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Benazir Bhutto is dead.


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Perhaps she would have done better as an educator rather than to have remained in the political arena, which made her more of a target. A more moderate leader could have united people and also maintained calm. It's a problem when leaders are polarized by controversy and tensions run high, as we've seen.

Now the country will need to re-stabilize its economy so people can go about their usual daily business; there are reported shortages of food and high prices. Hopefully common sense will prevail after this episode of upheaval, even if only little by little. Pakistan will need to go through a period of reconstruction where the food and fuel markets are concerned; banks and gas stations were damaged or destroyed.

It appears that at least people still have their homes, which is reassuring, and some of the shops were merely closed but not destroyed, also a positive element.

Pakistan's largest city paralyzed from violence after Bhutto's death

The Associated Press

Sunday, December 30, 2007

KARACHI, Pakistan: Residents of Pakistan's largest city cautiously emerged from their homes Sunday and struggled to find food and fuel amid the blackened buildings, shattered glass and burnt-out vehicles littering the streets of Karachi.

With police and troops patrolling, Pakistan's largest city appeared quiet for the first time since Benazir Bhutto's assassination Thursday sparked a wave of angry rioting.

The previous three days of clashes and looting left at least 40 people dead across Sindh Province where Karachi is located, provincial Home Minister Akhtar Zemin told The Associated Press. Hundreds of bank branches were destroyed and 950 vehicles burned.

The normally bustling port city remained a virtual ghost town, shocked by Bhutto's death. Nearly all shops were closed and streets normally packed with traffic were empty, save for boys playing cricket.

Mohammed Umar, 60, a retired government official, left his apartment to buy flatbread at one of only two shops open in a main market area. He said his wife normally bakes bread at home, but they had run out of flour, sugar and milk.

The night before, Umar said he had watched looters cutting locks off shops and questioned why authorities were not taking more aggressive steps to stop the chaos.

"The government is purely responsible for this," he said.

Next door, Mussarad Nasim Albert bought some laundry detergent from a supermarket where the shopkeeper peddled goods from beneath a metal door and through bars usually open during business hours. The 49-year-old nurse said she had been unable to get to work for the past days.

She lamented that goods were now being sold at nearly double normal prices and bought just a few necessities like potatoes and onions because of the crisis-spawned inflation.

"There is nothing in the house, I am searching for things," she said.

Makeshift barriers surrounded almost every gas station, including one where 18-year-old Mohammad Shoaib was waiting in hope of filling up his small motorcycle. He had been set to take an entrance exam to seek a bachelor's degree in computer science, but the test was indefinitely postponed due to the violence.

"These are the stupidest people who are doing this," he said of those who caused the destruction. "We will have to rebuild it again."

Police with assault rifles were stationed on street corners across Karachi, and military patrols in armored vehicles rode through the rougher parts of the city, such as the notorious Lyari slums that have seen the most unrest.

Hundreds of Bhutto supporters gathered for memorial prayers at a party office, chanting "Benazir is innocent!" before marching into the streets. They were trailed by a police truck with an officer on top wielding a tear gas grenade launcher.

At Bhutto's house in the city, supporter Masi Mehru's tears welled behind her eyeglasses as she clasped her hands on her head and pounded her chest, saying she had not eaten from grief since the former prime minister was killed Thursday at a campaign rally in the northern city of Rawalpindi.

"I would rather have died instead of her," said Mehru, aged in her 70s. Her 40-year-old daughter Husan Banu was stuck with her at the house because most transport in the city was shut down.

The military said in a statement that it was giving shelter to more than 5,000 people in the province stranded due to vandalized trains, taking some to their destinations via buses after clearing blocked roads.

As the sun set on the coast of the Arabian Sea, some Karachi residents ventured out to the Sea View beach where camels or horses to ride were on offer and a snake charmer serenaded a cobra.

Jahan Zeb, a 29-year-old banker, strolled with his 1-year-old son and wife, venturing outside for the first time after three days sheltering at home. He said investment was likely to slow in Pakistan as people instead turned to savings to avoid risk.

"I hope we'll return to democracy as soon as possible with elections with all parties — that's the only way out," he said.


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The Profession of Death

Barry Rubin

December 30, 2007

Much will be said about Benazir Bhutto's assassination; little will be understood about what it truly means. I'm not speaking here about Pakistan, of course, as important as is that country. But rather the lesson--as if we need any more--for that broad Middle East which begins in Pakistan and ends on the Atlantic Ocean coast.

This is a true story. Back in 1946, an American diplomat asked an Iranian editor why his newspaper angrily criticized the United States but never the Soviet Union. The Iranian said that it was obvious. "The Russians," he said, "they kill people."

A dozen years earlier, in 1933, the Iraqi official Sami Shawkat, gave a talk which became one of the most famous texts of Arab nationalism. "There is something more important than money and learning for preserving the honor of a nation and for keeping humiliation at bay," he stated. "That is strength....Strength, as I use the word here, means to excel in the Profession of Death."

