Warfare continues to become more professional and dehumanized every day.

The purpose of Extraordinary Edition is being revisited for winter, headed into 2013. U.S. foreign policy, Central Asia and the Middle East remain key focal points. Economics and culture on your front doorstep are coming into focus here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Benazir Bhutto's niece on Asif Ali Zardari's presidency in Pakistan

Assassinated former Pakistani president Benazir Bhutto is survived by Asif Ali Zardari, who has taken her place as president, and also a niece, Fatima Bhutto, who is now publishing books and speaking on book tours.

In this London Evening Standard commentary, Fatima levels her criticisms clearly against a president she finds to be a threat to democracy and a collaborator with terrorist groups.

This is dated April 8 and has been appearing on sites this week that follow politics in Pakistan.

The London School of Economics published a report two months ago on Pakistan’s dealings with extremists, based on scores of interviews. It said Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari met 50 high-ranking imprisoned Taliban leaders in April 2010 to assure them of his government’s support.

Zardari denied the meeting through unelected spokespeople who struggle to present the president as a premier ally of democracy and Western interests. David Cameron’s recent lambasting of the current Pakistani government seems to fall short.

In 2010 alone, the Zardari government has allowed 70 American Predator drone flights to cross its airspace and kill its citizens (more than 200 dead, no top terrorists confirmed among the nameless victims), all the while asking the Obama White House for drone technology that he may use himself.

He has banned 500 websites — including YouTube, Facebook and Google — under the pretence of protesting against anti-Islamic material on the web, and has presided over a breakdown of law and order in Karachi so severe that 300 politicians and political activists have been murdered in the past eight months, according to human rights groups. In the past 48 hours, 45 people have been killed in Karachi following the assassination of a member of parliament and more than 100 people have been wounded.

The fact that Facebook has countless anti-Zardari groups was not proffered as a reason for its shutdown. Nor was the coincidence that Pakistan’s legal community, including the deputy attorney general, called for Mark Zuckerberg, the social networking site’s founder, to be arrested. No one bought the president’s Islam excuse — censorship by another name smells as foul, unfortunately for him.

President Zardari is considered one of Pakistan’s most venal figures. His nicknames run from Mr Ten Per Cent to the updated Mr Hundred and Ten Per Cent. Zardari has come under massive criticism for choosing to traipse across Europe via his usual five-star hotels while floods in northern Pakistan have killed upwards of 1,400 people, displaced 100,000 households and affected three million Pakistanis.

Zardari’s alleged corruption — in the $2-3 billion range, according to The New York Times — has not stopped Cameron or Obama’s governments from funding, supporting and propping up the government of a man whose legacy has been marked by political unpopularity, instability, large-scale graft and violence. The Pakistan People’s Party that Zardari took over after the murder of his wife Benazir Bhutto (my aunt) is referred to as the Permanent Plunder Party.

Zardari does not have the will or the understanding to cope with Pakistan’s escalating volatility. Just last year he said that his government was hard at work fighting “extremists from Aung San Suu Kyi to the Taliban”, mistaking the Burmese democracy campaigner for a terror outfit. How does Britain expect Zardari to fight terror when he’s not even sure of what the word means?

The longer Zardari and his coterie are funded in the billions and welcomed by democratic governments, the longer Pakistan will remain hostage to obtuse political posturing, corruption and violent instability. Pakistan and the world cannot afford much more of the Zardaris in power.

(Fatima Bhutto is a writer and author of Songs of Blood and Sword, published in the UK by Jonathan Cape. She is the niece of the late Benazir Bhutto)

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