2007 December 27 Thursday
Assassinated Benazir Bhutto No Saint For Human Rights

John Burns of the New York Times paints a portrait of Benazir Bhutto as someone not very morally principled.

A deeply polarizing figure, the self-styled “daughter of Pakistan” was twice elected prime minister and twice expelled from office amid a swirl of corruption charges that ultimately propelled her into self-imposed exile in London and Dubai for much of the past decade.

She claims to have been framed on corruption charges by political enemies. But given what is known about her lifestyle, attitudes, and the assortment of people making the accusations her claims of innocence seem hard to credit.

Burns said her admirers compared the Bhuttos to the Borgias. The Borgia Popes were huge scandals.

Violence ran like a thread through her family life, to an extent that caused her admirers to compare the Bhuttos, in the contribution they made to Pakistan’s political life, and in the price they paid for it, to the Kennedys — and her enemies, pointing to the Bhuttos’ bitter family feuds, to compare them to the Borgias. The younger of Ms. Bhutto’s two brothers, Shahnawaz, died mysteriously of poisoning in 1995, in an apartment owned by the Bhuttos in Cannes, France. French investigators said they suspected that a family feud over a multimillion-dollar inheritance from Zulfikar Bhutto was involved, but no charges were filed.

Ms. Bhutto’s other brother, Murtaza, who along with Shahnawaz founded a terrorist group that sought to topple General Zia, spent years in exile in Syria beginning in the 1980s. When Murtaza finally returned to Pakistan, in 1994, he quickly fell into a bitter dispute with Ms. Bhutto over the family’s political legacy — and, he told a reporter at the time, over the money he said had been placed in a Swiss bank by their father when he was prime minister. In 1996, Murtaza was gunned down outside his home in Karachi, and his widow, Ghinva, blamed Asif Ali Zardari, Ms. Bhutto’s husband.

Okay, one or both of her brothers might have been killed in family feuds. Also, they both operated a terrorist group against the Zia government (and Zia was the one who said "Charlie did it!" about former Congressman Charlie Wilson's glorious war against the Soviets in Afghanistan).

She and her husband Asif Ali Zardari were accused of embezzling $1.5 billion dollars.

After her second dismissal from office in 1996, a friend said Ms. Bhutto’s sense of herself as inseparable from the fate of Pakistan contributed to actions that led Pakistani investigators to accuse her and Mr. Zardari of embezzling as much $1.5 billion from government accounts.

Pakistan is a pretty corrupt place. Benazir claimed her government was less corrupt than the military governments. Maybe that's true. But then is Pakistan incapable of a low level of corruption? Do the people have personalities and moral codes that make large scale corruption inevitable? After all, they do not possess the extreme genetic shyness that helps make Finland so uncorrupt. They might be innately corrupt people.

Anyone see a parallel with Ahmed Chalabi's tireless efforts to ingratiate himself with Washington DC power brokers?

The American bid to restore her to power in Islamabad reflected her tireless efforts to maintain a network of the powerful among the political media elite in Washington and in London.

So I want to know: Which foreign individuals are currently living in exile in Washington and London plotting and lobbying to be returned to power with American and British help? Which ones have a decent chance of pulling off their ambitions? Who are future Chalabis and Bhuttos? Do any of the people we put into power end up turning out well for us? We need to know.

Oh the irony. The New York Times editors simultaneously point to Bhutto's indifference to human rights and her supposed "electoral legitimacy". Um, aren't liberals supposed to view those indifferent to human rights as illegitimate?

Ms. Bhutto and her father and political mentor, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, were democratic, but imperfect political leaders — imperious, indifferent to human rights and, in her case, tainted by serious charges of corruption. The father was deposed by a military coup and then hanged. The daughter was twice elected and twice deposed. But both had one undeniable asset: electoral legitimacy — legitimacy that the generals and the Islamic extremists could only seek to destroy or, in Mr. Musharraf’s case, hope to borrow.

Democracy is not an end in itself. The will of the majority is not (or at least should not be) the definition of the moral and ethical. The will of democratically elected dictators (which describes what electoral politics produces in many countries) should not be accorded legitimacy.

Someone who appoints herself "chairperson for life" for her own political party is not a friend of limited government.

