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Benazir Bhutto is dead.


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Why the world needs democracy in Pakistan

Dictatorship fuels extremism, which reaches far beyond Pakistan.

By Benazir Bhutto

from the December 10, 2007 edition

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The world has rightly welcomed President Pervez Musharraf's retirement as Army head and announcement that emergency rule will end on Dec. 16. However, a crucial question remains. Is Pakistan heading toward a democratic future? Parliamentary elections are currently scheduled for Jan. 8. Among many worrying signs of corruption, the election commission is biased and not acting on complaints of fraud.

Yet if credible elections are not held, it will have dangerous consequences for Pakistan and the rest of the world community: Extremism will continue to grow, putting everyone at risk. The world must act to prevent this. It must insist on free and fair elections in Pakistan.

President Musharraf's last term in office demonstrated that dictatorship has fueled extremism. The tribal areas of Pakistan have turned into havens for militants to mount attacks on NATO troops in nearby Afghanistan. Lack of governance has led to the expansion of extremism into settled areas of Pakistan.

Democracy offers the best hope of containing extremism. Yet democracy depends on a fair electoral process and an independent election commission willing and able to implement Pakistan's electoral laws to prevent vote fraud. That is not happening.

"Improvised" voting stations, a pseudonym for ghost polling stations, dot practically every parliamentary constituency. Electoral lists – prepared with financial assistance from USAID – are fatally flawed, with more than 10 million unverified and missing names (clearly enough to "win" or "lose" an election). The sanctity of any future ballot is doubtful against reports that district returning officers have been ordered to disperse 20,000 ballots already marked in favor of pro-government candidates. These bogus votes will be "cast" through the process of double voting in the "improvised" voting stations – in ballot boxes that are translucent rather than transparent.

Mayors continue to control guns and police and government resources and are using them shamelessly to campaign for government candidates. The election commission has asked for "a report" on such malpractices but has taken no concrete efforts to stop them. Politically motivated officials have been placed in charge of the civilian intelligence services and key state posts to manipulate the elections further, although election laws demand that such officials be neutral. An assistant to a former chief minister has been made a returning officer to preside over elections in his area. This complaint is being "looked into" as well, which is simply a fancy way of buying time and doing nothing.

Punjab Province, which elects more than half of Pakistan's parliament, chooses 148 of the members through direct elections, excluding reserved seats for women and minorities. Of these seats, it is believed that 108 have been marked for rigging for government-backed candidates.

By the time all such reports of fraud come in from across the country, the elections will be over.

On top of all this, the media remains gagged, opposition leaders remain imprisoned, voter lists and voting locations have not yet been provided to opposition parties or to the general public in final print or electronic format, and no effort has been made by the pliant electoral commission to regularly consult with political parties on these issues. There is also no plan in place to ensure that votes counted at voting stations will be delivered to local consolidation centers without being manipulated en route. The National Reconciliation Ordinance, which provides for an immediate consolidated count, has been suspended.

Put quite simply, the elections are being stitched up to give the country a continuation of the outgoing government – one that failed to prevent the spread of militancy, extremism, and terrorism. Major terrorist attacks, including the latest plot discovered in Germany this summer, tracked terrorists' footsteps back to Pakistan's northern areas.

Unless there is a change in the status quo, the past will repeat itself. But that change can only come when the world community puts its weight behind fair elections and its faith in the people of Pakistan.

Musharraf sent a delegation to the US last week to talk to the Bush administration and members of Congress about the current situation. This visit was only meantto feign progress and deflect criticism.

Musharraf wants the world to believe that the coming election, though not perfect, will be "good enough for Pakistan" given the country's difficult circumstances. But the current circumstances are of the regime's making. Those in charge can – and must – do much better on this count.

The international community must send a clear message that it will not be an accessory to this coming crime. It must not wait to see if the elections on Jan. 8 are free and fair. It must insist on a minimum set of benchmarks to be met for the election to be recognized as free and fair. If the benchmarks are ignored, the international community must be prepared to signal its displeasure to the Musharraf regime in specific, tangible ways.

Flawed elections will worsen instability in Pakistan as civil society and political parties protest. Imposing international restrictions after the fact will be fruitless and only deepen anti-American sentiment.

At the very least, America can and should prod Musharraf to give Pakistanis an independent election commission, a neutral caretaker administration, and an end to blatant vote manipulation.

