Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto: The fall of a corrupt puppet

"I had the chance to meet her (Benazir Bhutto) on several occasions, in which she expressed interest in Israel and said that she hoped to visit upon returning to power." -Shimon Peres (President of "Israel", pictured above with Benazir Bhutto at a "socialist international" (sic) conference)

Update: December 30th - According to a hand written will of Benazir Bhutto, she wanted her husband to take over as chairman of the Pakistan's People's Party (PPP). Zardari, apparently also brought in his and Benazir Bhutto's son, Bilawal as co-chair. A father son team.

Zardari's corruption is detailed below, I won't place too much emphasis on Bilawal's age 'cause there are lots of 19 year olds who are far more mature than many 70 year olds. But what does need to be mentioned is that he left the country at age 11, he can barely, if at all, speak the language of the country Urdu, let alone any of the provincial languages. Infact, his contact with Pakistan, in all probability, has been limited to the mansions where his mother and father lived. And he has no plans on staying in Pakistan, he is off to England to continue his "studies" at Oxford - and so, this is "democracy?" Is it any wonder that Muslims all over the world find this word to be more and more suspect?

A few months back (October 18th, 2007) Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan at the behest of a three way arrangement between herself, the hated dictator puppet Musharraf, and the United States. At the outset of this arrangement, it was clear that Bhutto would provide the democratic facade to the neo-colonial project of the US in Pakistan.

For Benazir Bhutto, the decision to return to Pakistan was sealed during a telephone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just a week before Bhutto flew home in October. The call culminated more than a year of secret diplomacy -- and came only when it became clear that the heir to Pakistan's most powerful political dynasty was the only one who could bail out Washington's key ally in the battle against terrorism.

It was a stunning turnaround for Bhutto, a former prime minister who was forced from power in 1996 amid corruption charges. She was suddenly visiting with top State Department officials, dining with U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and conferring with members of the National Security Council. As President Pervez Musharraf's political future began to unravel this year, Bhutto became the only politician who might help keep him in power.

In many ways she was the ideal US face on the "democracy promotion" lie: Benazir was "educated" at the Imperial University of Harvard, she was articulate when speaking the lies of imperialism (couched in terms of "democracy") and could even appeal to some of the lslamophobic liberal-left crowd with her fake social-democratic credentials, and she was considered "beautiful" by the gossip rags. The icing on the cake was her recent conversion to staunch secularist ideas (wrapped in a half covered head scarf ) and she now opposed the Islamic political parties within Pakistan (not that these "Islamic parties" in Pakistan have much to offer). I say recent conversion, because Benazir was the one who gave the go ahead to the horribly sectarian anti-Shia (and anti-Iran) Taliban, who took over Afghanistan in the late 1996s.

The Taliban took power in Kabul in September 1996. It was during Bhutto's rule that the Taliban gained prominence in Afghanistan. She viewed the Taliban as a group that could stabilize Afghanistan and enable trade access to the Central Asian republics, according to author Stephen Coll.[18] He claims that her government provided military and financial support for the Taliban, even sending a small unit of the Pakistani army into Afghanistan.

But before Benazir could return to Pakistan there was some work to be done:

1. Musharraf had to be convinced that his time was up - and now it was Benazir's time to serve the US.

This took some arm twisting, but he was convinced, he would allow Benazir to become the PM if he was allowed to remain the President.

2. The pending corruption charges in Pakistan had to be dropped.

Since few, if any of the big landlords (feudals) or capitalist industrialists are prosecuted for corruption anyways, this was no big deal.

3. Two acts had to be passed in order to allow Benazir to take the helm.

i) A National Reconciliation Act that would absolve her of all of her past corruptions

ii) Another constitutional amendment was to allow her to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan for the third time (and allow Musharraf to remain President).

These two ammendments were pending challenges in Pakistan's Supreme Court when Busharraf declared his martial law, got rid of the judges, and installed his own kind. These new judges, in blind obedience, did whatever was asked of them.

