Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan following her self-imposed exile in 1999. Ms. Bhutto, who left Pakistan following military leader Pervez Musharraf’s taking over in that country and declaring martial law. The daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was prime minister of Pakistan until he was overthrown and later executed by a military coup led by General Zia ul-Haq, Benazir represents a family dynasty similar to the Nehru and Gandhi families in neighboring India.
No sooner had she landed in Karachi, her motorcade was attacked by suicide bombers and more than 136 were killed. No one has so far taken responsibility for the bombing, but Ms. Bhutto has no shortage of enemies including terror groups like Al Qaeda, and even President Musharraf himself who condemned the bombings. That he was not present to personally welcome Benazir back to Pakistan makes many wonder if he may have been responsible. Benazir escaped this attempt unscathed, probably due to the special bomb-proof van she was riding in.
Representing the Pakistan People’s Party, a party which has been in and out of power a number of times since the country became independent in 1947, Ms. Bhutto agreed to return to her country following a promise made by President Musharraf that he would “share” power with the woman who has been his nemesis since he, like Zia before him, took over power by force and martial law. Benazir has been prime minister twice and both times had to leave office under allegations of corruption. Despite this, however, she has tried to bring an element of democracy to a country where this has been sorely lacking; resulting in a number of military coups, including the one which resulted in her father’s execution.
People living in Israel may not be taking much notice to these events; but they are important as Pakistan is a predominately Muslim country, and one in which radical Islam has a firm foothold, including terrorism. Many still remember the death of Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl, who was murdered in Karachi by an Al Qaeda affiliated terror group in January, 2002. And many people in Israel are very much aware that Pakistan is a nuclear power with missiles capable of reaching Israel. Ms. Bhutto, a highly educated and moderate politician, who went to Harvard at only age 16, and later became a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, may be able to help bring an element of moderation and religious tolerance back to a country which has been drifting in dangerous directions under Mr. Musharraf. Even though he agreed (under great pressure) to join U.S. President Bush’s War on Terror, radical Islamic fundamentalism has been rampant in Pakistan, and Islamic madrasa study centers have been notorious for indoctrinating people from all over the world (including the USA) into their version of Islam.
Many may not want to compare Ms. Bhutto to Israel’s only woman prime minister, Golda Meir, who led Israel during one of her country’s most trying periods, The Yom Kippur War. It might be prudent, however, to bear in mind that the present world situation in which Benazir Bhutto will have to deal with, should she again become prime minister, is one of the most potentially dangerous and volatile ones in human history. If she does take over the administration of her country’s affairs, and should neighboring Iran become a nuclear power as well, her western orientation and political moderation might be a counter balance to the Iranian Mullahs, and of course Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ms. Bhutto might also find a way to improve her country’s stand in regards to some kind of relations with Israel; as even low keyed ones are better than none at all.
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