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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2730

Violent End To Bhutto’s Exile

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features
It was tragic, it was dastardly and it was uncalled for. But it was not surprising—the bomb attacks obviously aimed at Benazir Bhutto, ‘the daughter of the east’, when she returned home to Karachi on October 18. The militants had announced days in advance that Bhutto, ‘the US agent’, would be given a bloody welcome upon her return from her self-imposed eight-year old exile. The government seemed to supplement the militants’ warning when the military ruler Pervez Musharraf publicly ‘advised’ the Mohatarma to put off her scheduled return to Pakistan.

If there was any surprise it was in the charges Benazir made after the tragedy about certain forces—rather individuals—she thought were behind the attacks. Some retired Generals were said to be among them—a dig at both the military establishment and its darling, the shadowy ISI whose chief has just been promoted as the army-chief-in-waiting.

Her public denunciation of the unnamed Generals might be a reminder for Musharraf that she would not consider the ‘deal’ complete unless all her wishes were granted. She should be able to not only get a third term as prime minister without any hurdle but Musharraf should also give up his power to dismiss the government. She might have reluctantly agreed to work with one General but was not going to be tolerant of the others who lurk behind curtains if she was not given full powers as the executive head of the country.

Undoubtedly, buoyed by the tumultuous reception she received, Benazir is sending an early signal that despite the US-UK induced ‘deal’ that facilitated her return home, she remains hostile to Musharraf. Their mutual incompatibility will continue to haunt the future of the ‘deal’. Washington and London believe ‘moderate’ forces in Pakistan will gain strength if Musharraf and Bhutto worked in tandem. Visions of some political stability coming to Pakistan are also raised - Musharraf ruling with a firm hand, even without the army uniform, while specifically dealing with the Frankenstein monster of terrorism, and Bhutto providing acceptability –and ‘respectability’--as the civilian head of the government.

Pak Media reports, if taken as a barometer of public mood tell us that the Western perspective has few takers in the land of Jinnah. What respectability Benazir Bhutto can lend to the very government that had been hurling serious charges of corruption against her till about a month back. Every one knows circumstances forced the wily military ruler to grant her ‘amnesty’ from the corruption charges.

In the weeks before she returned home, Benazir had given innumerable press conferences where the underlying theme was that she would be presenting a new image of herself, keen to start a fresh innings that would transform the negative image of the Pakistani society. (The British foreign minister, for instance, said a day after the Karachi blast that 70 percent of terrorist plots in the UK have Pakistani links). She offered to present AQ Khan, the father of Pak’s clandestine bomb and nuclear export programme to international questioning. And rather imperiously upbraided Pakistani intelligence agencies, which she said, had set up and nurtured fundamentalist and jihadi groups.

Benazir was the prime minister of Pakistan twice. She had every opportunity to check the ISI and rearrange its priorities. She did not do so. In fact available evidence shows, ISI created Taliban from cadres drawn from Madrassas with her full knowledge and backing of the Americans.

So, what is wrong with the ‘deal’ plot scripted in Washington and London? Well, a very wrong premise that there is a vast reservoir of pro-West opinion in Pakistan that would be released with the return of Bhutto to the centre stage. The overwhelming population of Pakistan is anything but pro-West. The fundamentalist parties may be ‘weak’ but the message they seek to spread—hostility towards the non-Muslim world--has wide acceptance in the country.

The Musharraf-Bhutto pact even if implemented without much hiccups would hardly change the status quo in this respect. The only difference will be that a major chunk of support for Musharraf in the national assembly would come from a so-called ‘secular’ but an undependable ally instead of the conglomerate of rabidly anti-American and pro-Taliban religious parties---and a band of Muslim League quislings.

Bhutto’s ‘moderate’ views uttered during her eight-year exile are no guarantee that she would not resort to the anti-American and anti-Indian rhetoric whenever she feels its need.

Will Musharraf-Bhutto duo be able to steer the average Pakistani away from anti-Western and anti-India phobia? Doubtful. Reason? Neither has the will nor the tenacity required. Musharraf’s pro-American image is somewhat of a misnomer as the Americans themselves have discovered. He is a dodgy client who grabs the American dollars with both hands but turns the other ways when asked to dismantle the terror infrastructure in his country.

The task of really transforming the Pak society is difficult. Since its creation in 1947, Pakistan has shown little liking for democracy, co-existence and tolerance. The country’s establishment, heavily controlled by the military, was always obsessed with India, devising (unsuccessful) ways to unfurl the green crescent over Delhi’s Red Fort.

Till the invasion of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, India was the prime target of the Pakistani establishment as a result of which generations of Pakistanis have felt closer to fundamentalist ideologies that teach them that there can be no peace with the ‘infidels’. The support for the Taliban and its clones may be more overt in the tribal belt of North and South Waziristan but even urban centres like Karachi and Islamabad have shown that they have a sizeable number of fundamentalists ever ready for ‘action’.

Put differently, Pakistanis in recent times have come to distribute their hatred between India and the US. Musharraf and Benazir, given their uneasy truce, don’t appear cut out for the job the West expects of them.

- Syndicate Features -

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