What, you might ask, was Shawkat's own profession? He was director-general of Iraq's ministry of education. This was how young people were to be taught and directed; this is where Saddam Hussein came from. Seventy-five years later the subsequent history of Iraq and the rest of the Arab world show just how well Shawkat did his job.

September 11 in the United States; the Bali bombing for Australia; the tube bombing for Britain; the commuter train bombing for Spain, these were all merely byproducts of this pathology. The pathology in question is not Western policy toward the Middle East but rather Middle Eastern policy toward the Middle East.

Ever since I read Shawkat's words as a student, the phrase, "Profession of Death," which gave his article its title, struck me as a pun. On one hand, the word "profession" meant "career."

To be a killer--note well that Shawkat was not talking specifically about soldiers, those who fight, but rather those who murder--was the highest calling of all. It was more important than being a teacher, who forms character; more important than a businessperson, who enriches his country; more important than a doctor who preserves the life of fellow citizens. Destruction was a higher calling than construction. And for sure in the Arabic-speaking world what has been reaped is what has been sowed.

But also the word "profession" here reminds me of "to profess," "to preach." What is of greatest value is for an educator to preach and glorify death. What kind of ideology, what kind of society, what kind of values, does such a priority produce? Look and see.

Like children playing with dynamite, Western intellectuals, journalists, and diplomats fantasize that they are achieving results in the Middle East with their words, promises, apologies, money, and concessions. Yet how can such innocents cope despite--or perhaps because of--all their good intentions with polities and societies whose basic ruling ethos is that of the serial killer?

And what can be achieved when those most forward-looking and most creative, those who want to break with the ideas and methods creating a disastrous mess, the stagnant system which characterizes so much of the Middle East, are systematically murdered? Read the roll: King Abdallah of Jordan, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri of Lebanon, the bold author Farouq Fawda in Egypt, Iraqi Sunnis who dare seek compromise, Palestinian moderates, Algerian modernists, and thousands of women who seek a moderate degree of freedom.

The radicals are right: dying is a disincentive. And for every one killed how many thousands give in; and for every one threatened how many hundreds give in?

Seventy-five years after Shawkat, Hamas television teaches Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip that their highest aspiration should be to become a suicide bomber, with success measured by how many Jews are killed. And, by the way, the Palestinian Authority's television in the West Bank sends a similar message, albeit not quite as often.

Will billions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) change anything when the men with the guns take what they want? Are PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, respectively a timid bureaucrat and a well-meaning economist, going to take a bullet for lifting one finger to get a compromise peace with Israel?

How are you going to get a government of national conciliation in Iraq when the insurgents have shown they can gun down any Sunni politician or cleric who steps out of line?

The current supporters of the Lebanese government are probably the bravest politicians in the Arabic-speaking world, men willing to defy death. But how can they stand firm when Western governments rush to engage with the Syrian government that murdered them, and Western media proclaim the moderation of a Damascus ruler who systematically kills those who oppose him?

Can anyone really expect a stable society capable of progress in Pakistan when a large majority of the population expresses admiration for bin Ladin? And what about the Saudi system where, as one local writer put it, the big Usama put into practice what the little Usama learned in a Saudi school.

Don't you get it? The radical forces in the region are not expecting to retain or gain power by negotiating, compromising, or being better understood. They believe they are going to shoot their way into power or, just as good, accept the surrender of those they have intimidated.

That is why so much of the Western analysis and strategies for dealing with the region are a bad joke. Usama bin Ladin understands that, as he once said, people are going to back the strongest horse in the race.

According to all too many people in the Western elites, the way to win is to be the nicest horse.

But doesn't this assessment sound terribly depressing and hopeless? Well, yes and no.

Radical Islamists like to proclaim that they will triumph because they love death while their enemies--that is, soon-to-be-victims--love life.

Be careful what you wish for, though, because you probably will get it. For those who love death the reward is...death.

For those who love life, the outcomes include decent educational systems, living standards, individual rights, and strong economic systems.

All these things, and others that go along with them, are what really produce strength. And isn't it interesting that, contrary to Shawkat, the nations that put the priority on these things enjoy far more honor and suffer far less humiliation than happens with his model.

The profession of death has wrecked most Middle Eastern societies. But it has never succeeded in defeating a free society. It is not an effective tactic for destroying others but only for devastating one's own people.

Who killed Benazir Bhutto? The Sami Shawkat philosophy: alike in its Arab nationalist, Islamist, and Pakistani authoritarian versions which dominate Middle East politics.


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She was extremely corrupt. Like her father.

I hated her but she shouldn't have died.She should've been defeated politically.

Corrupt? Yeah ... like Musharraf? Isn't he a man of pristine values?

I would surely like someone to explain to me how Bhutto was corrupt ... and why you, Minelle, would rather live under such a man as Musharraf?

