After Benazir

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  • by Frank Paynter on December 28, 2024

    What has been clear to thoughtful people in the United States since September 12, 2024 is that when crimes are addressed as warfare, when terrorism is encountered on its own terms, when the desire for vengeance trumps the commitment to justice, when adolescent leaders turn the public arena into some kind of staged action drama, when “…young American military interrogators in Iraq, in places like Mosul, Fallujah and, of course, Abu Ghraib, use 24’s screenplays as a guidebook when trying to figure out the right way to extract information from detainees,” we can destroy our culture, fragment our communities, and fight — at best — to a draw with the shadowy criminals we label “terrorists.” With Benazir’s death, the opportunity for a thoughtful restructuring of the military governance of Pakistan has suffered a huge setback.

    With this body blow to democracy in Pakistan, what is clear is that epic struggles lie ahead for its hard-pressed people. Some analysts fear the assassination will spell the end of the tentative movement towards democracy witnessed in recent months. While such an outcome will suit the military establishment as well as the Islamists, it will have dangerously destabilising consequences. As Benazir pointed out movingly in a recent interview, “people are just being butchered and it has to stop, somebody has to find a solution and my solution is, let’s restore democracy.” It was this combination of extraordinary courage and well-reasoned commitment to democracy that made Benazir stand out among Pakistan’s political leaders. Her death illustrates in stark relief the failure of Pervez Musharraf’s regime, which continues to be underwritten by the United States, to confront al-Qaeda- and Taliban-linked religious neoconservatives who are working to obliterate the last traces of democracy in Pakistan

    Yet, as can be seen from the following analysis, Benazir was enormously corrupt and her return was seen by many as co-opting the popular movement in Pakistan. Now, her death is freighted with symbolic value and the reaction to it will result, ironically enough, in the imposition of martial law.


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