Was Bhutto a champion of democracy?



1 January 2008

Benazir Bhutto in her student days. She would have easily passed as the girl next door. ( click to see note)

A death is always tragic, particularly when it is untimely and brought on by acts of criminals. A family has lost a mother and wife in such manner and that is a colossal misfortune. Does that make Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto a champion of democracy? The short answer is no.

She was arguably the first woman head of government in a part of the world which, for centuries, has been under the subjugation of an ideology that treats women as sex objects, wrapped in masses of clothes in case they drive "innocent" men to commit rape. Days before her murder, she may have said that Pakistan’s medrassas turned children into killers. The politically correct establishment here in the West may feel that she was as good as the girl next door because she studied at old universities in England and America. She may have contested Western-style elections for a parliament loosely modelled after the one at Westminster. All these may be true and yet it did not make Bhutto a democrat.

She was twice prime minister of Pakistan, a godforsaken country that experienced only a few years of elected civilian government in the sixty years of its wretched existence. Twice she was removed from office after she and her husband were accused of corruption and embezzlement. She gained the premiership only because she was the daughter of her father, who was removed from office and hanged after being accused of complicity in a murder.

The incredible opulence of her homes, both at home and in exile, was akin to those of Mughal colonialists who ruled over India before being displaced by the British. Her father’s mausoleum rivals the Taj Mahal, the most well-known structure left behind by the Islamic Mughal colonialists.

She was the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, campaigning for what is labelled a “democratic” election. And did those Pakistan “People” or their Party have anything to do with choosing her successor? No.

The successor was chosen according to her last will and testament. This was read out by her son who, together with her husband, was named respectively chairman and interim co-chairman of the party. This is how we dispose of our worldly possessions here in the West; not how we run a parliamentary democracy.

In days gone by when kings died leaving an under-aged heir, the dowager queen was appointed regent until the heir came of age. That was exactly what happened in the case of the Bhutto succession in Pakistan.

The son and heir was below the age of eligibility for election to parliament and is still attending Oxford in order to establish his credentials in the West. So the mother, in her will, ordered her supposedly democratic party to accept a “regent” in the interim in the person of her husband. The dynastic nature of the succession was further enhanced by the son being ordered, in his mother’s will, to take on her own ancestral family name.

Bhutto is dead! Long live Bhutto!

On 8 July 2008, we received an email from a reader who wrote the following, after he "had checked" with a very close friend of Miss Bhutto's and her party's coordinator in a Persian Gulf sheikhdom:

"I have been told and confirmed that the photo dates not from her student days (which would be the 70s) but the late 90s, when Benazir was in Dubai after she left her home country to stay there. Benazir was Prime Minister until early 1997 so this would be between 1998 and 2000. Just wanted to mention this error."