Asif Ali Zardari Purging Benazir Bhutto’s Legacy, London Times, August 30, 2008

This dispatch from the London Times is a sad commentary on Pakistan, a country that has been pulled between coups and sporadic emergence of democracy.  Pakistan is also a country where both the civilian political elites and the military have been indulging in an endless competition for ineptness and corruption.  

The latest dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, was forced to resign under the threat of humiliating impeachment.  That left two uber-thieves, Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharief, in charge of a ruling coalition.  Zardari heads Pakistan’s People’s Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharief is the chief of the Muslim League (ML-N).

Zardari is better known as “Mr. Ten Percent.” According to reports, while serving as minister for investment and environment when Benazir Bhutto was Prime Minister in the early 1990s, he demanded and was paid a ten-percent payoff (or bakshish in the South Asian lexicon) from foreign contractors doing business in Pakistan.  Nawaz Sharief has been similarly accused of stealing money from the Pakistani treasury. 

The sad reality about Pakistan is that after freeing itself from the death grip of Musharraf, it is stuck with the option of choosing between the leadership of Zardari and Sharief.  Zardari’s sole claim to fame (aside from being known as Mr. Ten percent) is that he was the husband of Benazir Bhutto.  During the last months of her life, he was living with his girlfriend in a separate residence, while Benazir was scurrying around to make a deal with the U.S. so that she could return to Pakistan and run for office.  She succeeded in attaining that objective only to become a victim of the maddening spirals of terrorism. 

After her death, Zardari created the façade of mourning for the loss of his wife only to emerge first as the guardian of their son, Bilawal Zardari (whose name was changed to Bilawal Zardari Bhutto to lay claim to the legacy of his fallen mother). However, since Bilawal is only 19 years old, Zardari, in the interim, conveniently decided to become the active head of the PPP and to run for the presidency of Pakistan for which he has absolutely no qualifications.

The future of the coalition between the PPP and the ML-N is uncertain, since Sharief decided to break it on the issue of the reinstatement of judges.  In fact, in view of this petty squabble between two megalomaniacs of Pakistan, the future of that country appears quite bleak, with the Taliban and the al-Qaida nexus becoming increasingly active in the areas bordering Afghanistan. 

It was not enough for Zardari to become the chief patron (using the vocabulary of Pakistan’s rotting aristocracy) of the PPP.  Now, according to the London Times story, he is busy purging the top advisers of Benazir. 

Whatever is the real reason underlying his purge, the most disconcerting problem is highlighted in the following passage of the London Times dispatch: “Despite growing concern at his leadership, Zardari’s chances of becoming president improved last week after the army signalled that it would stay out of the contest. Speculation that the army might interfere had grown after medical records revealed that Zardari had suffered mental problems after his years in jail and exile.”

 Read London Times article…

The Birth Pangs of A Multipolar World Order

The confluence of the waning months of the Bush presidency–when the lameduck factor is looming large– the continued insistence of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the U.S. set a timetable of withdrawing from Iraq, the Russian invasion of Georgia, and the forced resignation of General Pervez Musharraf–President Bush’s favorite strongman in Pakistan–are creating a new buzz globally.  That buzz can be highlighted along the lines that “Washington is forced to watch other powers shape events,” that a superpower is reborn (in reference to Russian military action against on Georgia), that a new world order is emerging, and that America’s decline will not easily be reversed.


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The “End” or The “Return” of History: When Will History Make Up Its Mind?

There is something imprudent about strategic thinkers when it comes to history.  For some reason, for some of them, it has to come to an end when an idea experiences a temporary–but significant–success.  But when that idea appears to fail, they make an equally rash extrapolation, and start talking about the “return” of history.  Francis Fukuyama became ebullient regarding the “end” of history when the Soviet Union–the archetype of communist totalitarianism–collapsed.  For him, the triumph of liberal democracy in a dialectical sense was an end of history, where no idea emerged as a superior one.  Robert Kagan, in his new book, The Return of History and the End of Dreams, argues that history did not come to end when the Soviet Union imploded or when the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989.  The triumph of liberal democracy–which then appeared as a shining example of success–proved illusory.  In this sense, he sees a “return” of history.  The end of dreams might be another hasty conclusion regarding the sustained survival of autocratic regimes.


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