Benazir Bhutto’s death is just the latest evidence of the disastrous legacy of western involvement in the country’s politics.
Pankaj Mishra in The Guardian:
Last week the portrait of Benazir Bhutto as the last great hope for democracy in Pakistan had barely received its finishing touches in the world media when it was muddied by accusations that the former prime minister had sponsored jihadists in Afghanistan and India-held Kashmir.
Neither assertion is without a measure of truth. Yet both obscure the major events that have rendered Pakistan unstable, even ungovernable, for at least two generations: the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979; the American decision to turn Pakistan into the frontline state for a global anti-Soviet jihad; and, more recently, the Bush administration’s corralling of Pakistan into the so-called war on terror.
Like many Asian countries, Pakistan stumbled from primeval chaos into postcolonial life, with an army as its strongest institution – which grew even more formidable after enlisting on the US side in the cold war. Six decades later, it is possible to see how in a less exacting climate Pakistan could have moved durably to civilian rule, as happened in Taiwan and Indonesia, two other pro-American dictatorships frozen by the cold war.
Such, however, was the scale and intensity of the CIA’s programme to arm the Afghan mujahideen that it couldn’t but retard political processes in Pakistan. General Zia-ul-Haq, who faced disgrace domestically and internationally after his execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, abruptly became a prestigious ally in Washington and London. Emboldened by American patronage, Zia brutally suppressed all opposition, which included some of the country’s greatest writers and artists.
More here. [Thanks to Michael Blim.]