Benazir: A Corrupt Legacy

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lt is worth revisiting some of the YouTube clippings of Benazir Bhutto’s rallies and putting yourself in her place. How long could you endure those sickeningly adulating crowds, with all their associated expectations? How long would it be before you decided to run away, calling it quits, as did the Messiah in Richard Bach’s “Illusions”? Or would your instinct be just to puke profusely, ensuring that the very last bit in your stomach was out?

So what must Bhutto have been like, in view of the fact that she actually returned from London to be with such crowds, leaving her children behind? So overpowering was her need to be even closer to the crowd that she put her head out of the car, and had it blown away.

Trying to understand Bhutto, it is unavoidable to compare her with Musharraf. It is unavoidable to reflect on her achievements and wonder if she was a product of anything but dynastic rule. It is unavoidable to wonder what kind of people her immediate family must have been, when both her brothers died under unnatural circumstances, and her father was hanged. Were they martyrs or simply people with the psychology of the speeding teenager, who at some level considers himself invincible? It is unavoidable to wonder why in a country where women have an extremely low status, as has been the case with India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, a woman should be elected prime minister.

Benazir’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, is considered by many to have been the most corrupt person to lead Pakistan. Accused of killing a political opponent, he was hanged in 1979. Benazir was to become Pakistan’s prime minister twice, in 1988 and 1993. On both occasions, she was removed from power for alleged corruption and extra-judicial killings (including that of her own brother, Mustaza). Her husband was widely known as the 10% man, for the cut he allegedly collected as bribes. Benazir went into self-imposed exile in 1998 to return only recently after Musharraf granted her amnesty from charges. The move was perhaps made possible by the ever-interfering America – making one wonder how responsible America must be in subsidizing corruption and spinelessness around the world.

When Benazir was in power, she did nothing that could have improved the lot of the Pakistani minorities and women or put a leash on increasing fundamentalism in Pakistan. Her sole interest during those days was apparently to make as much money as possible through her husband, while resolutely sticking to power. One must wonder what makes political leaders so utterly greedy. What is the use of stashing away billions and billions that one can never need or even have an opportunity to use? It could only be a mixture of deep-rooted sense of inadequacy and insecurity, a search for means to avoid the reality of mortal existence. And more fundamentally, of course, the corrupt practices of politicians are a sign of extreme stupidity. Indeed, stupidity and spinelessness were ,written on the face of Benazir. Even those not good at reading faces could see her stupidity reflected in every word she spoke.

Had she cared about Pakistan, she would have worked with Musharraf, who despite being an incorrigible crook himself, has brought some sanity to the conduct of the Pakistani state. Indeed, he has done a lot to control the Taliban and to improve Pakistan’s relationship with India. She would have worked with him to alleviate the suffering of Pakistani women and minorities, something that she knew would only get worse in a democratic system where mullahs would call the final shots. She would have worked with him to control the appalling level of fanaticism that rules Pakistan, fanaticism that hasn’t a chance of being controlled by democracy. But all she did was bring more chaos. lt doesn’t take much effort to conclude that hers was an utterly wasted life.

What an irony it is that leftists and even libertarians are so statist in thinking about the future of such places as Pakistan! The leftists think that the solution to the world’s problems lies in the state. The libertarians think that the reason for the world’s problems is the state. Even libertarians must therefore believe in the high potency of the state. But can politicians really decide the fate of a society? If anything, in Benazir’s death Pakistan has extended its luck by continuing the rule of Musharraf for a few more months. But despite having the support of one of the world’s best and biggest armies, he must go, as the masses have decided so.

Many years from now, Pakistan and the rest of the world will look at the rule of Musharraf with nostalgia. In the faces of the crowds that accompanied Benazir, you will see a very grim future for Pakistan.

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