“Ella encarnaba todo lo que odia un islamista radical. Laica, occidentalizada e instintivamente pro americana” [ .. ] “Creía en la libertad y la democracia” [ .. ] “Esperaba construir una democracia musulmana…”
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Telegraph, David Blair: She personified everything that a radical Islamist abhorred. She was secular, Westernised and instinctively pro-American. [Why the fanatics wanted Bhutto dead]
Washington Post, David Ignatius: She believed in democracy, freedom and openness — not as slogans but as a way of life. She wasn’t perfect; the corruption charges that enveloped her second term as prime minister were all too real. But she remained the most potent Pakistani voice for liberalism, tolerance and change. [The Legacy of Benazir Bhutto].
Time, Bronwen Maddox: Britain and the US have made these elections a central plank of their policy — even while acknowledging that these polls might not be quite free and fair. They encouraged an alliance between Bhutto and Musharraf, hoping that this compromise, democratically unsatisfactory in so many ways, would still deliver the security and political maturity that Pakistan needs. [Can democracy survive, and who will take Bhutto’s place?]
Wall Street Journal, Husain Haqqani: In her death, as in her life, Benazir Bhutto has drawn attention to the need for building a moderate Muslim democracy in Pakistan that cares for its people and allows them to elect its leaders. The war against terrorism, she repeatedly argued, cannot be won without mobilizing the people of Pakistan against Islamist extremists, and bringing Pakistan’s security services under civilian control.
Unfortunately, at the moment Bhutto’s homeland (and mine) remains a dictatorship controlled through secret police machinations. Mr. Musharraf’s regime has squandered its energies fighting civilian democrats instead of confronting the menace of terrorism that has now claimed the life of one of the nation’s most popular political figures. His administration will have to answer many tough questions in the next few days about its failure to provide adequate security to Bhutto, particularly after an earlier assassination attempt against her on Oct. 18.
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Bhutto had publicly expressed fears that pro-extremist elements within Pakistan’s security services were complicit in plans to eliminate her. She personally asked me to communicate her concerns to U.S. officials, which I did. But instead of addressing those fears, Mr. Musharraf cynically rejected Bhutto’s request for international security consultants to be hired at her own expense.
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In her two terms as prime minister — both cut short by military-backed dismissals on charges that were subsequently never proven — Bhutto outlined the vision of a modern and pluralistic Muslim state. Her courage was legendary. She stepped into the shoes of her populist father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, without much training or inclination for politics, after he was executed by an earlier military ruler, Gen. Zia ul-Haq.
She was demonized by the civil-military oligarchy that has virtually run Pakistan since 1958, the year of Pakistan’s first military coup. But she retained a hard core of popular support, and her social-democratic Pakistan People’s Party is widely regarded as Pakistan’s largest political party.
In 1988, at the age of 35, Bhutto became the youngest prime minister in Pakistan’s troubled history, and the first woman to lead a Muslim nation in the modern age. For her supporters, she stood for women’s empowerment, human rights and mass education. Her detractors accused her of many things, from corruption to being too close to the U.S.
During her second tenure as prime minister, Pakistan became one of the 10 emerging capital markets of the world. The World Health Organization praised government efforts in the field of health. Rampant narcotics problems were tackled and several drug barons arrested. Bhutto increased government spending on education and 46,000 new schools were built.
Thousands of teachers were recruited with the understanding that a secular education, covering multiple study areas (particularly technical and scientific education), would improve the lives of Pakistanis and create job opportunities critical to self-empowerment. But Pakistan’s political turbulence, and her constant battle with the country’s security establishment, never allowed her to take credit for these achievements.
For years, her image was tarnished by critics who alleged that she did not deliver on her promise. During the early days after Mr. Musharraf’s decision to support the U.S.-led war against terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11, conventional wisdom in Washington wrote her off. But Pakistan’s constant drift into extremism, and Mr. Musharraf’s inability to win Pakistani hearts and minds, changed that.
Earlier this year, the United States and the United Kingdom supported efforts for a transition to democracy in Pakistan based on a negotiated settlement between Bhutto and Mr. Musharraf. She was to be allowed to return to Pakistan and the many corruption charges filed against her and her husband, Asif Zardari, were to be dropped.
Mr. Musharraf promised free and fair elections, and promised to end a bar imposed by him against Bhutto running for a third term as prime minister. But on Nov. 3, his imposition of a state of emergency, suspension of Pakistan’s constitution, and arbitrary reshuffling of the country’s judiciary brought that arrangement to an end. He went back on his promises to Bhutto, and as elections approached, recrimination between the two was at its height.
Benazir Bhutto had the combination of political brilliance, charisma, popular support and international recognition that made her a credible democratic alternative to Mr. Musharraf. Her elimination from the scene is not only a personal loss to millions of Pakistanis who loved and admired her. It exposes her nation’s vulnerability, and the urgent need to deal with it. [Bhutto’s Legacy]