That confidence led her to declare herself "chairperson for life" of the opposition Pakistan People's Party and to an imperious style that rewarded loyalists but alienated many others.

Mansoor Ijaz, described as a New York financier of Pakistani ancestry, describes Benazir in unflattering terms.

During her two terms in office as prime minister, Ms. Bhutto earned a reputation among many as an imperious, venal, and corrupt politician, bringing Pakistan to the brink of financial ruin on more than one occasion.


I knew Benazir well. I am often blamed by her supporters for having helped bring her government down in 1996 by exposing her hypocrisy and corruption in two Wall Street Journal Op-Ed pieces. We remained in touch over the years after she went into exile, even developing a begrudging respect for each other over time. She struck me as a terribly conflicted person who deep in her heart wanted to save Pakistan from its evils, but was unable to put her personal lifestyle choices aside in doing so.

Lots of people refer to the woman as imperious. They also call her corrupt. But did she have any redeeming qualities? Well, yes, one big one I can think of: She tried to hold power as a woman in a country where fundamentalist Muslims hate women in high places. But aside from that what can be said in her favor? The answer is not clear to me.

Update: Fatima Bhutto, Benazir's niece, wrote an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times arguing that Benazir's brother was assassinated by the Pakistani government while Aunt Benazir was prime minister.

And I am suspicious of her talk of ensuring peace. My father was a member of Parliament and a vocal critic of his sister's politics. He was killed outside our home in 1996 in a carefully planned police assassination while she was prime minister. There were 70 to 100 policemen at the scene, all the streetlights had been shut off and the roads were cordoned off. Six men were killed with my father. They were shot at point-blank range, suffered multiple bullet wounds and were left to bleed on the streets.

My father was Benazir's younger brother. To this day, her role in his assassination has never been adequately answered, although the tribunal convened after his death under the leadership of three respected judges concluded that it could not have taken place without approval from a "much higher" political authority.

Benazir's husband prospered from his marriage to her.

Zardari's reputation as a dodgy businessman was cemented by his remarkable transformation from a bankrupt into a fabulously wealthy man shortly after marrying Benazir, earning him the tag "Mr Ten Percent". Nevertheless, Benazir Bhutto stood by him, appointing him to her cabinet in 1996. After her second government fell, a stream of real and dubious corruption and criminal charges was brought against him, keeping him in jail without trial for eight years.

Benazir tried to control the press just as she criticized Musharraf for doing.

The strongest backlash was provoked by her attempts to control the press and manipulate the judiciary. The appointment of judges on the basis of loyalty to her party caused great damage to the judiciary's already dwindling credibility, not to say her own.

Connections got her into elite schools and she lived the high life.

In 1969, aged 17, she was admitted to study comparative government at Harvard, aided by a recommendation from the economist J.K. Galbraith, a friend of her father's. "I was amongst a sea of women," she later wrote, "who felt as unimpeded by their gender as I did." From there she went to Oxford, where she was remembered as a cosmopolitan Asian girl about town, known to her friends as Bibi or Pinky. She drove to lectures in a yellow MG, and spent her winters in Gstaad and summers on the Cannes lido. She had a penchant for royal biographies, slushy romances and 1970s easy listening, and she liked to browse in Harrods. Yet her ambitious side was to surface later.

Three years before he was killed by the police Benazir's brother Murtaza Bhutto was accused of trying to stir rebellion against his sister's government.

Charges of rebellion were filed today against Murtaza Bhutto, the younger brother of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and a trial was scheduled for Jan. 2.

Saying "the prosecution has enough evidence to establish the involvement of the accused in the case," a special court accused Mr. Bhutto of mounting an insurgency, undertaking activities to destabilize the Government by force, spreading hatred and rebellion against the state and anti-state activities.

Benazir had lots of enemies. But the Muslim fundamentalists were her biggest enemies and probably killed her.

Bhutto had returned from eight years of self-imposed exile with a pledge to reform Pakistan in ways that would upset entrenched political interests, powerful fundamentalist religious organizations, and Al Qaeda and the Taliban. She was aligned with the U.S., and vowed to crack down on the increasingly popular radicalism spreading through the country. And she had publicly accused the government's military and intelligence establishments of coddling terrorists.

