29 December, 2007

Martyred Benazir, Shattered Hopes

May Benazir Bhutto rest in peace.

In total duration of tenure, she and Rajiv Gandhi each had just about 5 years to fire popular imagination - and both died at the hands of terrorists during election rallies.

Her courage in coming home to her destiny redeemed her erratic run as the first woman head of a Muslim state - a strong willed person who had a clear vision for a democratic but US-aligned military-focused Pakistan. For her, ends justified the means - a blind eye turned to corruption by her inner circle, India-bashing in domestic and international media, a mixed record on the economy and arguably not enough in terms of human rights either. But, to be fair, she was given little time - two short terms in the shadow of a dominant military and an avaricious coterie are enough to be noticed - but not nearly enough to impact a long-term future for 165 million people.

I believe Bhutto knew that she ran a very risk by returning to Pakistan... but was willing to trade the outcome of that for martyrdom in the mistaken belief that it her blood will fertilize the soil of a new civilian Pakistan. Au contraire, what she has achieved in death is either a strengthened military establishment, with or without Musharraf - else a swift spiral into anarchy. The arson and mob mania her supporters engaged in have partly robbed the PPP of the dignity that Benazir sought to endow it with; one can only hope sanity prevails.

My limited experience of Pakistan is of a country of warm, hospitable individuals who are no different in their need for peace than ourselves across the border. No country populated with people who have poetry in their soul and respect in their blood deserves the twin dark shadows of extremism and autocracy.

Yet it is abundantly clear that the monster of terrorism in Pakistan has wrenched itself convincingly free of the Frankensteinian state machinery that created it. The merchants of mayhem no longer need the ISI to support their activities; they have attained their own critical mass and found synergies with Al-Qaeda, ironically funded - most likely - by the same US cash flows that profess to be arming the so-called War on Terror.

If there is one person who needs to rise to the occasion now, it is Mr Musharraf. What he says, does and demonstrates could make or break a nation. The world is watching.

For a more authoritative analysis of the situation, not necessarily congruent with my layman's view, please check out http://www.cfr.org/publication/15130/us_policy_after_bhutto.html?breadcrumb=%2Findex