FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Death in Rawalpindi

by BINOY KAMPMARK

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi yesterday is yet another statement of politics as tragedy. The killers left nothing to chance, using gunshots and the now commonplace suicide bombing. She is dead, along with a score of others, figures killed in the tragic unfolding of politics in Pakistan. Mortality is high among aspirants for the leading office in Pakistan.

This is a country at war with itself. The military gazes over the country’s frail atrophied institutions, a menacing presence that always threatens intervention. Bhutto’s father, no less, was ordered to hang by the coup instigator General Mohamed Zia Ul-Haq after being jailed in 1977. Fundamentalism, as ever, gnaws at the heels of the state. If the military don’t get you, the mullah must. Democracy is the perpetual casualty, a poor, undernourished creature. Bhutto’s death simply deprives it further, but it won’t by too much. To see her as a martyr of promise within a brutal political process would be to misunderstand her legacy.

Political memories are, after all, short. It enables flawed, even failed characters to re-run their platforms and repackage their rhetoric, especially when they lead a life of exile. Exile cools the memories, douses the flames. Bhutto Mark III (after two stints in office) was meant to make mileage out of this. The new brand label was meant to be the figure of unity, the saviour. This product, sold at the helm of the Pakistan People’s Party was starting to gain some steam, though it had a few other products in the political marketplace: another ‘democrat’ in the form of Pervez Musharraf (crudely named ‘Busharraf’ by opponents), and Nawaz Sharif. With such candidates as these, democracy was being eased into a period of long house-arrest.

While it was never entirely proven in court, Bhutto’s personal wealth amassed while she was leader on two occasions did little for confidence in civic institutions. In fact, it systematically ruined them. Pakistan may have elected the first woman leader of an Islamic state, but it also elected an avaricious figure versed in the dark arts of feudalist plunder.

Bhutto’s husband Asif Zardari, a polo-obsessed individual with a voracious appetite for kickbacks and commissions, tended to have his hand out most of the time. When it wasn’t filled with a polo stick, it was usually counting cash. The French corporation Dassault Aviation paid him a handsome fee of $US 200 million for a four billion dollar jetfighter deal that never took place ­ his wife was duly ousted in 1995 before the plans could be implemented. What is also abysmal was that the entire development program of Pakistan, if you could call it that, never took off. It was once said that not a single road was built during Bhutto’s administrations. Pakistan was not so much capitalist but capital-less.

And no wonder: the schemes of plunder hatched within the Bhutto plan were nothing short of grand. One, facilitated by Dubai-based bullion trader Abdul Razzak Yaqub, was intended to corner the gold market for the Bhutto family. The New York Times (Jan 9, 1998) aptly called this family estate the House of Graft, where the trade would essentially be controlled by a network of corporations owned by Bhutto family members. Again, her husband played a starring role. With such exploits, the very fanaticism Bhutto claimed to be fighting was fanned.

While the gesture could never be taken sincerely, Nawaz Sharif’s corruption charges against the Bhuttos (‘meaningless games’ scoffed Zardari) had more than a ring of truth to them. While the pop magazines saw Bhutto as regal, a high-society woman with stints at Oxford and Harvard, Interpol also found her appealing, warming an arrest notice for her.

We are not left with any evidence that Bhutto Mark III might have been better from the first or second prototypes. She was never given the chance, and death might have come sooner, had the first assassination attempt succeeded in October.

Had she survived, there would probably have been, as there was in Argentina in the 1970s or France in 1814, a ‘restoration’. All such restorations, like the Bourbon one that replaced Napoleon, suggest the failure of ideas, the need for poor reactionary re-runs in the name of stability. A people so disgusted and fearful would have seen her, Evita (or Louis XVIII)-like, ride into office, the familiar evil, with its crippling certainties. Some might have felt that a corrupt democrat is better than a trigger happy despot in charge of a nuclear state. That may well be the case. Geopolitical strategists are left pondering.

The terror has not abated, and with her death, there is a bigger chance that stability (forget democracy) will cease altogether. We are left mourning the circumstances of her demise as we have mourned the periodic cruelty in that country. If not execution, then assassination; if neither, than it is war on the frontiers with fraternal India. The immediate future promises to be catastrophic, though Musharaf or Nawaz Sharif may yet produce a miracle. And a miracle it will have to be.

BINOY KAMPMARK is a Commonwealth Scholar from Selwyn College, Cambridge. He can be reached at bkampmark@gmail.com

 

 

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 27, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Media Ban! Making Sense of the War Between Trump and the Press
Dave Lindorff
Resume Inflation at the NSC: Lt. General McMaster’s Silver Star Was Essentially Earned for Target Practice
Conn Hallinan
Is Trump Moderating US Foreign Policy? Hardly
Norman Pollack
Political Castration of State: Militarization of Government
Kenneth Surin
Inside Dharavi, a Mumbai Slum
Lawrence Davidson
Truth vs. Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Extradition Saga of Kim Dotcom
Robert Fisk
Why a Victory Over ISIS in Mosul Might Spell Defeat in Deir Ezzor
David Swanson
Open Guantanamo!
Ted Rall
The Republicans May Impeach Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Why Should Trump―or Anyone―Be Able to Launch a Nuclear War?
Andrew Stewart
Down with Obamacare, Up with Single Payer!
Colin Todhunter
Message to John Beddington and the Oxford Martin Commission
David Macaray
UFOs: The Myth That Won’t Die?
Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail