled January 8 elections, now postponed after Bhutto's assassination until February 18 as of this writing.
Today, she's bigger in death than life, spoken of reverentially as a populist, and her 19 year old son, Bilawal (in school at Oxford), now heads the PPP as its figurehead leader and third generation family dynasty standard-bearer with his father, Asif Zardari, co-party chairman and de facto chief. More on him below.
Who Was Benazir Bhutto and Why Is She Important
Who was this woman, why the worldwide attention, and why another article with so many written and more likely coming? Bhutto was an aristocrat, privileged in every respect, and raised in opulence as the Harvard and Oxford-educated daughter of a wealthy landowning father who founded Pakistan's main opposition party (Pakistan Peoples Party - PPP) that Bhutto headed after his death.
While in office, she was no democrat in a military-run nation since its artificial creation in 1947. Elections, when held, are rigged, and the army runs things for Washington as a vassal state in a nation called a military with a country, not a country with a military. Its Army strength is 550,000, its Air Force and Navy 70,000, and 510,000 reservists back them with plenty of US-supplied weapons for the "Global War on Terrorism."
Today, FBI agents freely roam the streets, the Pentagon operates out of Pakistan military bases, and it has de facto control of its air space as part of the Bush administration's permanent state of war "that will not end in our lifetime." Pakistan is a client state, but what choice does it have. Post-9/11, Deputy Secretary of State Armitage warned Musharraf to comply or be declared a hostile power and "bombed back to the stone age." He got the message and a multi-billion dollar reward as well.
Bhutto knows the game, too, and the New York Times explained that she "always understood Washington more than Washington understood her" in a feature December 30 article called "How Bhutto Won Washington." Her relationship began in the spring of 1984 on her first "important trip" to the Capitol. At the time, she tried to persuade the Reagan administration it would be better served with her in power, but to do it she had to overcome her father's anti-western reputation. With considerable help she succeeded by assuring congressional members she was on board and supported Washington's proxy war on the Soviet Uni0n in Afghanistan.
Faults aside, she had her attributes, and The Times called her "completely charming," very beautiful, and a woman "who could flatter the senators," understand their concerns, and better serve US interests than the man who hanged her father, General Zia-ul-Haq. At the same time, she began working with the Democratic National Committee's Executive Director, Mark Siegel, who later lobbied for her government when she was Prime Minister. Early on, he walked her through the halls of Congress, helped her develop relationships, and made her understand that to get along she had to go along.
She caught on fast, and it made her Prime Minister in December, 1988 after she ran for the post, won a plurality but not a majority, and got Reagan administration officials to arrange with Pakistan's acting President to have her form a government. According to a Washington insider, it was the "direct result of her networking, of her being able to persuade the Washington establishment, the foreign policy community, the press, the think tanks, that she was a democrat," a moderate, and that she backed the US Afghanistan agenda against the Soviets. Public rhetoric aside, she was on board ever since, but she paid with her life by not understanding how Washington operates: like other rogue states - using leaders and aspiring ones, then discarding them.
In the end, it didn't matter that she twice survived dismissal from office on corruption charges or that she managed to co-exist with her country's military and intelligence service (ISI) that deeply mistrusted her. Until her luck ran out, she maintained ties to Washington and key members of the press. She politicked well and "understood the nature of political life, which is to stay in touch with (key) people whether you're in or out of office" and let them know you back them.
Like others of her stature, she also relied on a PR firm to arrange meetings with the powerful and had plenty of resources to do it. She "kept up her networking," but she paid with her life. She tried to convince Washington that Musharraf's "war on terrorism" failed, she could do it better as a loyal ally, and she would eliminate extremist elements (meaning the Taliban and Al-Queda) by a determined effort to maintain pressure.
It sounded good but was risky and dangerous. Pakistan's army opposes it, especially in the ranks; a stepped-up effort assures a huge public outcry; disrupting the Taliban benefits India; and trying and failing might embolden their forces as the US occupation learned in Afghanistan. In the end, Washington and Pakistan's ISI may have concluded Bhutto was more a liability than an asset and had to go. Things came to a head on December 27, she's now a martyr, and larger than life dead than alive.
It wasn't that way as Prime Minister, however, when her tenure was marked by nepotism, opportunism, scheming, corruption, poor governance and selling out to the West. Her early popularity faded, especially when word got out about her businessman husband's dealings. Asif Zardari was known as "Mr. Ten Percent"
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