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

10 comment(s):

  • Excellent. I wish someone could grab all the ransacking maniacs on the streets of Pakistan right now and have them read this. And then ask them, 'so who's the martyr now?'

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/29/2007 08:14:00 AM  

  • I agree with you 100% mate.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/29/2007 09:55:00 AM  

  • I agree with your analysis about the deal, BB's democratic credentials, and the paradoxes of the secular-liberal politics. The politics of the Islamist parties is not without paradoxes either (which you also hinted in your post).

    However, a crucial question (among many others) still remains answered. You have read about the charges that PPP leadership has placed on Musharraf and the establishment, as articulated by Fisk in one of the links you have quoted? There are many reports circulating on the web that Benazir had said that if she is assassinated, Musharraf should be held responsible, in terms of a direct, intentional intrigue/conspiracy. Why would Musharraf, or more accurately, the military establishment want to do it? Given Musharraf's all-time low approval ratings, the fascade of democracy that BB would have been able to pull up would have given legitimacy to the current status quo (basically the two major players: the US and the Military establishment and their politico-economic interests). Musharraf and BB together would have done exactly what Uncle Sam wanted them to do. It was clear that an understanding was established in the 'deal' that Musharraf would take care of foreign policy and internal security matters and BB the legislature and day to day administration (with Mush's consent, of course). With the power to dissolve parliament, Musharraf would have had the upper hand, thus, the military corporation would still be influential in politics. Why would he want to kill her (or 'let her be killed'), where as his interest was in protecting her and getting her elected (which (partially) explains the amendments)? The question of motive and political benefits remain unresolved. Wondering what do you have to say?

    By Blogger Hammad A. Naqvi, at 12/30/2007 10:41:00 AM  

  • Ali,

    you've raised a very good question, and something I've been thinking about also... the only motive i can come up with, is that Musharraf never wanted to share power in the first place - and he went along under pressure from the US.

    The other possibility is that there were competing forces within the Musharraf regime, and that those who clearly did not want her in power, did her in.

    As much as puppets do the bidding of 'ol Sam, they are often under the delusion of power, and I think sharing that power with anyone would have been difficult. I think that Musharraf thought that he could remain in power himself, and despite his unpopularity, he did not really need BB who was being forced on him by the US.

    Also, I really doubt BB's statements against Musharraf were genuine, and think they were more political --- I think to some extent she knew that she needed Musharraf to give her legitimacy with the internal hegemony (the army) - and without his support, she was going nowhere.

    There are other theories as well - one of which suggests that this is part of a grander plan to further destabilize and weaken the country - and install even weaker puppets.

    And then there is always the very high probability that Musharraf had nothing to do with this at all... and that this is indeed a big blow to those who wanted to install this puppet in Pakistan.

    By Blogger redwood, at 12/30/2007 12:38:00 PM  

  • Another puzzle that i am trying to solve is this: should we treat Musharraf as an individual or as the face of the military establishment's interests? or, they are separate, but their interests flow together.

    from my reading, the establishment wants to remain influential in politics. yet it does not have high popularity. the solution they (establishment, mush, US) arrived at over last summer was to get Mush abandon his uniform, have him become a powerful president and serve as a liason between the military and the civil government, and have BB play the face of the status quo (for a few years). BB seemed more than happy to play this restricted role.

    The US interests also flow together with that of the military establishment. Like military, the US would not trust any independent civil government, on the nuclear issue, supposed "war on/of terror", and afghanistan (and iran for the US). Plus, because the power hub in Pakistan is the military establishment, the US perfers to engage with them directly, than through any civilian government. But at the same time, the US was concerned about Musharraf's low popularity since the CJ movement and Mush being seen as a puppet of the US. Pakistan needed a fresh face/puppet. What I am trying to argue here is that it was also in the US interest, at least apparently, to have BB come to power.

    And I don't think the US wanted a weak(er) puppet government in Pakistan. That was too risky for a country that was already too high on the destability indicators of ICG and other research groups. Not that "islamists" would ever take over the capital or the nuclear weapons, but chaos is itself very dangerous for Pakistan. The bigger game, as I understand, is to have a stable Pakistan, as a model Muslims liberal-secular country for the world, like Turkey (along with Egypt and Indonesia - the four most populated Muslim countries. I think it was Nixon who wrote something on this line around the emergence of the New World Order doctrine.)

    Just thinking aloud here.

    By Blogger Hammad A. Naqvi, at 12/30/2007 06:38:00 PM  

  • Musharraf is probably somewhat of both - as an individual, of-course he wants to remain in power, and he is also loyal to the military, who do want people in power who will not be rocking the military's boat.

    I should've been more clear on what I meant by "weak puppet" - I meant weak for Pakistan - i.e. who would not have any backbone at all with respect to the orders they get from the US. Of-course they want someone who would be "strong" in implementing their game plan.

