Pakastani dictator General Pervez Musharraf's leading political opponent, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated yesterday. The potential consequences of this event are chilling as Pakastan possesses as many as 100 nuclear warheads that, if the turmoil there leads to civil war and the toppling of the Musharraf regime, could fall into the hands of Islamic Fundamentalists.
Bhutto was being praised by most of the press as of this writing, while Musharraf was being criticized for not providing enough security for her. Some go so far as to suggest that he may have had a hand in the assassination, as Bhutto and her opposition party looked to do quite well in the elections that are scheduled for January 8 (I doubt that this is true). Meanwhile, Bhutto is being hailed as a potential leader who could have lead Pakastan away from extreme Islam and toward "democracy." Maybe.
But who is Benazir Bhutto? As it turns out, not everyone is singing her praises today. Writing in the New York Post today, Ralph Peters, an intelligent reporter and an expert on the Middle East, writes...
"Her country's better off without her... We need have no sympathy with her Islamist assassin and the extremists behind him to recognize that Bhutto was corrupt, divisive, dishonest and utterly devoid of genuine concern for her country.
She was a splendid con, persuading otherwise cynical Western politicians and "hardheaded" journalists that she was not only a brave woman crusading in the Islamic wilderness, but also a thoroughbred democrat.
In fact, Bhutto was a frivolously wealthy feudal landlord amid bleak poverty. The scion of a thieving political dynasty, she was always more concerned with power than with the wellbeing of the average Pakistani. Her program remained one of old-school patronage, not increased productivity or social decency.
Educated in expensive Western schools, she permitted Pakistan's feeble education system to rot - opening the door to Islamists and their religious schools."
Context and perspective are crucial when viewing a part of the world where concepts such as individual rights or religion-state separation are not rooted in the culture. It was President Carter's undermining of the Shah of Iran, a dictator friendly to U.S. interests, that lead to his downfall and the rise of an infinitely
more oppressive Islamic theocracy in 1979.
In any event, the situation in Pakastan and the region in general is ominous. Stay tuned.
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