hours before she was executed, Mary, Queen of Scots wrote to her
brother-in-law, Henry III of France: "...As for my son, I commend
him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him."
The year was 1587.
On 30 December
2007, a conclave of feudal potentates gathered in the home of
the slain Benazir Bhutto to hear her last will and testament being
read out and its contents subsequently announced to the world
media. Where Mary was tentative, her modern-day equivalent left
no room for doubt. She could certainly answer for her son.
triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif Zardari (one of the
most venal and discredited politicians in the country and still
facing corruption charges in three European courts), and two ciphers
will run the party till Benazir's 19-year-old son, Bilawal, comes
of age. He will then become chairperson-for-life and, no doubt,
pass it on to his children. The fact that this is now official
does not make it any less grotesque. The Pakistan People's Party
is being treated as a family heirloom, a property to be disposed
of at the will of its leader.
more, nothing less. Poor Pakistan. Poor People's Party supporters.
Both deserve better than this disgusting, medieval charade.
Pakistan People's Party is being treated as a family heirloom,
a property to be disposed of at the will of its leader.
last decision was in the same autocratic mode as its predecessors,
an approach that would cost her - tragically - her own life. Had
she heeded the advice of some party leaders and not agreed to
the Washington-brokered deal with Pervez Musharraf or, even later,
decided to boycott his parliamentary election she might still
have been alive. Her last gift to the country does not augur well
for its future.
can Western-backed politicians be taken seriously if they treat
their party as a fiefdom and their supporters as serfs, while
their courtiers abroad mouth sycophantic niceties concerning the
young prince and his future?
most of the PPP inner circle consists of spineless timeservers
leading frustrated and melancholy lives is no excuse. All this
could be transformed if inner-party democracy was implemented.
There is a tiny layer of incorruptible and principled politicians
inside the party, but they have been sidelined. Dynastic politics
is a sign of weakness, not strength. Benazir was fond of comparing
her family to the Kennedys, but chose to ignore that the Democratic
Party, despite an addiction to big money, was not the instrument
of any one family.
of democracy is enormously important in a country that has been
governed by the military for over half of its life. Pakistan is
not a "failed state" in the sense of the Congo or Rwanda. It is
a dysfunctional state and has been in this situation for almost
can Western-backed politicians be taken seriously if they
treat their party as a fiefdom and their supporters as serfs,
while their courtiers abroad mouth sycophantic niceties
concerning the young prince and his future?
the heart of this dysfunctionality is the domination by the army
and each period of military rule has made things worse. It is
this that has prevented political stability and the emergence
of stable institutions. Here the US bears direct responsibility,
since it has always regarded the military as the only institution
it can do business with and, unfortunately, still does so. This
is the rock that has focused choppy waters into a headlong torrent.
weaknesses are well known and have been amply documented. But
the politicians are not in a position to cast stones. After all,
Mr Musharraf did not pioneer the assault on the judiciary so conveniently
overlooked by the US Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte,
and the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. The first attack on
the Supreme Court was mounted by Nawaz Sharif's goons who physically
assaulted judges because they were angered by a decision that
ran counter to their master's interests when he was prime minister.
Some of us
had hoped that, with her death, the People's Party might start
a new chapter. After all, one of its main leaders, Aitzaz Ahsan,
president of the Bar Association, played a heroic role in the
popular movement against the dismissal of the chief justice. Mr
Ahsan was arrested during the emergency and kept in solitary confinement.
He is still under house arrest in Lahore. Had Benazir been capable
of thinking beyond family and faction she should have appointed
him chairperson pending elections within the party. No such luck.
almost certainly will be a split in the party sooner rather than
later. Mr Zardari was loathed by many activists and held responsible
for his wife's downfall. Once emotions have subsided, the horror
of the succession will hit the many traditional PPP followers
except for its most reactionary segment: bandwagon careerists
desperate to make a fortune.
politics is a sign of weakness, not strength.
this could have been avoided, but the deadly angel who guided
her when she was alive was, alas, not too concerned with democracy.
And now he is in effect leader of the party.
there is a country in crisis. Having succeeded in saving his own
political skin by imposing a state of emergency, Mr Musharraf
still lacks legitimacy. Even a rigged election is no longer possible
on January 8 despite the stern admonitions of President George
W Bush and his unconvincing Downing Street adjutant. What is clear
is that the official consensus on who killed Benazir is breaking
down, except on BBC television. It has now been made public that,
when Benazir asked the US for a Karzai-style phalanx of privately
contracted former US Marine bodyguards, the suggestion was contemptuously
rejected by the Pakistan government, which saw it as a breach
Hillary Clinton and Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, are pinning the convict's badge on
Mr Musharraf and not al-Qa'ida for the murder, a sure sign that
sections of the US establishment are thinking of dumping the President.
is that, with Benazir dead, the only other alternative for them
is General Ashraf Kiyani, head of the army. Nawaz Sharif is seen
as a Saudi poodle and hence unreliable, though, given the US-Saudi
alliance, poor Mr Sharif is puzzled as to why this should be the
case. For his part, he is ready to do Washington's bidding but
would prefer the Saudi King rather than Mr Musharraf to be the
to the crisis is available. This would require Mr Musharraf's
replacement by a less contentious figure, an all-party government
of unity to prepare the basis for genuine elections within six
months, and the reinstatement of the sacked Supreme Court judges
to investigate Benazir's murder without fear or favour. It would
be a start.
Who Killed Bhutto, by Robert Fisk
Indignation And Fear Stalk Pakistan, by
Burma Is Not Back To Normal, by Jill
Download Wayne Shorter's Tribute to Aung
San Suu Kyi
Pakistan Sinks Deeper Into The Night,
by Tariq Ali
The Pakistan Question: Will History Repeat Itself?, by M. Shahid
The Killer Elites Of Pakistan, by M Shahid Alam
New Clashes In Islamabad, by Tariq Ali
Ali is a Pakistan-born writer, broadcaster and commentator.His
new book, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Axis Of Hope, is published
by Verso. He also wrote Rough Music: Blair, Bombs, Baghdad,
Terror, London (Verso); Street Fighting Years (new edition)
and, with David Barsamian,Speaking of Empires & Resistance.
He can be reached at [email protected]
here to order Tariq Ali books.
Other articles by Tariq Ali:
Bush's Cuba Detour
New Clashes In Islamabad
Adieu, Blair, Aideu
The Khyber Impasse
The War Is Already Lost
Venezuela And The Bolivarian Dream
A Bavarian Provocation
A Protracted Colonial War
On The Death Of Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Iraq's Destiny Still Rests Between God, Blood And Oil
A Despised Leader Suffers His First Loss
Pakistan Will Never Forget This Horror
The Logic Of Colonial Rule
A Viler Barbarism
The Price Of Occupation
The New Ultra-Imperialism Of The World
"They Think God Runs The IMF"
Imperial Delusions: "Domocracy Promotion" And Resistance
The New Model Of Imperialism: Saddam On Parade
The Importance Of Hugo Chavez: Why He Crushed The Oligarchs
Getting Away With Murder
The War Is Not Going Well For Bush