    Yes, weakening the Islamic character of Pakistan is very much part of the wider game plan - but secualrization of Muslim societies is not only something the US government wants, this is something that the liberal-left would also like to see. (There is a problem in the American liberal-left that is really not into true self-determination when it comes to Islam and/or Muslims). Their reasons are somewhat different, liberal-left thinks of secularism as a progressive move away from what they regard as the superstitious of religion. The US government sees Islam (rightly) as a resitance force to reckon with - or a danger to their interests - i.e. a potential that, with an Islamic ideology, countries may become independent and no longer do the US bidding. This is nothing new, by the way, during the direct colonisation phase, the British did the same, and also supported and created secularist Muslims to do their public relations work.

    I don't think the "islamists" (i.e. the taleban types - i know that there are a variety of groups within the "taleban" as well) are into taking over Pakistan as a state, I actually think they are smarter than that - and even with their utter stupidity with regards to sectarianism - they have a good sense of the geo-political situation.

    I'll conjecture, or take an educated guess, that the "islamists" will evolve even further away from the idea of "nation-state" - and will be more than happy to have regions under their control, but let the capital, or the actual "state" itself be under the nominal control of whomever.

    By Blogger redwood, at 12/31/2007 09:44:00 AM  

  • I wish instead of relying on Uncle Sam, BB had trusted the people. And instead of playing the "terrorist card", she had represented the true feelings of the Pakistani people. Her use of "Fundamentalist vs. Enlightened" discourse to please the US had made it impractical for her to forge alliance with Jama'at against the dictatorship. Not that Jama'at is without hypocritical politics, but its current politics is better than other significant players in MMA, and far better than the militant extremists. When the moderate Islamists are sidelined, you see more militant versions of Islamists getting popularity among people.

    Granted, none of mainstream political parties (including the religious ones) and their leaders are without corruption or hypocritical politics. And, ideally none deserves to be in power - because we need better alternatives. But realistically speaking, against the two main sources of destability and the failure of political process in Pakistan in the last sixty years: the political-economy of the US interests and the military interests in Pakistan, I wonder if BB or some other daring leader could have forged an alternative. I wonder if the cases of Egypt (Kifaya movement), Lebanon (Hezbollah and its alliance), Jordan (HCCNOP), Yemen (cooperation between GPC, YSP, and other parties), and elsewhere can instruct us a possibility of cooperation between the Islamist and the Liberal/left, on tactical, strategic, and/or ideational levels. The refusal to play into the hands of dictatorial power and the US, under the slogan of "Islamization" (like under Zia) or "Islamist Threat" (under Musharraf), would be absolutely essential in this regard.

    By Blogger Hammad A. Naqvi, at 12/31/2007 03:10:00 PM  

  • I think that if BB had trusted the people, or had made alliance with the various Islamic political parties, she would not be the BB we have come to know. As Tariq Ali pointed out, within months of coming to power the first time, she was talking about not wanting to be on "the wrong side of history."

    I don't know what history she was reading, but the one she took sides with was never with the people. I don't think she could've ever stood up to the US - not because of any fear of the US - but because she really believed that the US was a great example of a democracy.

    Of-course, there should be cooperation between the left and the Islamic groups, both can inform each other. And with all their problems - there are groups in England that have done just that... (Respect, Stop the war coalition are examples that still have significant numbers of active Muslims in their ranks - and they are not just apologists, or doing this to improve the "image" of Muslims).

    Pakistan also has smaller coalitions such as the one that Imran Khan has formed - and there have been other smaller scale cooperations. The potential is there, but very difficult at this particular juncture.

    By Blogger redwood, at 1/01/2008 11:48:00 AM  

  • There is no doubt the middle classed zardari saw an opputunity of a life time.Although the democratic institutions were weak,zardari did undergo prison and torture for eleven long years.On the flip side ,Musharaf and his cronies are being blessed with BILLIONs of dollars with no accountability--A problem the US has already started to talk about.The bottom line is pakistani democracy can take baby steps and fall, but will learn to walk eventually.Dictatorship claims to start with a clean slate but thats what it leaves us with everytime-nothing. A clean slate.
    Another point to be noted is that Pakistan and muslim world needs to achieve nothing else but economic growth.Only way to accomplish that is to stay on friendly terms with the west,while keeping their religion and practices strong.(acheived by practicing peaceful islamic teachings in their households)People criticize BB,but she was in fact the only hope for democracy and the only hope to acheive what I have mentioned above.As for zardari,time will tell ,but I think he has been taught a good lesson.I think he was baffled himself when people questioned his wrong doings,as the article mentions he was accused of "unfair management of public interests" i.e kickbacks in exchange for government contracts.This unfortunately comes as a second nature to pakistanis,"we are not stealing anything,we just taking advantage of our position to make some money from other well to do sources(such as foreign companies". Only imran khans call for fair judiciary can fix this- there are many zardaris out there,they just keep it on the down low within pakistan and not go international like he dared to do.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/10/2008 09:37:00 AM  

  • very interesting blog even for a layman like me, respect!

    By Blogger Amina, at 2/03/2008 09:53:00 AM  

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