Situation following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto
Delivered in Plenary - 16th January 2008
The Economist stated recently that Pakistan is the world’s most dangerous nuclear arms state. Regrettably, in my view, President Musharraf’s commitment to fully eradicating Islamist terror has always been lukewarm at best, and his control over the ISI or intelligence services, who allegedly are in bed with Islamists, is tenuous as well. Add to that the combustible issues of Kashmir, Baluchi separatism, Al Qa’ida and Taliban activity in the North-West Frontier territories and tribal areas causing mischief for NATO in Afghanistan, and you have a country on the point of implosion.
Just as Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan offered the country a glimmer of hope, so her despicable assassination, whose culprits must be identified and punished, has taken the country back to the brink of catastrophe. A return to democracy is as difficult as ever. The assumption in the EU and the USA is that Musharraf, for all his autocratic tendencies, represents the safer bet in the war on terrorism.
Pakistan’s experience of democracy in the past 60 years has been troubled. Perhaps it is time now to abandon the hope that Western-style multiparty democracy can embed itself successfully in Pakistan, which has always been dominated by a tiny élite. It is more akin to a feudal hereditary monarchy, a fact underlined by the instant elevation of Benazir Bhutto’s 19-year-old son to the leadership of the Pakistani People’s Party, who will no doubt do very well at the imminent 18 February elections.
The apparent choice for the West between Pakistan and India is also a false dichotomy. It is a hangover from the Cold War. India, as a strategic ally, is the best hope for progress, prosperity, peace and stability in South Asia. India’s values are the EU’s values – secular democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Let us start supporting those who share our values before we try to persuade those who do not.