America is the world's most powerful democracy. By standing up for democracy at this critical time, Washington can give this nuclear-armed nation an opportunity to reverse the tide of extremism that today threatens not only Pakistan but the larger world community as well.



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A horrific event. As a citizen of the world, I am saddened for the people of Pakistan. A tragic day for all of us who seek peace and condemn this sort of violence.

Benazir Bhutto has made the ultimate sacrifice in opposing a culture of oppression and seeking to bring democracy to her country.

My prayers are with the people of Pakistan – may you have peace in your country.


December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto, 54, Lived in Eye of Pakistan Storm


The daughter of one of Pakistan’s most flamboyant and democratically inclined prime ministers, Benazir Bhutto, 54, served two turbulent tenures of her own in that post. A deeply polarizing figure, she lived in exile in London for years with corruption charges hanging over her head before returning home this fall to present herself as the answer to her nation’s trouble.

She was killed on Thursday in a combined shooting and bombing attack at a rally in Rawalpindi, one of a series of open rallies she had insisted on holding since her return to Pakistan this fall, after years in self-imposed exile.

A woman of grand ambitions and a taste for complex political maneuvering, Ms. Bhutto, 54, was long the leader of the country’s largest opposition political party, founded by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Even from exile, her leadership was firm, and when she returned, she proclaimed herself a tribune of democracy, leading rallies in opposition to Mr. Musharraf, like the one at which she died.

In a foreshadowing of the attack that killed her, a triumphal parade that celebrated her return to Pakistan in her home city of Karachi killed at least 134 of her supporters and wounded more than 400. Ms. Bhutto herself narrowly escaped harm.

Her political plans were also sidetracked: she had been negotiating for months with the country’s military leader, President Pervez Musharraf, over a power-sharing arrangement, only to see General Musharraf declare emergency rule instead.

Her record in power, and the dance of veils she has deftly performed since her return — one moment standing up to General Musharraf, then next seeming to accommodate him, and never quite revealing her actual intentions — stirred as much distrust as hope among Pakistanis.

A graduate of Harvard and Oxford, she brought the backing of Washington and London, where she impressed with her political lineage and her considerable charm. She also became the first female leader of a Muslim nation when she became prime minister in 1988 at the age of 35.

But during her two stints in that job — first from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996 — she developed a reputation for acting imperiously and impulsively. She faced deep questions about her personal probity in public office, which led to corruption cases against her in Switzerland, Spain and Britain, as well as in Pakistan.

Ms. Bhutto saw herself as the inheritor of her father’s mantle, often spoke of how he encouraged her to study the lives of legendary female leaders ranging from Indira Gandhi to Joan of Arc.

She grew up in the most rarefied atmosphere the country had to offer. One longtime friend and adviser, Peter W. Galbraith, a former American ambassador to Croatia, said he and Ms. Bhutto believed they first met in 1962 when they were children: he the son of John Kenneth Galbraith, the American ambassador to India; she the daughter of the future Pakistani prime minister. Mr. Galbraith’s father was accompanying Jacqueline Kennedy to a horse show in Lahore.

They met again at Harvard, where Mr. Galbraith remembers Ms. Bhutto arriving as a prim 16-year-old fresh from a Karachi convent who liked to bake cakes.

After her father’s death — he was hanged by another general who seized power, Zia ul-Haq — Ms. Bhutto stepped into the spotlight as his successor.

Following the idea of big ambition, Ms. Bhutto called herself chairperson for life of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, a seemingly odd title in an organization based on democratic ideals and one she has acknowledged quarreling over with her mother, Nusrat Bhutto, in the early 1990s.

She was also wont to self-aggrandize. She recently boasted that three million people came out to greet her in Karachi on her return last month, calling it Pakistan’s ”most historic” rally. In fact, crowd estimates were closer to 200,000, many of them provincial party members who had received small amounts of money to make the trip.

Such flourishes led questioning in Pakistan about the strength of her democratic ideals in practice, and a certain distrust, particularly amid signs of back-room deal-making with General Musharraf, the military ruler she opposed.

“She believes she is the chosen one, that she is the daughter of Bhutto and everything else is secondary,” said Feisal Naqvi, a corporate lawyer in Lahore who knew Ms. Bhutto.

When Ms. Bhutto was re-elected to a second term as Prime Minister, her style of government combined both the traditional and the modern, said Zafar Rathore, a senior civil servant at the time.

