I heard the news of Benazir Bhutto's assassination this morning with a heavy heart and a terrible sinking feeling. I don't suppose anyone was very surprised that this happened. And yet, it was quite a shock. I guess it demonstrates the difference between surprise and shock.
As far as I'm concerned, this should signal the end of Pervez Musharraf's regime. Was Musharraf directly responsible? We'll never know. The real truth of this will be buried in official bullshit. But everything that has occurred since Bhutto announced her decision to return to Pakistan points to his tacit approval, at the very least. His apparent inability to protect the nation's main opposition leader, a woman with a great deal of legitimate support, clearly demonstrates his incompetence. Or malice, whichever you prefer.
What's the point of marshal law, if it doesn't impose law and order? The fact that it was lawyers who first demonstrated against the government in this latest round of chaos in Pakistan is a telling point. Likewise Musharraf's dismissal and arrest of the Supreme Court judges. It shows that he is an outlaw. And if the leader of the country is a lawless scoundrel, how can you expect the citizens to behave any better?
It's time that the west, and the US in particular, stop coddling Musharraf. He has no control over his borders with Afghanistan. His efforts in the so-called war on terror have so far been ineffectual, and I'm not convinced that he doesn't prefer it that way. Ostensibly, his government's aid in the war on terror is the reason for the west's support of him. Once again we find ourselves supporting a miserable dictator because we think it's a better choice than the alternative. I wonder.
I suspect that Musharraf is actually thumbing his nose at the US. It was the Murricans who pressured him to come to some sort of agreement with Bhutto. It was the Murricans who pressured him to step down from his military position. I don't think he liked that too much, so he decided to show everybody who was boss. His condemnation of the assassination and appeal for calm ring hollow in our ears. No, not hollow...rather, brimful with hypocrisy.
As for Benazir Bhutto, I confess I have rather mixed feelings. In the last few months, especially, she skillfully positioned herself as the beacon of democracy in Pakistan. But let's not forget that she was ousted as Prime Minister...twice...for alleged corruption. Again, we'll never know the truth of that either. It's a sad comment on the state of Pakistan that such a person would be cast as the democratic alternative. This is it: her democracy would have been more legitimate than what is there now. And it's entirely possible that her handling of indigenous terrorists would have been more effective. This is what made her a target: she threatened the terrorists, and she threatened Musharraf's meal-ticket (sham-fighting terrorists...)
I am often perplexed by, or critical of, the US in this blog. I suppose I can be critical of the US now for propping up this jerkoff for so long. Another case of the US backing the wrong dictatorial horse. But I have to say, I believe the Bush administration really did try to set Musharraf on a more acceptable path this time around. And the jerkoff jerked them around.
I will say one more thing. I know the US has had its share of political assassinations, but the degree of domestic political terror has never reached the level seen in Pakistan. I'll be smug for a moment. In the western democracies we have learned, by and large, to share power, to transfer power, to distribute power, without the need to shoot people. (OK, relatively speaking...of course, we all know that the common people even in western countries are pretty much shut out of the real decision-making processes...) But we are also pretty much assured that George W. Bush will relinquish the presidency when the time comes without having to impose marshal law. Same for Canada. And Britain. And Germany. And France. Even the Ukraine!
Which makes me think that maybe Pakistan is nearly ripe for revolution. You know, no matter how loyal an army is to its ostensible political masters, it can be swayed by the determined opposition of citizens. Soldiers can think as well as anyone else. They have eyes to see. They know, ultimately, when they are being manipulated for evil purposes. And history shows that the army has been a powerful force in Pakistan. When it decides to vote for democracy, tinpots like Musharraf had better beware.