With lots of ties between elements of the Pakistani government and the fundamentalists it is hard to tell whether elements of the Pakistani government are close to whoever did a hit on Benazir.

Complicating the situation is the fact that many of the extremist groups have ties to Pakistan's political establishment, including elements of the government loyal to President Pervez Musharraf, as well as close ties to the military and its intelligence agencies. Bhutto had long criticized such links, and in the wake of her killing Thursday, some of her supporters accused the government of playing a role. One senior U.S. counter-terrorism official also said Washington suspected that rogue officials within the military or intelligence agencies could have been involved, noting that though there is no evidence, they have detested Bhutto for more than a decade.

If the US government really wanted her to go in there and purge the Pakistani government of Muslim fundamentalist radicals then the US government should have done far more to ensure her security before she returned to Pakistan. Bush should have worked out her security with Musharraf in advance in detail.

Before you start feeling sympathy for Shahnawaz and Murtaza you might want to know that Benazir's brothers ran a group that carried out bombings in Pakistan.

*Ms Bhutto wrested control of the PPP from her mother, Begum Nusrat Bhutto, while her two younger brothers, Shahnawaz and Murtaza, set up a militant group called al-Zulfikar, which orchestrated a string of bombings in Pakistan. They were both killed in 1985 and 1996 respectively.

*Shahnawaz, 28, was found dead in his apartment while in exile on the French Riviera. His family insisted he had been poisoned.

Steven R. Weisman of the New York Times says Benazir represented Pakistan's feudal aristocracy.

What did she represent? There have traditionally been three major power bases in Pakistan: the army, the clergy and the feudal aristocracy. They make shifting alliances with each other. Benazir “is feudal to the core,” a friend of hers once told me. She was a brilliant debater as president of the Oxford Union, and wore blue jeans, drove a sports car and enjoyed parties, and she was devoted to her father without that much of an ideological set of beliefs. She knew her father was a man who trusted no one, especially the army. They often talked about it.

Well, that explains why George W. Bush liked her. She's just like the feudal aristocracy in Mexico that the Bush family see as kindred spirits. Pakistan has other parallels with Mexico such as the Benazir's assassination compared with the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Mexican presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio in 1994.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 December 27 10:20 PM  Democracy Failure

Audacious Epigone said at December 28, 2007 1:35 AM:

She was hated by many in the ISI who were providing intelligence and arms to the Taliban as they moved northward from Afghanistan's south. That's one politically expedient kinda-sorta plus, I guess, but it was stuck in time. Once the Taliban took power, she legitimized the new government thinking it would stabilize her country's neighbor.

Wolf-Dog said at December 28, 2007 3:33 AM:

Gradually Pakistan is gravitating towards a future religious extremist government. The issue is that Pakistan has not only many dozens of nukes, but also a decentralized gigantic infrastructure to manufacture many more hundreds of nukes, and this will make it extremely difficult for the U.S. to deal with in any special operation if Pakistan is later dominated by religious extremists. Just when the world is looking at Iran as the rising evil empire armed with a few nukes, we now have a Sunni power that might become the next Afghanistan, but this time already armed with many hundreds of nukes in 2020;

Kenelm Digby said at December 28, 2007 4:34 AM:

Roughly 30% of all live births in the UK are tp Pakistani parents (Muhammed is the most popuar baby boy's name in the UK).Of course this percentage will increase in the future, pushing at 50% in the not too long-term.
Americans must be well aware of this fact when formulating immigration and visa policy from what they take to be 'Britons'.
Pakistani type political corruption is already a fact o flife in Britain, affecting the selection and election of Labour Party politicians.Actually vote rigging and fraudulent counting has occurred a number of times in Birmingham, England, I believe.

