Cyber Coolie

Insert statement about high-minded discourse

Bhutto and her newfound American audience

Posted by chakrabarti on August 20, 2007

Fascinating article in the Washington Post from veteran scribe Robert Novak. He writes about Benazir Bhutto’s seemingly imminent return to Pakistan in this election year. Apparently, networks and newspapers that have been studiously ignoring her for years are now queueing up for every soundbite on the situation in her country, and the all-important deal with Musharraf that would allow her to return, thus restoring a modicum of credibility to a discredited military regime. A regime that been boxed into a corner by civil society on the one hand (lawyers especially, after Musharraf tried unsuccessfully to oust a not-so-supine Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), and Islamic fundamentalists on the other side, who are none-too-happy that their decades-long honeymoon with the military has come to an abrupt end, thanks to American pressure.

Interestingly, Novak says the White House is playing a behind-the-scenes role in reconciling this odd duo. Not in the interest of Pakistani democracy, of course, but to keep Pakistan from boiling over, to keep it on the right side of the war against that abstract noun, “terrorism”.

While the correspondent’s account of the secret meeting between the two parties in Dubai is old hat, Novak seems to give Bhutto a pass when she claims that any future government with her at the helm shall take on radical Islamists “that brainwash our children into intolerance”, in her words. Which is surprising considering her own govt’s record of egging on the Taliban to capture power in Afghanistan back in ’96 and then offering it diplomatic recognition. Of course, this avenue of pursuing “strategic depth” had to abandoned swiftly once American bombs started raining down on the other side of the Durrand Line post 9/11.

One thing completely absent from the Novak article (and in Western media when discussing Pakistan these days)? No mention whatsoever of Nawaz Sharif, the deposed PM driven out by Musharraf after his ’99 coup. How times have changed for someone once proclaimed as Pakistan’s most powerful civilian leader.

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