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Afghanistan | International

The Bhutto Complex
by Informed Comment Global Affairs (reposted)
Tuesday Sep 25th, 2007 10:29 PM
From a Tuesday, September 25, 2007 entry on Informed Comment Global Affairs, a group blog run by Juan Cole, Manan Ahmed, Farideh Farhi, and Barnett R. Rubin
I have led an unusual life. I have buried a father killed at age 50 and two brothers killed in the prime of their lives. I raised my children as a single mother when my husband was arrested and held for eight years without a conviction -- a hostage to my political career. I made my choice when the mantle of political leadership was thrust upon my shoulders after my father's murder. I did not shrink from responsibility then, and I will not shrink from it now.
- When I Return to Pakistan, September 20, 2007

Why do you think that the U.S. seems to have a harder time with women at the highest level of power than other countries?

In a country like Pakistan or India, when a charismatic leader dies, people are not sure that the traditions he symbolized will continue?there?s a lot of illiteracy and there isn?t the same access to information. So they tend to transfer allegiance from a male leader to a female descendant, in the hope that his policies will be continued. But in Westernized societies, it?s a little different, because people have greater education and greater access to information?they don?t have the same need to be sure of the message of the leader.
- Nurturer-in-Chief: Advice for Hillary Clinton from the former prime minister of Pakistan, October 1, 2007.


On April 4th, 1979, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the overthrown Prime Minister of Pakistan and the father of Benazir Bhutto, was hanged by the State of Pakistan under the military dictator Zia ul Haq.

Zulfiqar Bhutto was an incredibly charismatic and popular leader [known for his fiery presence at the U.N. as Pakistan's Foreign Minister] but he was filled with contradictions. He was an intellectual who came from landed elite. He was schooled in the best of places and was bourgeoisie yet claimed to speak for the people with socialist convictions. He rose to prominence not from the mass politics but from the inner halls of bureaucratic power under the dictator General Ayub. When he became the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, in 1963, he wanted Pakistan on the forefront of Islamic countries and South Asia instead he stoked the fires in Kashmir. He hated the military but all of his best friends were military men. He was the most trusted man Ayub had but, in 1969, he created the political party [PPP - Pakistan's People Party] which toppled Ayub. He made industrial and land reform but the only beneficiaries were landlords and industrialists. He gave speech after speech on the terrors of landholding exploiters of the people. He was a landholder and courted them landholders as his base. He promised 18 acres of land to each peasant and they got, well, nothing. From 1972 to 1977, he shaped Pakistan in his fractured image. More than anything, it was his death which came to symbolize the realm of political power in Pakistan.

Zulfiqar Bhutto was a popular PM. Perhaps, the most popular figure in the history of the nation. After his execution and Zia's long tenure of military dictatorship, Benazir Bhutto emerged as the hope of millions and the spearhead for democracy. The day she returned to Pakistan for the first time in 1986, those millions turned out to welcome her. The cult of personality that had built up around her father, herself, her brothers, her uncles, grew larger and larger but her tenure was just as maddenigly contradictory as her fathers. She courted the Islamists as much as she let the Army dictate her government. She tried to be the voice of feminism and modernity yet failed to do anything substantial for the rights of women and minority in her nation.

Benazir Bhutto is reportedly working on a deal that will bring her to power in Pakistan in companionship with Pervez Musharraf.