Kenelm Digby said at December 28, 2007 4:43 AM:

Looking at some of the photos from the NY Times piece on Benazir, it seems as if Benazir was a heavy user of skin-whitening preparations.
Just an observation.

tommy said at December 28, 2007 5:51 AM:

Robert Spencer had this to say about Bhutto's image in the western media as a "moderate Muslim":

Calling Benazir Bhutto a moderate Muslim is one manifestation of what's wrong with the term, and how confusing and misleading it can be. Benazir Bhutto was indeed a Muslim, at least nominally, but when she was in power in Pakistan what she championed was a Western secularist, socialist vision, not an Islamic one by any stretch of the imagination. She did not, in other words, offer an alternative vision of Islam itself, shorn of its draconian and supremacist elements. She didn't offer or stand for an alternative understanding of the Qur'an and Sunnah that taught that Muslims should not wage war for Islam, subjugate unbelievers, or institute stoning and amputation and the rest. Rather, she essentially advocated that in some areas Islamic law should be set aside. That, along with her gender, is what aroused the ire of the Islamic leaders in Pakistan against her, as it has against Musharraf.

So is a moderate Muslim, or someone who presents a moderate face of Islam, simply one who stands for less Islam, particularly in the political sphere? Maybe. But most of the people in the West who use the term "moderate Muslim" imagine that it refers to those who advocate not less Islam but a different Islam -- and indeed, one that is more authentic than the jihadists' version. Many of those who refer to the need to support moderate Muslims imagine that there is a version of Islam that is simultaneously traditional and peaceful, that deserves our support against the radicals.

That Islam, unfortunately, does not exist, and assuming that it does exist has led policymakers and law enforcement officials to numerous errors in many fields. And Benazir Bhutto did not represent such an Islam. She certainly supported the Taliban in Afghanistan, but that was a matter of calculation, not conviction -- and in any case would hardly be evidence of moderation in anything. She was, in the precise and encompassing words of Andrew McCarthy, "an attractive, American-educated socialist whose prominent family made common cause with Soviets and whose tenures were rife with corruption."

Wolf-Dog said at December 28, 2007 6:48 AM:

"Roughly 30% of all live births in the UK are tp Pakistani parents (Muhammed is the most popuar baby boy's name in the UK).Of course this percentage will increase in the future, pushing at 50% in the not too long-term."

This is an astounding percentage, because only 1.5 million Muslims reside in UK (the total population of UK is approximately 60 million), which means that less than 5 % of the UK population is Muslim.

But in France, the percentage of Muslims is 10 % and probably 25 % to 30 % of the infants are Muslim. This means that the British Muslims have twice the birth rate of the French Muslims, and this seems to be shockingly high.

In any case, if your statistics are accurate, this means that within 18 years, at least 30 % of the voters in UK will be Muslim, just like it will be in France. Thus within 35 years, at least 50 % of the voters in France and UK will be Muslims, meaning that once the two most militarily powerful countries in EU have Muslim governments, then Al Qaeda will have a good chance of dominating Europe. And this will happen while most of us are alive. Who says Nostradamus was a charlatan?

Wolf-Dog said at December 28, 2007 7:04 AM:

ADDENDUM: This article says that the Muslim birth rate in UK is only 3 times the non-Muslim birth rate, which means that only 10 % of the infants are Muslim because only 3 % of UK is Muslim. This makes sense since 30 % of the infants in France are Muslim, and 10 % of the current population of France happens to be Muslim, which implies that the Muslim birth rate in France is similar to UK: 3 times higher than the non-Muslim population.


Marc said at December 28, 2007 9:57 AM:

Wolf-Dog and Kenelm,

Where are you guys getting your statistics? According to the UK government, in 2006, of the 669,000 babies born in Britain, 146,000, or around 22%, had a foreign mom. Of those, around 17,000 were to women born in Pakistan. That's 2.6% of all births, a percentage that has been holding steady since 2000. Women from the former commonwealth (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and former British-controlled parts of Africa and Asia) accounted for around 10% of all births in Britian, or one half of births to foreign-born women. The remaining 70,000 foreign births are about evenly split between non-British European women (i.e. Poles, Romanians, Ukrainians and what have you) and women from the "rest of the world," meaning, I guess, Latin American women, Chinese women, Middle Eastern women, and whomever else.

Obviously Pakistanis have very high birth rates, but they're hardly poised to take over.


Wolf-Dog said at December 28, 2007 10:17 AM:

What I was saying is that the Muslim birth rate in UK is 3 times the average birth rate of non-Muslims, and that since 3 % of UK is Muslim, this means that 10 % of the new infants are Muslim in the UK, not as bad as what Kenelm said.

