Bhutto dies, and Pakistan with her

Damn. Benazir Bhutto’s dead.

I liked Bhutto. A Kennedy for the subcontinent, and twice as tragic. The best-known, the most politically statesmanlike, certainly the hottest of South Asia’s public servants (there was a time: Google for pics of her at 30.) Father, both brothers, and I believe several other family and friends murdered around her, yet even in exile she stood tall, bravely espousing democracy while retaining her values.

Yes, like any subcontinental politician, she was corrupt: it’s the only way to get into any position where you can exert influence over there. The best thing you can hope for in south Asia is that your guy is less corrupt that the alternative. At least Benazir believed in something beyond her own prosperity.

The next month will decide far more than Pakistan’s next leader: it’ll decide whether or not Pakistan continues to exist as a nation. Musharref could fall, and the Taliban could make a move, chopping out half Pakistan’s border at a stroke. Mush could continue cracking down, losing influence at home until he’s just another dictator (rather than, as of now, a slightly different kind of dictator.) Either way, Pakistan’s best shot at convincing the West it’s different is finished. (And no, I don’t think Mush was behind it; they may have been his supporters, but Mush is no Islamic Fundie. People who don’t think elections are a good idea won’t support your rigged elections!)

And the West losing an ally?! Must admit I’ve never understood the ‘allies’ thing. Our ‘greatest allies’ are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? One country with an underclass of badly-educated young males who staffed the 911 attacks, the other ruled by a mad uncle intent on keeping his military stripes AND political posts? In both of them, the biggest debate in education is about whether Koranic studies should take up most of the curriculum or all of it.

Hey, Gordon (I long ago gave up on W) They’re entitled to their independent views on the world, but remember: these people are not our friends! Respect them as such, and honour their deeply-felt nonviolent opinions, but they’re not our friends. Stop treating them as such.

And Pakistan public – I know you’re upset, but next time something like this happens, could you please handle the coffin a bit more carefully? It was tilting at 30 degrees with a loose lid while the massed crowds were shipping her body out, and there was a serious risk of a corpse resembling a discarded Saturday night kebab tipping out onto the dusty sidewalk. Remember, folks: dismembered is never a good look.

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