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Bhutto Was Not of Pakistan

Long-time Asia writer Justine Hardy wrote a very interesting brief in the hours after Bhutto's assassination that was published today at National Review Online.

6:16 P.M. — December 27, 2007 — A restaurant in a hotel in Delhi. The conversations around are mainly about wine and who’s having the biggest New Year’s parties. Most people are on mobiles, many of the conversations are just chit-chat, but a few of them are talking about Benazir Bhutto. Their tone mirrors the solipsism of economically grandiose India. They were not asking, “What now for Pakistan?” but “Will this effect us at all, should we be worried?” It will mean nothing for them because they exist in the hot-house financial bubble that barely touches daily India. They are two separate countries. It will mean a lot for the Congress leadership of India as it tries to keep the door open to their stroppy teenage-type sibling of a neighbour.

But not for the Indian elite she was observing. And, after mercifully contemplating conspiracy theories only briefly, as well as Bhutto's life, Hardy completes the circle in her thoughts, paralleling Indian society with Pakistan's, India's "stroppy teenage-type sibling of a neighbour."

Benazir may have been the remodelled face of democracy in Pakistan that we wanted to buy into, brushing aside her very messy political history. Let this death not be a waste, let it remind us that Pakistan is not a pro-Western democracy. It is, across large swathes of the country, a Western-hating place that has shaped so many of the Islamic terrorists we are trying to contend with today. Until we understand this we fail in our understanding of what Musharraf has been trying to do in Pakistan in building a lasting relationship with the west amongst a people who wanted exactly the opposite, barring the tight enclave of the political elite, those who live as separately from Pakistan as the rich Indians in the restaurant here live from street India beyond the sound-insulated glass. Benazir Bhutto was from that elite class. She was not of Pakistan.

Pakistan is clearly not yet a pro-Western democracy. But, for all his ills and shortcomings, perhaps Pervez Musharraf should be appreciated more for his efforts against the grain of the vast majority of the Pakistani public. While we eschew the delays in full democratization, he remains steadfastly pro-Western - and largely Western himself - trying to build a bridge with the West unlike any other could or would.

We should keep in mind that in his overwhelming domestic unpopularity, he could quickly and easily bolster his own domestic support by acting and speaking in a more anti-American manner and drive a populist wedge between Pakistan and the West. But he has not, though it an easy fix to a difficult and overwhelming unpopularity.

And while Bhutto herself may have made conciliatory overtures to the US in order to gain its support for her political drive, this should not be mistaken for a matching pro-US outlook held by a majority of her PPP supporters.

Sharing an interesting read that was worth my time this morning. Perhaps worth yours, too.