Like many people around the world, I was shocked and saddened when I saw on the internet Thursday morning that former Pakistani prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated.
British-Pakistani historian, activist, and commentator Tariq Ali was a guest on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! program yesterday, and offered some insightful analysis and commentary on the situation in Pakistan.
Here’s part of what he had to say to Democracy Now! co-host, Amy Goodman, about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
Amy Goodman: Tariq, talk about your response on Thursday when you heard the news [of the assassination], and talk about why Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan.
Tariq Ali: Well, Amy, my first reaction was anger. I was livid that Bush and his acolytes in Britain had fixed this deal, pushing her to do a deal with [Pakistani president, Pervez] Musharraf, forcing her to play a role, which, of course, she agreed to do – it has to be admitted – in Pakistan, which she was not capable of playing. She made some extremely injudicious remarks, saying that she would go back, she was the only person who could deal with terrorism, etc., etc. The fact was that this was not the case.
I wrote at the time that it is a big, big problem when you try and arrange a political marriage between two parties who loathe each other. And so, Musharraf very rapidly, after her return, embarrassed her by instituting a state of emergency. And she then didn’t know whether to defend the state of emergency; finally, she attacked it. So the whole situation was a complete mess.
And now, everyone in Pakistan knows that an election organized in this fashion, under the leadership of a guy who’s become a master at rigging elections, is not going to achieve anything. So Benazir was advised by close advisers, including one of the central leaders of her party, Aitzaz Ahsan, who is still in prison, by the way, saying we must not participate in this election, it’s totally fake and rigged, it should be boycotted. She refused to accept that, because Washington insisted that she participate in this election, and she was torn in her loyalties. And finally, she, a woman of great physical courage, lacked the political courage to defy Washington. And I have to say this, it’s cost her her life. Had she decided to boycott the election, this would not have happened.
And for Washington to send her to Pakistan, reassuring her that she would be safe, is shocking. At the very least, if they were insistent on doing this, they could have provided her with a Marine guard like Karzai gets in Kabul. But, you know, they depended on the locals to guard her, and they obviously couldn’t do it. So she’s now dead. And it’s a tragedy. It’s a personal tragedy for her and her family. And it sort of has begun, embarked on a new crisis for Pakistan, which is going to get worse.
I mean, I think Musharraf’s days are numbered. I don’t think he will be, even if he has this fake election in a week or ten days’ time, which Bush is forcing him to do – I mean, I cannot understand, for the life of me, how the President of the United States can be so isolated and remote from reality as to insist that an election goes ahead when one of the central political leaders in the country, backed by Washington, has just been assassinated. I mean, what the hell are they going to achieve from this election? Nothing. It will not give legitimacy to anyone. It will create possibly, very rapidly afterwards, a new crisis, and then they will have to have a new military leader stepping in.
For the full transcript of Democracy Now!’s interview with Tariq Ali, click here.
Recommended Off-site Links:
Benazir Bhutto Killed in Suicide Attack – Reuters, December 27, 2007.
In Wake of Assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Bush Administration Rushes to Defense of Musharraf – Keith Jones (World Socialist Web Site, December 28, 2007).
Hundreds of Thousands Mourn Bhutto – Ashraf Khan (Associated Press, December 28, 2007).
Militants, Bhutto Aides Allege Cover-Up – Ravi Nessman (Associated Press, December 29, 2007).
Pakistan Smolders with Rage After Bhutto’s Death – Ashraf Khan (Associated Press, December 27, 2007).
The Key Questions in the Bhutto Murder Inquiry - BBC World News, December 29, 2007.
Obituary: Benazir Bhutto – BBC World News, December 27, 2007.
Image 1: Pakistani women light candles in front of a portrait of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto during a vigil at her Pakistan Peoples Party office Saturday Dec. 29, 2007 in Lahore, Pakistan. Pakistan says it does not need foreign assistance to investigate Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, despite deepening controversy over how exactly she died and who killed her. (AP Photo/Ed Wray)
Image 2: Pakistan’s former Prime Minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto pictured during an election rally in Rawalpindi December 27, 2007, shortly before she was killed in a gun and bomb attack. Bhutto was assassinated on Thursday as she left an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi, putting Jan. 8 polls in doubt and sparking anger in her native Sindh province and across the country. (Associated Press/B.K.Bangash)
Image 3: Policemen stand in front of a poster of slain Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi, December 29, 2007. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)
For more of Tariq Ali at The Wild Reed, visit the previous posts:
Tariq Ali Discuss Rudyard Kipling
Tariq Ali on the Resignation of Tony Blair
See also the related Wild Reed post:
Praying for George W. Bush