Round Up X

Posted by sepoy on December 30, 2007 · 6 mins read

Zulfiqar and Benazir Bhutto with Indira Gandhi
Benazir's 19 year old son, Bilawal, has been named successor to Pakistan People's Party - to keep the dynastic aspirations intact. And why not? There is no democracy outside of the party, no reason for it to exist within. One can call this a reflection of the feudal structures left untouched by many a pseudo-revolutions; one can point to the long history of the pir/spiritual guide's extension into the political realm; one can blame lack of political education and access to corridors of power for the members of PPP; and one can acknowledge that the military regimes have sufficiently retarded all venues of political legitimacy, such that there simply cannot be any alternatives to the once-future leaders - Bhuttos, Jatois, Bugtis, Sharifs. Whatever the case you wish to make, reality is that "politics" in Pakistan has, and will, remain a hereditary, charismatic domain built around cults of personalities - until and unless electoral politics takes firm roots.

The PPP will contest the elections on Jan 8th, 2008. If they are held.

The American blogosphere seems obsessed with figuring out how she died: see TPM and Dkos. Someone ought to inform them that there is no reason to even acknowledge official statements on this point. In any event, Dawn News has published photos of the assassin that should end all CSI-ish speculations.

update: Which is not to say that the assassination, the hasty removal of evidence, the lack of investigation and the clumsy attempts to hoist the blame onto someone else doesn't have precedence in Pakistan's immediate past.

A dear friend sends chilling words from Karachi:

This is to let you know that I am alright, incase you are wondering about my well being in view of the current situation in Pakistan.

I would like to say that it is a bad dream but it is not, it is a bitter reality. I have lived in Karachi for long but never have I seen anything of this magnitude.

The night of December 27 will remain etched in my memory for some time. After hearing the news about Benazir's death we shut down office early that evening and left around 7PM. I was with 4 of my colleagues who lived in the same area. After dropping one person in Gulshan-e-Iqbal we proceeded towards Gulistan-e-Jauhar (where I live. It was one of the most affected areas in Karachi which was the most violent place that night). There are 4 entry points to this area, we tried each one by one but were stopped by blaze and angry mobs burning, doing pathrao (stone pelting) and firing. After turninng away from each entry point, I thought of an alternate last option. When we reached there we ran into heavy blaze, turned around to go into another direction but after a couple of blocks stopped by another street-end closed by a heavy blaze. We stopped there just to think about the next step, all of a sudden people started assembling around the fire with batons, glass bottles and other stuff like that. The next 30 seconds were in slow motion, they were eyeballing us and then all hell broke loose. They charged throwing all kinds of heavy stuff at the windshield and hitting windows with batons. My friend started reversing the car and they kept running with the car and attacking. We went back may be half a block or so and then they stopped, may be we had reached a point after which they didn't want to proceed. It may have lasted a minute or two but man! it seemed like an eternity. As soon as they stopped we turned into the first street we saw and stopped to gather our wits. We spent the next several hours in this unknown street in an stranger's house (who was nice enough to give us refuge till the situiation got better). I finally got home after about 24 hours. On my way home last night around 11PM, the city looked liked a ghost town. Streets and even main roads were covered with broken glass and burnt vehicles were scattered all over the streets. I have never seen it like this not even under curfew. This was a horrible experience, but it could have been so much worse, they could have shot at us or use petrol bombs which were used that night to torch vehicles.

The faces I saw that night didn't seem like they were from among us, there was blind fury in their eyes, it felt like we were in enemy teritory in another country. As events have unfolded since December 27 it is definitley not just spontaneous reaction of Benazir's death; it is a well orchestrated move for anarchy and to destabilze the country. Not all of the news is out, most of the Sindh has been practically razed. Only in Karachi over 600 vehicles were burnt in less than 24 hours, in addition to this widespread looting and arson took place. Hope things get better soon.

Many others have observed that these riots appear to be orchestrated.

Stay safe, my friend. Stay safe.


COMMENTS


Bhutto’s Son to Lead Party From England « Scuttlebutt | December 30, 2007

[...] is no democracy outside of the party,” wrote a blogger on Chapati Mystery. “No reason for it to exist [...]


Avant le déluge « Europe Endless | December 30, 2007

[...] Manan Ahmed’s last post drives this home: The American blogosphere seems obsessed with figuring out how she died … [...]


bhopale | December 31, 2007

"Whatever the case you wish to make, reality is that “politics” in Pakistan has, and will, remain a hereditary, charismatic domain built around cults of personalities - until and unless electoral politics takes firm roots." Don't look further than India to negate your theories about electoral politics. Personality cult continues merrily with electoral politics, look at the Gandhis (Nehru, Indira, Rajiv, Sonia, Rahul... Priyanka has a son and a daughter, Rahul is yet to marry, so the future is taken care of). If you think it is only Congress, BJP chief Rajnath Singhs son Pankaj Singh contested the UP polls. Personality cult reigns supreme, as proved in Gujarat elections by Narendra Modi. Sorry for going off topic, but Indians will identify with Pakistans situation. The riot scenes are particularly familiar to every Indian.