The declaration of martial law by Busharraf led to some minor concerns for Benazir because she came under some slight pressure from her liberal-elite supporters - so she made some half hearted attempts to challenge the measures. However, the declaration of martial law, and deposing of the judges were as much for her benefit, as for Musharraf. And she eventually backed off any direct confrontations, and was happy to continue as if nothing had changed. Benazir, now free of the corruption charges, free of any other constitutional road blocks, went into political deal making mode for her party to "win" the biggest share of seats.

These deals were to maintain the status quo in Pakistan, it would allow her to gain Prime Ministership with a host of loyal landlords and industrialists backing her, who would continue to have a free hand to loot the country of its wealth and resources. And her patron, the US, would continue its neo-colonial project unhindered about any worries about Pakistan not being a "democracy."

A Pakistani NGO reported that nearly half of the candidates on the PPP (Benazir's party) are feudal landlords, and most of the rest are connected to super wealthy industrialist types. Far from being a savior of democracy (in the better sense of this word) Bhutto was a savior of the feudals and industrialists.

Benazir was indicted at a Swiss court on charges of creating off shore companies to receive kick backs from government contracts.

Benazir and Zardari were, thus, paid $8,190,085 in the account of Bomer Finance Inc. at UBS Geneva; and $3,807,338 in the account of Nassam Overseas Inc. at Barclays Geneva; a total of $11,997,423. Both Benazir and Zardari were sentenced "to reimburse" these proceeds of "the unfair management of the public interests" of Pakistan which were "laundered in Switzerland". There were $2,484,000 in the account of Bomer and $3,748,373 in the account of Nassam at Barclays. Bomer transferred to Hospital Middle East Inc. at UBS, Geneva, $5,502,292. All these, totalling $11,734,665, were ordered to be confiscated.


Bhutto's twin posts, as prime minister and finance minister, gave her virtually free rein. Zardari became her alter ego, riding roughshod over the bureaucracy although he had no formal economic powers until Bhutto appointed him Investment Minister, reporting only to herself, in July 1996. They maintained an imperial lifestyle in the new prime minister's residence in Islamabad, a $50 million mansion set on 110 acres on an Islamabad hilltop.

Within days of moving in, Zardari ordered 11.5 acres of protected woodland on an adjoining hilltop to be bulldozed for a polo field, an exercise track, stabling for 40 polo ponies, quarters for grooms and a parking lot for spectators. When a senior government official, Mohammed Mehdi, objected to paying for the project with $1.3 million diverted from a budget for parks and other public amenities, Zardari "categorically told me that he does not appreciate his orders to be examined and questioned by any authority," according to an affidavit filed with the Pakistani investigators by Mehdi. A few months later, with the work in progress, Zardari had Mehdi dismissed.

The investigators say that Zardari and associates he brought into the government, some of them old school friends, began reviewing state programs for opportunities to make money. It was these broader activities, the investigators assert, more than the relatively small number of foreign deals revealed in the documents taken from the Swiss lawyer, that netted the largest sums for the Bhutto family.

It does need to be noted that none of what Benazir and her husband Zardari (aka Mr. 10%) did was out of the ordinary for the Pakistani elites. This is more of a reminder that, while the mainstream media is potraying her as a martyr for "democracy," she was, in reality, nothing more than a petty thief who deserved to have been tried in a court of law, and should have been serving out a jail sentence for corruption, not running for Prime Ministership.

Benazir's closeness to the present US regime was even more disturbing; in a recent statement, she made the incredible claim that

“In the past the United States would support dictatorships but now it is supporting democratic forces, which is a sign of encouragement for all the democracy-loving people."

Aside from her unstinting support of the US war on "terror" (i.e. war on Islam and Muslims) she did not have a single word of criticism for the continued US occupation of Afghanistan, and Iraq, and was all for having regular consultative meetings with US state department officials to coordinate her return to power.

