With the assassination this week of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a crucial link between Islam and the west has been destroyed. Although no saint, Bhutto was the greatest hope for a moderate leader in a country which has struggled to find its way since it gained independence in 1947. Since then, the country has endured extreme corruption and violence, and many years of military rule. Although it is a Muslim majority population, secular factions have always had a strong voice in Pakistani politics.
Does this all sound a little too familiar? Will the Bush Administration learn anything from the Pakistan experience in its dealings with Iraq? Doubtful. Our Secretary of State, Condaleeza Rice, is an expert -- at Cold War Soviet relations. In other words, she is obsolete. She has been ineffective at transferring her in-depth knowledge of Eastern Europe to the Mid East. Diplomacy in Iraq seems non-existent: her only efforts appear to be the photo opportunities she takes on her "surprise visits" inside the green zone.
Benazir Bhutto and the Pakistani people deserved more from the U.S. As a Harvard and Oxford educated Muslim woman who had the support of a large percentage of the population (though certainly not every Pakistani admired her), she was the best hope for a bridge between Islam and democracy. Yet the Bush Administration sat idly by while President/ Dictator Pervez Musharraf stripped the country of its most basic civil liberties, such as freedom of speech. It was only after outcry from around the world (not led by the U.S.), that Bhutto was allowed into the country to run for office.
With elections scheduled for next month, Bhutto was campaigning throughout Pakistan. Having received many death threats, she requested protection from the Pakistan government, and was given none. The aftermath of Bhutto's assassination consists of riots and turmoil in Pakistan. Will Musharraf go ahead with the elections, or will this be a convenient excuse for him to again call for emergency powers and remain in office?
From Bloomberg: An American friend of Bhutto's, Washington lawyer Mark Siegel, told CNN that Bhutto e-mailed him on Oct. 26, one week after the attack on her in Karachi, to complain that Musharraf's government wasn't protecting her adequately.
Bhutto said she had requested the government provide her with jamming devices to thwart electronically triggered roadside bombs, special vehicles with tinted windows and four police cars to surround her at all times in her travels, Siegel told CNN. Bhutto said all the requests were denied.
``She became increasingly concerned that her security was not getting better, it was getting worse as she toured the country in preparation for the January 8th election,'' Siegel told the network.
The Bush Administration has stood by Pervez Musharraf for many years because he is our supposed ally in the "war on terror." Yet he has allowed the greatest hope for democracy in the region to be killed -- on his watch. More proof that when it comes to foreign policy, the Bush Administration has either (a) no clue, or (b) no interest in peace.