Home Contact Us  

Pakistan - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#2469, 14 January 2008
Benazir's Assassination and the Future of Pakistan
PR Chari
Research Professor
e-mail: prchari@vsnl.net

Munir Ahmed Khan, former Chairman of Pakistan's Atomic Energy Commission, had a unique explanation for why Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged. "Not for the reasons people keep talking about," he said, "but because he stopped being a wadera." In Sindh, he explained, the waderas - the large landowners - are uncompromisingly feudal, arbitrary in their dealings with others, brutal with their serfs, extravagant with their wealth, and profligate in their ways. All perfectly excusable; indeed, expected of waderas. What the establishment - Pakistan's Army, landlords, and some business houses, all interlinked by marriage and self-interest - found inexcusable in Bhutto was his socialist pretensions. His efforts thereafter to exercise personal control over the Army after its debacle in East Bengal in 1971 completely alienated the establishment and catalyzed his march to the gallows.

Much the same sequence of events has led to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto who was essentially also a wadera. The establishment's angst regarding her was fuelled by her ultra-closeness to Washington, and her pledges to curb fundamentalism and to let the Americans interrogate A Q Khan, which would have unraveled the Pakistan Army/ISI role in running its nuclear Walmart. Most likely, renegade elements in the establishment, in collaboration with jihadi elements, committed the foul deed. But the complicity of the establishment is clear from their cover-up operations including no postmortem and hosing down of the crime scene, the mystery of why no flanking cars or security personnel protected her vehicle leaving the Liaquat Bagh, and the contradictory versions of how she died - gunshot, skull fracture or bomb blast - all very suspicious circumstances. The truth may ultimately emerge; but, equally possibly, the truth may remain buried forever like many other political assassinations in Pakistan.

That Benazir was no democrat is clear. She had anointed herself lifetime Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and retained an iron grip over its organization, even during her long years in exile. The party functionaries left behind faithfully carried out her dictates in her absence. These party faithful have been easily bypassed, and the PPP's leadership now stands transferred to her son Bilawal, aged nineteen years, through a handwritten will, with Benazir's husband Asif Ali Zardari - also known as Mr. Ten Percent - becoming the effective regent. All this has been accepted without demur by the PPP, it seems.

All this needs retelling to show that Benazir, leaves behind a vacuum in the PPP's political structure; this could affect its fortunes in the upcoming elections, currently rescheduled for 18 February. On the contrary, Benazir's killing could work to PPP's advantage if the empirical history of subcontinental politics is appreciated, since the Party is bound to use the "democracy's martyr" slogan to garner votes. Will this work? Only time will tell. Nawaz Sharif, leader of the rival Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party, stands disqualified on several counts. His party, therefore, is also bereft, but enjoys the shining image of having confronted President Musharraf and the Americans. Nawaz Sharif also enjoys the support of the Islamic parties. Will this work for him? Again, time will tell. The establishment's hope is that a rudderless PPP and the loyalists in the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid) will be able to cobble together a parliamentary majority. That this combine will not have any credibility is wholly irrelevant for Musharraf and the Bush administration; consequently, it might be too much to expect free and fair elections being held in February.

This throws into high relief the next question: how does Benazir's assassination affect the plans of the puppeteers in Washington with this unforeseen discontinuity affecting those plans? Washington favors the reconstruction of the troika that has always ruled Pakistan, namely a President enjoying untrammeled executive powers, an Army Chief to carry out his fiats and maintain domestic order, and a pliable Prime Minister. Benazir Bhutto had admirably served this purpose earlier as, indeed, had Nawaz Sharif, during their two brief terms in office. Both lost power when they tried to assert themselves - read, make the Pakistan Army accountable and submit to a modicum of civilian control. This continues to suit Washington given its dependence on Pakistan for prosecuting its war on terror in Afghanistan. It will support Musharraf's efforts to establish a semblance of civilian government in Islamabad, but Washington's unhappiness with the Pakistan Army's distinct lack of enthusiasm to continue the war of terror is ominous. Indeed, its extolling the merits of Gen. Ashfaq Kayani suggests that a Plan B is ready for replacing Musharraf.

India's solicitousness, therefore, about democracy being established in Pakistan is quite misplaced. It should, instead, closely watch how growing instability in Pakistan may affect Indian security, noting that the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, harboring the leadership of both the Taliban and al Qaeda, has now become the epicenter of tensions and insecurities in the world.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus

Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar

Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Obamaís New Strategy towards the Islamic State: Implications for India

Modiís Tryst with Abe

Thinking the Unthinkable: Promoting Nuclear Disarmament

The Enigmatic Case of Bowe Bergdahl

India-Pakistan Relations: Modiís Options

India and No First Use: The Doctrinal Conundrum

The Hague Nuclear Security Summit: Evaluating Major Achievements

India and Nuclear Terrorism: Meeting the Threat

Federalism: Centre as Coordinator and Adjudicator

The Yasukini Controversy: Global Implications

Can India be Cunning?

Limits of Federalism

Ten Years of Ceasefire along the LoC: An Evaluation

Technological Change and Security: Implications for India

India and the Failed States Index

India, Sri Lanka and the IPKF Debacle: Remembering 29 July 1987

Why Berlin is not Prague-II

Carnegie Nuclear Policy Conference 2013: Deterrence and Disarmament

Pakistan Elections 2013: Will things change?

India, Pakistan and the Nuclear Race: The Strategic Entanglement

India and Pakistan: The Kargil Redux

India and Pakistan: Political Fallouts and Larger Questions of the LoC Violations

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.