The Remodeling of Benazir Bhutto into a Saint

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The things you won't hear on the nightly news...

(This Original Essay is Copyrighted by Shelomo Alfassa - All Rights Reserved / Syndication is Available)

While the assassination of Benazir Bhutto was tragic, history remembers who this woman was--and she was--no Mother Teresa. Recent media coverage of Benazir's assassination in Pakistan has become another media circus. Benazir is being made to look like a saint, a poor little victim, and a sad woman who was a rising star in Pakistan, the wild west of the Islamic world. While politicians and media personalities continue to call for a "democracy" in Pakistan, and as they desire to get rid of Pervez Musharraf the current President of Pakistan, and former Chief of Staff of the Pakistan Army, they must be blind to the fact that it is he and his military that are holding the Islamic terrorists at bay with an iron fist.

Benazir would not have made a good leader, she demonstrated this on more than one occasion over past decades, her days as a leader were long over. Her first bout with trouble may have been thirty years ago, when in 1977 at Karachi International Airport, police officers lifted the veils of the incoming passengers searching for Benazir Bhutto who had been in London and whom they had learned might have been coming to Pakistan to disrupt elections. Benazir was twice elected prime minister of Pakistan, 1988-1990 and 1993-1996, and twice expelled from office because of a slew of corruption charges. In 1991, one year after she lost her Prime Ministership, she suffered a setback when Pakistani terrorists loyal to her, armed with knives and hand grenades, hijacked a Singapore Airlines flight, doused passengers with alcohol and began a countdown to start killing them; they were later killed by the police.

Her primary problem was that while in office, she asserted her authority without sufficiently understanding her own Constitution or how her own military functioned. A 1996 scholarly paper in the University of California's Asian Survey records that a botched 1990 operation to stop terrorists who were stockpiling weapons, resulted in 30 persons being killed and a reaction in the city of Karachi resulted in another 350 dying. The situation was complicated because then Prime Minister Benazir had acted without involving the top military brass. Once the situation was finally resolved, the lead General who arrived on scene was met with slogans of "impose martial law, remove Benazir Bhutto." The same paper records that Benazir was "not very effective or skillful in managing relations with the army," and that her "her poor comprehension of the workings of the military" were a source of continuing problems.

The end of her second role as Prime Minister came in 1996 when Farooq Leghari, the president of Pakistan, telephoned Bhutto to let her know she was fired; he claimed her government had been dishonest. It was reported that in the city of Karachi, women handed out sweets and men danced in the streets over her ouster. The Economist said in 1996, "Miss Bhutto's political problems are largely self-inflicted. She antagonized the judiciary last year, when she appointed many ill-qualified judges-some of them party loyalists."

A 1997 New York Times article reported that Pakistanis saw, "Ms. Bhutto's Government as one of the most corrupt in Pakistan's nearly 50-year history," and reported that investigators said that "Bhutto Government officials looted billions of dollars from public funds." It has been alleged by government sources from various countries that Ms. Bhutto and her husband had been conducting themselves in a corrupt manner. This includes the Polish government who in 1997 alleged she and her husband accepted millions in kickbacks from the sale of equipment; a 1998 French deal which involved a the sale of military fighter aircraft; and suspicious deposits in Dubai, where millions of dollars were said to have stemmed from questionable or illegal kickbacks from gold dealers.

In 1998, Swiss authorities located more than $10 million dollars in bank accounts belonging to Bhutto and her family. One year later, a government prosecutor in Switzerland provided 150 pages of evidence to the Pakistan government demonstrating corruption and kickbacks which included the purchase of a $188,000 diamond necklace for Ms. Bhutto. She was later convicted (along with her husband), and sentenced to five years in prison, as well as fined $8.6 million dollars for taking these kickbacks while in office. From 2004 until the day of her death, Swiss government officials had been conducting the investigation into allegations that she had used Swiss banks to launder millions of dollars in kickbacks. A 1998 New York Times article reported, "Pakistani investigators insist that some $500 million has been uncovered in 19 Swiss bank accounts. The proceeds, they say, are from Ms. Bhutto's cuts on Government contracts and drug deals."

Even while government investigators demonstrated that Benazir was filling her pockets with illegally obtained money, a 1998 article in The Economist spoke about how she would continue to travel the world seeking funds for her poor country, and that she was, "an accomplished beggar." Economic Review magazine reported that in 1999, the government of Benazir Bhutto, "in it's own pursuit," had mounted campaigns to recover hundreds of billion of dollars in defaulted loans, "mainly for propaganda and publicity purposes." Prof. Robert LaPorte Jr., Professor of Political Science at The Pennsylvania State University wrote in 1997, that "the Bhutto government had succeeded in alienating the business community, the judiciary, the military, the president, the international assistance community (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in particular), and given the lack of protests against the dismissal, the Pakistani public-at-large."

It is bizarre to see the world media speaking of the successive "tragedies" that the Bhutto family has experienced. Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a former Pakistani Prime Minister, was executed by the government in 1979, not assassinated as has been reported on the cable news channels. And her brother, Murtaza Bhutto, who was killed in 1996, was not a supporter of his sister Benazir--as a matter of fact, her brother had been a long time political opponent of her's, and he persistently accused her of operating a government culture based on extensive corruption.

Yet, corruption is not the worst problem in Pakistan, Islamic fundamentalism is. Pakistan remains a breeding ground for jihadists, and according to a CNN poll (Dec. 2007), 46% of Pakistanis approve of Osama bin Laden. Yes, the military is not as strong as they should be, and yes, Musharraf may not be the finest leader, however--it is the government of Musharraf and the existing Pakistani military which is the only body able to hold off the Taliban and the terrorist forces of Al-Quaeda from taking control of the floundering country. The pampered wealthy Benazir was no Musharraf, a man (whether you love him or hate him), had been an officer in the military since 1964 and who has experienced many years of the blood, sweat and tears of combat experience.

We should remember. That unlike any other Islamic country leader, Musharraf issued an important speech against Islamic extremism in 2002 and pledged to combat Islamic extremism within his country. He also banned funding of madrasas and mosques from outside of Pakistan (think Saudi Arabia!), and he mandated modern sciences and computer technology be taught in Islamic schools. In 2005, Musharraf spoke to the American Jewish Congress, in New York where he denounced terrorism and opened the door to relationships between Pakistan and Israel, as well as between the Muslim world and Jews worldwide. This brought criticism from other Islamic nations, but he didn't back down nor change his promises.

A widely popular Western ideal is that democracy is an end-goal and that Islamic countries such as Pakistan can't live without it. But just because Benazir Bhutto called for democracy, does not necessarily mean she or the country was ready for democracy. Nor did it mean she was qualified to help bring it to fruition or even institute it, if it could ever be achieved. Politics alone will not stop those that are well trained and well armed. Politics cannot make a poor country rich, nor stop a well trained and well armed religiously-based fanatical militia. It should always be remembered, that voting does not bring about democracy, it is democracy itself, when stable and healthy, which brings about voting.

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This page contains a single entry by Shelomo Alfassa published on December 29, 2007 6:48 PM.

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