But on the other hand, while 10 % of France is Muslim, once again the Muslim birth rate in France is 3 times higher than Muslims, and so nearly 30 % of all new infants in France are Muslim. This means that within 18 more years, at least 35 % of voters in France will be Muslim.

l said at December 28, 2007 10:40 AM:

Bhutto was an Israeli/US/British puppet that was killed by Musharraf and the Russians. Musharraf and Russia have been coming together over the last few years, and Bhutto was sent in to "share" power and then replace Musharraf.

The so-called "War on Terror" is really just the US/British/Israeli attempt to take over the Middle East and Central Asia, and to continue to encircle Russia and take it over too (then break it into four parts, a la Brezinski). The muslims know this, and are very much against it. They know that Al Queda is a fake front for the M16/CIA/Mossad. So they have been against the Pakistani participation in the "War". They are also opposed to martial law. What the pakistani-on-the-street doesn't know is that in order to keep Pakistan from being dragged into WWIII, Musharraf has to impose martial law for a time and stay in power to win the election. The big newspapers and "human rights lawyers" in Asia are all controlled by the US/B/I axis, so he has to crack down on them too.

This puts a real wrinkle into the US/B/I plans in the area, as does the holdoff on attacking Iran, and the loss of the former Soviet Republics, the "stans". Ukraine also is a trouble spot, as the "Orange Revolution" now has to share power with Russia's front party there. And the trouble in the region only makes Russsia stronger, as the price of oil and gas stay high.

Thank God, is all I can say. I hate the US/B/I axis and want us out of these imperial wars. New World Order, my ass. Putin is saving the world from WWIII. All he wants to do is to defend Russia, but he almost has to be the polar opposite of US/B/I, as they already have Europe, Africa, the far East, and the Americas. The only pieces left are Russia and the Islamic world. I pray he wins and we get Ron Paul into office to end this madness, or we might blow the whole world up.

Marc said at December 28, 2007 10:46 AM:

Where are you getting these statistics that the Muslim birth rate in France is 3 times higher than the non-Muslim birth rate? Between 1991 and 1998, the average TFR for native born women in France was 1.7. Among all immigrant women, it was 2.16. Among Algerians (the largest Muslim group) it was at 2.6. Among Turks, (the second largest Muslim group) it was 3.2. That isn't even twice the French rate.


HellKaiserRyo said at December 28, 2007 6:14 PM:

Randall, do you have any posts about Finnish genetic shyness? Do you know a study that indicates evidence for Finnish shyness? I find it rather hard to believe that they are shy genetically.

Maybe using genetic engineering on a population to make them shy will yield lots of hikikomori.

Kenelm Digby said at December 29, 2007 4:44 AM:

The statistics issued by the British Home Office are completely unreliable - and have been for decades.The notion that 'only' 1.5 million muslims reside in Britain is quite frankly laughable to anyone who actually resides the place and is not a hermit in the Devonshire countryside.
I don't know if you've ever been to London, but it is an instructive exercise to buy a one-day bus-pass, travel on the top deck of a double decker bus and spend a day travelling up and down the 'high streets' of the inner London suburbs - places such as Ilford, Newham, Wembley, Southall, Harrigay,Wood Green, Leytonstone, Walthamstow,Bethnal Green, Whitechapel, Tooting etc etc.
What your own lying eyes will see is LA but with the Mexicans replaced by Pakistanis.
And oh, by the way, the fact that Muhammed is the most popular baby boy's name in Britain can only be explained by the fact - if you care to do a little quick 'n' dirty number crunching and extrapolation by the fact that 30% of births are to Pakistanis.Pakistanis are at least 90% of Britain's muslims.

Kenelm Digby said at December 29, 2007 4:55 AM:

Look, Muhammed is the most popular name for new-born baby boys in Britain according to the Registrar-General.
Muhammed is exclusively a muslim name.
The next most common boy's name in 2007 was Jack.
Assume that the name Muhammed is very popular with muslims and a full one third of muslim boys are named Muhammed (probably an over-estimate).
Assume that one in ten White boys are christened Jack.
A quick 'n' dirty answer is that muslim boys number 30% of the total of non-muslim boys.
Of course taking every thing into consideration the percentage of White boys is smaller than 70%.

