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Home > News > Columnists > Mohan Guruswamy

Remembering the truth about Benazir

December 31, 2007

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Benazir Bhutto's assassination in the Pakistani garrison town of Rawalpindi has resulted in media frenzy in India the likes of which we have seldom seen before. We are witnessing a process that may even end up in her canonisation as a martyr who died bringing democracy to Pakistan and a new era of brotherhood and friendship with India.

Shakespeare seems to have got it all wrong when he wrote: 'The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.' In life it seems that it's just the other way around. A very good case in point is the lamentation among our media elite, especially the ones who were her contemporaries at Oxford. Others such as the noisy fellow who went to the other major English university and some who might have met her while doing their jobs as media-persons have begun claiming a friendship with her that we will now never be able to confirm. While we must feel sorry for her as a mother, a wife, and even as a friend and be shocked at the manner of her dying, we must also bear in mind her record as prime minister and her record of hostility towards India.

A recollection of some of this would set right the balance somewhat. First and foremost is the fact that it was her government, and at her specific instance, that gave Osama bin Laden shelter in the NWFP and then inserted in Afghanistan after the Taliban took over. It was her government that fostered the Taliban, a creation of her interior minister, Maj Gen Nasarullah Babar, and with a little bit of help from Britain's SIS, armed them and launched them on the regime in Kabul. We must not also forget her record in setting up Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as a mujahideen leader, a warlord whose trail of sadism and cruelty has not been matched by anyone else in Afghanistan.

She was also the prime minister who gave the ISI the go-ahead to wage jihad on India. She was the one who exhorted the Pakistan trained and financed terrorists to 'jag-jag mo-mo han-han' Jagmohan the then governor of Jammu and Kashmir [Images], with an explicit chopping motion of the right hand across the open left palm. She was the one who shrieked 'Azadi-azadi' from across the LOC and extended Zia-ul-Haq's doctrine of death by a thousand cuts to Kashmir. Only, she wanted to greatly reduce the number of cuts. And lastly, we must not forget that she was the one who personally delivered the CDs bearing AQ Khan's nuclear bomb design to the North Koreans who in turn gave her country the medium range missiles which they now flaunt as Ghazni and Ghori, both Afghan towns whose sole contributions to history was two particularly rapacious and cruel raiders by the name Muhammad.

If this was the record of her behavior towards India, her record as prime minister vis-�-vis her own country was just as bad. She and her husband stole over $1.5 billion from Pakistan and she was facing prosecution in Switzerland [Images] at the time of her death. Her 320 acre estate in Sussex stands like a Taj Mahal as her tribute to her love for easy money and the good life. Talking about the good life, the bill for Evian water from France [Images] during her second term as prime minister totted up to a neat $6 million. It is said that she even bathed in Evian water!

Benazir Bhutto [Images] got two chances at leading Pakistan, not because of her English pals from her Oxford days, but because of her American pals at Harvard and later in the South Asia divisions of the US State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. She could tell master from poodle. Her visits to Washington were important events in the lives of her Harvard friends not just because of the warmth of her company and the fond recollections of her wit and intelligence, but more because of the great gifts of carpets and onyx that she generously parceled out.

The shrewd woman she was, I don't think she wasted her money on her Oxford pals, English and some Indians. Pinky, as she was known to her American friends and handlers, knew what won enduring friendships in Washington. Jawaharlal Nehru once said that what came between good relations between India and America was that they not only wanted to choose your friends but also your enemies. Benazir Bhutto was quite willing to let the Americans do just that. That, after all, was a small price to pay to be able to bathe in Evian water.

Mohan Guruswamy


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