Benazir Bhutto was a great verbal champion of democracy. I remember reading an article about a speaking tour she gave in the United States when she was PM. The article noted she used the word “democracy” roughly 60 times per speech. That however did not make Pakistan any more democratic but it did shift public opinion about it in America, as polling during her tour showed.
As an aside, Pakistan still is leagues ahead of the oppositionless Arab regimes, in which elections are nothing more than a spectacle with a foregone conclusion.
Still, I was a bit irked to see that the replacements of Benazir Bhutto in the Pakistan Peoples Party included her husband, who named their 19-year old son, a student at Oxford University, as the party head. They announced her husband, a former minister who was widely believed to be corrupt (which included jail time. He claims it was politically-motivated), would remain in custodianship until he finishes his studies. It is more than a bit strange that a dynasty will run a centrist people’s party aimed at promoting democracy.
As Anatol Lieven argues in last weekend’s Financial Times, Pakistan needs more than a dynasty to function and prosper. He argues only a broad coalition could resist a military takeover or religionist usurpation. Pakistan should try to move away from such politics, which do not empower the people but rather the established elite.
Then again, it’s not as if America is much ahead, with a Bush or Clinton in executive office for the past 30 years — and the prospect of four more. It is without surprise that the American government stood behind the Bhutto dynasty by re-inserting her into Pakistani politics. As noted by former National Security Adviser Zbignew Brzezinski:
I think the United States should not get involved in Pakistani politics. I deplore the absence of democracy in Pakistan, but I think admonitions from outside, injecting exile politicians into Pakistan, telling the Pakistan president what he should or should not wear, that he should take off his uniform, I don’t really think this is America’s business and I don’t think it helps to consolidate stability in Pakistan.Filed Under american politics, Pakistan, Will