Very curious on this issue.


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Corruption shadow casts Bhutto in a different light

December 31, 2007

That one shouldn't speak ill of the dead is conventional wisdom but conventional wisdom usually turns out to be an oxymoron. And so the dead Benazir Bhutto is now the "former prime minister of Pakistan" rather than "the fugitive facing corruption investigations in Spain, Britain and Switzerland" that she was a fortnight ago.

Corruption aside, Bhutto showed a remarkably cavalier disregard for the lives of even her own supporters. Guns of any make, either genuine or cheap local rip-offs, are freely available in Pakistan. The use of bombs has also become more widespread.

So when Bhutto arrived back in Pakistan in October, rather than being whisked by helicopter amid tight security from the airport to wherever she needed to be, she had her party organisers bus in 200,000 people to the route from the airport so the world's television cameras could record her glorious return. The route was lengthened to heighten the drama of the procession.

It all served to give those with murderous intent greater opportunity. Bhutto was safe inside her bombproof vehicle. But outside, almost 140 of her supporters were blown to bits by two bombs and another 450 injured. Bhutto directed the blame to anyone but herself.

This recklessness extended to herself last week when, having been provided with a bulletproof car, she stood up through its sunroof on leaving a political rally - with predictable results. But martyrdom is a wonderful way to launder one's reputation. If saintliness is what you're after, then it's certainly a good career move - you can emerge a saviour unhindered by the practicalities of having to deliver, leaving your supporters to wistfully imagine what might have been.

Except that Bhutto was twice put to the test. Twice she was prime minister of Pakistan, twice she was shown to be a poor administrator and twice her government was removed for corruption.

Bhutto did have her plusses. She was a democrat. But politics in most of Asia is about power: getting it and keeping it. Rarely is it about policy. Bhutto liked democracy because it was the only means by which she could get into power. Her family was not a military family so a coup was out of the question.

And although from the province of Sindh, she clearly sought to represent and govern all Pakistan - her interest was in transcending ethnic and regional divides. She was a Pakistani above all, something few politicians in Pakistan actually are, or are seen to be.

The trouble is, she was most probably corrupt and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, definitely was. Bhutto made him a minister during her second term as prime minister. But once she was out of office, he was arrested on charges of organising the murder of Bhutto's brother, Murtaza, blackmail, the murder of a judge and his son, and corruption, for which he was jailed. He has always maintained that the charges were politically motivated, which undoubtedly they were. But the motivations of one's accusers do not change the facts of one's crimes.

A 1998 New York Times report claimed that Pakistani investigators had evidence that Zardari offered a contract to Dassault, a French aircraft maker, to replace the Pakistani Air Force's fighter jets, in exchange for a 5% commission to be paid to a Swiss corporation he controlled.

The same report also said Zardari had organised for a Dubai company to have the exclusive licence to import gold into Pakistan, for which he received more than $10 million in "fees". Other allegations relate to the purchase of 7000 tractors from a Polish company, for which the Bhuttos were allegedly paid a commission.

In 2003, a Swiss magistrate convicted Zardari and Bhutto, in their absence, of money laundering. They had accepted $US15 million in bribes from Swiss companies SGS and Cotecna to do customs inspections on goods imported into Pakistan. The couple had the Swiss companies pay 6% of the value of their contracts into Bomer Finance Inc and Nassam Overseas, two British Virgin Islands-registered companies with which they were linked. The two were sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to return almost $US12 million to the Government of Pakistan.

Bhutto appealed against the conviction on the basis that she had no knowledge of the payments despite having been shown to be a beneficiary of at least one of the BVI companies. The case is still under appeal. But why did Bhutto imagine she could be prime minister of a country of 160 million people if she could not even manage her husband? Either she was corrupt or incompetent, but probably both.

In 2004, Zardari admitted owning a £4.35 million estate in Surrey, England - that included a 20-room mansion - that the Pakistani authorities allege was probably bought with the proceeds of corruption in 1995. A British judge concurred.

In 2005, the Independent Inquiry Commission, led by former US Federal Reserve head Paul Volcker, named Petroline FZC among the companies to have breached UN sanctions by making illegal payments to Saddam Hussein's regime so it could trade in Iraqi oil. Documents suggest that Bhutto chaired the company. They might be fake but the company is connected to her associates. Spanish authorities are investigating the affairs of the company, which received $US2 million in illegal payments.

Anti-corruption officials with Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau claimed to have identified $US1.5 billion in the names of Zardari and Bhutto's mother - who has Alzheimer's disease - in Swiss bank accounts. And so, in 2006, Interpol issued a request for the arrest of Bhutto and her husband on corruption charges, on behalf of the Pakistani Government.

Did Pakistan really need a third Bhutto-Zardari prime ministership? Undoubtedly there will now be the movie and perhaps an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical (Don't Cry for me Pakistan). But at the end of the day, a thief in lipstick is still a thief.



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