Pakistan is undergoing its most difficult crisis yet, and without leadership, and no cohesive indigenous based ideology, the army is the only institution that can manage to stay in power. But a center that is based on such a high level of corruption, and obedience to imperial masters will not be able to hold on for any length of time. And unless there emerges a real grassroots movement for social and economic justice with an Islamic identity that would appeal to the masses, it will be difficult, if not impossible for the country to maintain its integrity.

See also:

A look at the "official narrative" surrounding the fall of Benazir Bhutto

They blame Musharraf by Robert Fisk

Tariq Ali on Democracy Now

Daughter of the West (Benazir Bhutto) by Tariq Ali

Monday, December 24, 2007

left-liberal Islamophobia watch (III): the case of Iran

Almost every day, left-liberal publications slam Iran on something or the other - some of these articles are based on faux Iranian dissidents' initiatives, others are just straight up Islamophobic - and use the term "theocracy" pejoratively to describe the Islamic Republic. Yet other articles are written by liberal-imperialists (often including academic Muslims) who only differ with the neo-cons on the question of tactics, not with the goal of overthrowing the Islamic Republic, and replacing it with something called "democracy."

Yes, I know, these articles, on the face of it, do not call for a military attack on Iran, but they do characterize Iran in a neo-conish light, that makes the country's government out to be a monster that must be overthrown - they then add the caveat "by its own people." This is the kind of psuedo-intellectual acrobatics that quickly falls on its face, and ends up discrediting the liberal-left in the eyes of many Muslims.

All of these articles circulate the (often Islamophobic) North American left-liberal groups, and helps to create a monstrous image of Iran - rarely, if ever, does one read anything that gives facts and figures about Iran, what gains the country has made since the Islamic Revolution, and where the country might still have some work to do... And it is absolutely beyond any of the left-liberalists to actually understand the role that Iran has played in influencing Sunni Muslim majority countries to improve their treatment of the Shi'a minorities.

What is interesting about all of this is that the gains Iran has made since the Islamic Revolution is not hidden, infact much of the data is readily available from the site of the World Bank (of all places) and the various United Nations data banks. Infact, most recently the World Bank recognized Iran as being #1 in the middle east and north africa, for creating a positive working environment for women. Why is it that the imperialists are willing to be more objective in the data that they present, while the liberal-left refuses to consider these numbers, as a way to counter the extremist right wing? I think this is just an extension of Islamophobia, and more generally an anti-religion attitude that blinds the left-liberalists.

Following are some charts based on the World Bank data that shows some of the remarkable gains Iran has made since the Islamic Revolution:

Literacy Rate

Life Expectancy:


Child Mortality

Contraceptive availability and Birth Rate

see also left-liberal Islamophobia watch (I) and (II)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Iranian bakes a cookie

via critical montages

Thursday, December 06, 2007

movements and elite higher education

The continuing protests in Pakistan have been a minor focal point of the US media, and some US liberals, such as Media Benjamin, have also jumped in - traveling to Pakistan, getting arrested, and getting deported back to the US. Benjamin went to Pakistan "to show support for the secular progressive communities in Pakistan" - she apparently has little concern about the not so secular communities who have been terrorized by the puppet regime - who have not just been arrested, but bombed and slaughtered by the thousands, with even more tens of thousands internally displaced due to the puppet's F16 bombings. I don't recall hearing even a peep from her, when Busharraf slaughtered hundreds and perhaps thousands of women men and children in Lal Masjid, just a few months ago.

Benjamin was hosted by one the most exclusive universities of the country: LUMS. "On the ground in Pakistan, we will be assisted by professors and students from the Law and Policy Program of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)."

The protests in Pakistan continue to only be concentrated around nebulous demands of "democracy." Another (valid and important) demand is to re-instate the deposed judges, and another nebulous demand calls for the "rule of law."

