Wall Street Journal 14th June 2007

"Why Bhutto and the Elites Hate Musharraf"
 
Readers of Benazir Bhutto's commentary ("Democracy for Pakistan," editorial page, June 8)
who are unfamiliar with Pakistan's history need to be aware of certain facts:

1.       As prime minister of Pakistan, Ms. Bhutto proved to be one of the most incompetent leaders in the history of South Asia and was dismissed in November 1996 by Pakistan's president for what he called her regime's "nepotism, corruption" and "mismanagement." During her chaotic administration in the mid-1990s scores of people were being murdered in the streets of Karachi every day.

2.       Her return to power, or that of her Pakistani People's Party, would almost certainly trigger a return to anarchy and open the door to a Taliban-style fundamentalist coup. Ms. Bhutto dismisses this possibility as "nonsense," asserting that "more than two-thirds of Pakistanis are distinctly moderate" in their religious views.

The same appeared true of Iranians in 1979 as well. But when Iranian liberals and human rights activists convinced the U.S. to withdraw support from the shah, just as today's Pakistani liberals are urging us to do to Gen. Musharraf, the result was Ayatollah Khomeini.

Khomeini's Tehran successors would do anything to bring a similar radical Islamic republic to power across the border in Pakistan -- especially if it meant gaining access to Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

3.       The current hatred of Gen. Musharraf has little to do with the nature of his government. His real "crime" is that he is a Muhajir, the son of one of millions of Indian Muslims who fled to Pakistan during partition in 1947. Although it was Muhajirs who agitated for the creation of Pakistan in the first place, many native Pakistanis view them with contempt and treat them as third-class citizens.

Ms. Bhutto herself, as prime minister in the summer of 1995, referred to Pakistan's Muhajirs as "rats" and said they had "bad blood." In an interview with India Today, a Muhajir spokesman responded that "we have bad blood; it was this blood that built this country."

Even for Western-educated Pakistanis like Ms. Bhutto (the scion of an elite Sindhi family), the sight of a common Muhajir like Gen. Musharraf as Pakistan's supreme power holder is intolerable. Pushing for his fall has little to do with "a return to democracy." It is far more a matter of restoring Pakistan's equivalent of Jim Crow.

4.       Gen. Musharraf has not only been a good ally for America, he has been good for Pakistan: Per-capita wealth and income have advanced significantly; tensions with India over Kashmir, which at one point in 1999 led Pakistan to the brink of nuclear war, have eased. At considerable risk to himself, Gen. Musharraf has tried to rein in the forces of jihadism and end foreign support for fundamentalist madrassas.

His regime has hardly been perfect. However, compared with the Maliki government in Iraq, its record is impressive, especially in fostering a safe, relatively open and secular Pakistan. Yet it is precisely that Pakistan that the country's liberal elites now want to put at risk, thanks to their hatred of Gen. Musharraf. Ms. Bhutto's column is not only an exercise in hypocrisy, it is a display of short-sightedness on a massive and tragic scale.

Arthur Herman
Charlottesville, Va.

(Mr. Herman is completing a full-length study of Gandhi and Churchill, which will be published by Bantam Dell in 2008.)