But her view of the role of government differed little from the classic notion in Pakistan that the state was the preserve of the ruler who dished out favors to constituents and colleagues, he recalled.

As secretary of interior, responsible for the Pakistani police force, Mr. Rathore, who is now retired, said he tried to get an appointment with Ms. Bhutto to explain the need for accountability in the force. He was always rebuffed, he said.

Finally, when he was seated next to her in a small meeting, he said to her, “I’ve been waiting to see you,” he recounted. “Instantaneously, she said: ‘I am very busy, what do you want. I’ll order it right now.’ ”

She could not understand that a civil servant might want to talk about policies, he said. Instead, he said, ‘’she understood that when all civil servants have access to the sovereign, they want to ask for something.”

But until her death, Ms. Bhutto ruled the party with an iron hand, jealously guarding her position, even while leading the party in absentia for nearly a decade.

Members of her party saluted her return to Pakistan, saying she was the best choice against General Musharraf. Chief among her attributes, they said, was her sheer determination.

Ms. Bhutto’s marriage to Asif Ali Zardari was arranged by her mother, a fact that Ms. Bhutto has often said was easily explained, even for a modern, highly educated Pakistani woman.

To be acceptable to the Pakistani public as a politician she could not be a single woman, and what was the difference, she would ask, between such a marriage and computer dating?

Mr. Zardari is known for his love of polo and other perquisites of the good life like fine clothes, expensive restaurants, homes in Dubai and London, and an apartment in New York.

He was minister of investment in Ms. Bhutto’s second government. And it was from that perch that he made many of the deals that haunted Ms. Bhutto, and himself, in the courts.

There were accusations that the couple had illegally taken $1.5 billion from the state. It is a figure that Ms. Bhutto has vigorously contested.

Indeed, one of Ms. Bhutto’s main objectives in seeking to return to power was to restore the reputation of her husband, who was jailed for eight years in Pakistan, said Abdullah Riar, a former senator in the Pakistani Parliament and a former colleague of Ms. Bhutto’s.

“She told me, ‘Time will prove he is the Nelson Mandela of Pakistan,’ ” Mr. Riar said.

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I've just heard the news. They have it all across the news on our Pakistani channel

Right now, it's speaking of how President Musharraf is speaking of his condolence.

I am glad that you have mentioned me, because as Minelle has mentioned, there are fires, rallies, and the likes everywhere. Traffic has been ceased. I'm seeing it all on the TV

So many of my family members live there, I hope they are doing well. The Pakistani people had to be sheltered way too many times this year.

So, Minelle, I hope your family is doing well. :console:

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I just saw the best commercial today.[public service announcement]

It was a bunch of Pakistani children and they were speaking in their native language, Urdu.

They were speaking of how they're exposed to too much violence in their country. They hate seeing all these killings and bombings. One Pakistani kid gave up violent games because he already sees too much of it outside his house.

It ended up with some three year old saying

Bas karlo bas[enough with it, enough]

Here it is

Pakistani Children Plea for Peace

I'll translate it line by line, coming up

The first two are hard,


the evil uncle always plants the bomb

How many people did the uncle hurt, he didn't even say sorry

When a bomb blast happens, then people die as well. And when they don't return home, how worried are their parents?

Why does it happen? And when cars go by, why do the bombers attack them?

We want to finally watch a TV show that doesn't show the dead bodies

I gave up fighting with my siblings. Yet the big people are still fighting

Now, the devil will be very happy, and God will be very angry

And the schools are closing down. If I don't study, then how will I be a successful adult?

It's as if no one loves us. That's why they keep bombing.

Enough with it, enough[4 times]

Forget the fighting and take praise in God

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Someone seems to think it was by way of deception: Murder Inc.

Ahmad is a close friend of retired Gen. Hamid Gul, a former ISI chief who acts as strategic adviser to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal coalition of six politico-religious extremist parties that governs two of Pakistan's four provinces (Baluchistan and the Northwest Frontier province). Gul hates the United States -- and anything Washington favors -- with a passion. He assisted the creation of the Taliban in the early 1990s and to this day believes the Sept. 11 al-Qaida attacks were a plot engineered by Israel's Mossad, the CIA and the U.S. Air Force. ("How come no fighters were scrambled to take on the planes you say were hijacked?" he asked this reporter.)
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