However, as of yet, there has been scant little attention to the fact that 84.7% (year 2000) of Pakistanis live under $2 a day - or a mere Rs. 120 - that will barely get you by in the country. The gross national per capita income of the country is $652 or Rs. 37495.

Now, lets look at the cost of attending the two universities that have been the loudest in their calls for "democracy" - the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and Foundation for Advancement of Science and Technology (FAST).

LUMS: Rs. 375,000 (annual), or, about 10 times the per capita income.

FAST: Rs. 130,000 (Rs. 65,000 per semester, assuming two semesters a year) or, about 3-4 times the per capita income)

Lets put this in perspective, so readers can understand the classist nature of this kind of "higher education" and then also we'll begin to understand why issues of exploitation, and questions about poverty, are not being raised in Pakistan by this "movement.''

The annual tuition cost of attending the Imperial University of Harvard is $35,000 - this is, infact, one of the most exclusive, elitest, and expensive universities in the US. Yet, the cost is 1.6 times of the per capita income of the US of $21,000 - and well under the median household income of $44,000. The average cost of US universities are about $14,000 - again, well under the median and per-capita incomes of the US.

Leaving aside whatever financial aid that these types of Pakistani universities are offering, the fact remains they are not just catering to the elite of the country, they are catering to the princes and princesses of the country who have accumulated huge amounts of wealth. And these are still minor compared to those who somehow have the wealth to actually go outside of Pakistan, to the US, and pay the full cost of a US university that amounts to a minimum of $15K to $25K a year, and some much more. (That amounts to at least 25 to 40 times the per capita income of Pakistan.)

Clearly few, if any of these students are about to question just how their families managed to accumulate this wealth that is now paying for their incredibly exclusive stay at these universities. It is just not possible for any run of the mill Ahmed, Ali or Fatima or even Ayesha to just "save" 10-15 times and more of their annual income, not even just one year of their income.

LUMS also gets funding of over Rs. 100 million from the notorious USAID that has been involved in a destabilization campaign in Venezuela.
The LUMS website lists their funders, and is worth a look to understand the university's ideological outlook.

Essentially LUMS is engaged in creating the next generation of Pakistani "leadership" who will tow the neo-liberal outlook of the US that has wrecked havoc not only for Pakistan, but throughout the planet. The few areas, where countries have broken free (most notably parts of Latin America, and Iran) the US, through its aid agencies, psuedo-think tanks, and "civil society" projects, has been exerting extremist pressures to bring these areas back under its control.

Now, there are universities in Pakistan that are not so elitest, relatively expensive, but not completely out of reach. Punjab University's Law school, for example, costs Rs. 6,670 per year. OK - so this compares favorably with a per capita income of Pakistan of Rs. 37,495 - doable, with some struggle. But the students of this university have been mostly quiet - there have been protests, most notably the protest during which Imran Khan was arrested - but no where near the activities that the exclusive LUMS and FAST are seeing.

Some commentators have stated that this is due to students being apolitical, and that FAST and LUMS students are more "educated." This is just nonsense, I think the opposite is true - the working class students are far more politically astute, and aware of the classist nature of Pakistani society. They are not about to join up with a movement that is only about "democracy" that is only going to mean replacing one elite with another - and that too with one who is as corrupt as Benazir and Sharif.

If the "movement" is Pakistan is not to fizzle out - then these students of elitest backgrounds, will have to begin to question this corruption - question their own families - exactly where did this Rs. 375,000 per year come from to pay for LUMS? Is what they are learning, and studying at universities such as LUMS really going to contribute towards economic and social justice, or will it makes things even worse?

The answers, if they get any, are not going to be pleasant - but ask they must - if they are genuinely concerned about the future of the country. At least that might be a first step towards something more meaningful than mere "democracy" ...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

sinking savior

Gemalettin Guzeloglu/Turkey -

http://irancartoon.com/ See also images from Tehran's International Cartoon Conference here and here