Wolf-Dog said at December 29, 2007 7:09 AM:

OK, but if 30 % of the infants in UK are Muslims, then I would like to figure out the average fertility rate of Muslim women over there. If I knew what percentage of UK is Muslim, I can easily calculate the fertility rate by dividing the numbers.

A long time ago, I have read in some articles about France that between 25 % to 30 % of the infants in France were Muslims. Now if the latter statistics are accurate, then since it is known that 10 % France is Muslim, it follows that the fertility rate of Muslim women in France would be between 2.5 to 3 times the fertility rate of non-Muslims in France. It is very likely that the fertility rate of Muslim women in France is at least 2 times the fertility rate of non-Muslim women, and so the articles that said that at least 25 % to 30 % of infants in France are Muslim, are probably not exaggerating the numbers.

Now if 5 % of UK is Muslim, and if the fertility rate of Muslim women in UK is 4 (i.e. 4 babies per Muslim woman), then this would mean that no more than 20 % of all infants in UK are Muslim. Thus it will take at least 2 more generations for Muslims to take over England, and as you can see, your situation is not as bad as you thought, it will happen after you retire. The French have more to worry, since it will happen much faster than in UK.

Marc said at December 29, 2007 8:36 AM:


Re: baby names, Mohammed is the 2nd most popular in Britain when all seven spellings of the name are combined. According to the office of the registrar, 6,347 babies were named Mohammed (all 7 spellings) in 2007. That was the only Muslim name in the top 100 for boys. The most popular spelling of the name was at number 17. The most popular name for girls in the Muslim world, Fatima, didn't even make the top 100 for girls' names.

If thirty percent of births in Great Britain were to Pakistanis, you would expect to see a greater sprinkling of Muslim names in the top 100. In America, about 20%-25% of births are to Hispanics, and we have 10 Hispanic names (Jose, Luis, Juan, Angel, Carlos, Jesus, Diego, Antonio, Miguel, and Alejandro) in our top 100 for boys. For girls, it's harder to tell, because there's a lot more overlap among English and Hispanic names, and there are a lot of girls' names that I just don't know what to make of on our top 100 list (like Aaliyah) but we have Maria, Angelina, Gabriella, and Maya, which are usually associated with Hispanics, in our top 100.

Audacious Epigone said at December 29, 2007 12:14 PM:

Given successive attempts on her life, it struck me as irresponsible for her to continue to invite attacks that could (and would) lead to the deaths of hundreds of her supporters. It also makes me think that, to say the least, opening up Pakistani society at this point would be destabilizing, not a stabilizer.

But in Bhutto's defence, she had requested foreign protective services, which she had offered to pay for at her own expense. Musharraf apparently scoffed at the idea, insinuating that his government could protect her.

Kenelm Digby said at December 30, 2007 7:32 AM:

Perhaps my ad-hoc math is 'quick n dirty' and 30% is too high a figure, BUT the fact that 'Muhammed' is the most popular baby boy's name in today's Britain MUST carry some serious import.
The fact cannot be explained away other than deducing that muslims (predominantly Pakistanis) must be responsible for something in the range of 10 - 30% of all live births in Britain - no other explanation will suffice in exlaining this remarkable occurrence.
It is simply impossible to believe that all of the popular names for White boys are so diffused as to render the most popular White boy's name having a smaller ranking than Muhammed unless we conclude that muslim births are a substantial proportion of all new births in Britain.

Kenelm Digby said at December 31, 2007 3:55 AM:

The figure that there are 'only' 1.5 million muslims in the UK was first issued in 1983, has nbever been updated since and has been parrotted incessantly from that time.
Considering that from immigration and natural increase the muslim population grows, conservatively, at 5% per annum, it must be at least double that by now.

Rash said at January 15, 2008 1:32 PM:

"Looking at some of the photos from the NY Times piece on Benazir, it seems as if Benazir was a heavy user of skin-whitening preparations.
Just an observation."

You could say the same of Pakistani ex-cricketer Imran Khan. However, I heard that there are some light-skinned Pakistanis and Indians, because millennia ago some 'Aryans' settled in South Asia.

Kaira said at January 13, 2010 1:33 PM:

Daniel Pipes has an interesting article about Benazir Bhutto here, about the duality in her life.


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