AM | December 31, 2007

here is a purely outsider and speculative take. To the extent that modern democracies can never emerge entirely from people's initiatives but through struggles between elites and non elites - there is no way we can avoid staying tuned into the struggles between sindhi and punjabi elites and other minor players like gujaratis and mohajirs and baluchis and so on. Right now, it appears that a lot will certainly depend on what emerges from the palace politics of the Bhutto family and this will keep resurfacing in Pakistan's journey from time to time for at least another decade. It strikes me that the man to watch right is not Asif Ali Zardari although he will occupy center stage. The key figure really is Mumtaz Ali Bhutto who seems to be scripting alternative scenarios around Zulfikr Ali Bhutto Jr. For him, ZAB Jr. is the true heir to Bhutto's legacy both in terms of democratic aspirations and in terms of patrilineal continuity. His first move was to reconnect with Ghinva Bhutto some months ago, and now immediately after Benazir's assassination build on the fact that by custom it fell on ZAB's shoulders to lower Benazir into the grave. He is trying to weave all the marginal actors in the family into the script he has just managed to arrange a rapprochement between Sanam and Ghinva. The idea it would seem is to build a layer of protection and mentorship around Zulfikar Ali Bhutto -- with three women of the family -- sanam, Ghinva and Fatima -- all three of whom dislike Asif Ali Bhutto and probably somewhere see Bilawal Zardari as an interloper -- auntly and sisterly affections notwithstanding. Right now is not the time to openly challenge Asif Ali Zardari, he is more dangerous than ever, with enough control over the party mechanisms. The trick is to keep the place warm -- gain access to power centers in the party without threatening Asif Ali Zardari such that when the time is ripe Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Jr. can step in to do the right thing. But what will all this mean to democratic aspirations of ordinary people ? How should democratic movements relate to these palace intrigues ? Mumtaz Bhutto is at the end of the day a sardar. His instincts powerful as they are and sensible as they may be will always be for the internal wrangles of clan politics. Under his tutelage, and through him, both Fatima and zAB Jr. will gain access to power but precisely because it is through him that they will find themselves trapped into power dynamics very similar to those in which Benazir Bhutto found herself when she first became prime minister. I hope, I mean really hope that Fatima Ali Bhutto does not get entangled in these politics and remains a journalist for another decade. That is the only way someone from a family like that can lose their sense of personal entitlements and begin to understand the entitlements of ordinary people.


Global Voices Online Pakistan: Benazir Bhutto’s legacy | December 31, 2007

[...] Chapati Mystery takes this line of reasoning further, and talks of the element of fedualism in the political realm in Pakistan. Where powerful families ensure that they remain in power, without letting leaders from other backgrounds emerge. There is no democracy outside of the party, no reason for it to exist within. One can call this a reflection of the feudal structures left untouched by many a pseudo-revolutions; one can point to the long history of the pir/spiritual guide's extension into the political realm; one can blame lack of political education and access to corridors of power for the members of PPP; and one can acknowledge that the military regimes have sufficiently retarded all venues of political legitimacy, such that there simply cannot be any alternatives to the once-future leaders - Bhuttos, Jatois, Bugtis, Sharifs. Whatever the case you wish to make, reality is that “politics” in Pakistan has, and will, remain a hereditary, charismatic domain built around cults of personalities - until and unless electoral politics takes firm roots. [...]


sepoy | December 31, 2007

bhopale: I agree. Hence the photo of Zulfiqar, Indira and Benazir, in the post.


misanthrope | December 31, 2007

In your article you write: "Many others have observed that these riots appear to be orchestrated." But the article you link to says: "It has been observed that most of these plunderers comprised youth between the ages of 13 to 17. These young men were apparently apolitical, but took advantage of the situation and further increased tension in the city." So where is the 'orchestrated' plot? The looting and arson was definitely the worse I've seen in all my time in Karachi. But this was not really the result of some kind of plot as much of a conscious decision by the military and paramilitary forces to delay their deployment in the streets in order not to further inflame angry PPP supporters.


Akbar | December 31, 2007

Re "politics” in Pakistan has, and will, remain a hereditary, charismatic domain built around cults of personalities - until and unless electoral politics takes firm roots. […] I appreciate this blog for puttiing things in perspective. Just to broaden the discussion outside the subcontinent. How do you explain the 4 years of Bush Sr, 8 years of Clinton, 8 years of Bush and yet another Clinton looming large on horizon as front runner?(In highly educated, nation of 300 millions, it seems limited pool). In USA electoral politics has taken roots. I sit a phenomenon of our time , where eastablishments can only deal with trusted Brand name POLITICIANS and Legitimacy starved dictators?


sepoy | December 31, 2007

Akbar: The point isn't that the cult of personality disappears, it is that electoral politics at least provides a venue for others to step up. To broaden the analogy, the Rockefellers have been and will remain super filthy rich. Except capitalism allows Gates, Jobs and Sergeis to continually emerge. And, as an aside, Bush lost the popular vote in 2000.


Desi Italiana | December 31, 2007

Forgive me for this entirely irrelevant point, but I couldn't help but notice that Pinky Aunti is wearing a sari...


Raymond Turney | January 01, 2008

Your point, against Tariq Ali, that at this point politics in Pakistan is "feudal" and "charismatic", and that the PPP cannot be expected to change now, would seem sound. I'm hoping that Bilawal and Zulfikar Jr. will recognize that with Mumtaz and Benazir Bhutto both dead, that maybe it would be wise to settle the feud and open up the PPP to new leadership. It would reduce the payoff for assassinating either of them. This would also open it to addressing some of Pakistan's real needs {more money for education, improved rail infrastructure, etc}. With a lot of luck, maybe even peace with India. Democracy is good, but have a developed country and a democracy is better. What do you think of Ayesha Siddiqa's Military Inc? I have a blog full of random speculations about Pakistani politics at: http://rememberjenkinsear.blogspot.com/ Ray,


Akbar | January 08, 2008

Published on Tuesday, January 8, 2008 by The Boston Globe Dynastic Politics at Work by H.D.S. Greenway