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Pakistan: The Impending Showdown - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The repercussions of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto still continue to unfold. The Pakistani government has issued a statement saying that Bhutto’s death was caused by the impact of her head hitting the car roof, denying that she had been exposed to any shooting or shrapnel.

The same statement also said that a senior figure in Al-Qaeda’s leadership had claimed responsibility for the operation and that the organization had received a congratulatory phone call, which was intercepted and recorded. This is an old formula that is reminiscent of Abu Adas; the ambiguous and unknown figure who claimed responsibility for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Such upheaval and confusion paves the way for a series of alternative conspiracy theories. Fragile regimes fear those who return from exile; the regime in Pakistan collapsed following Benazir Bhutto’s announcement that she was returning, and when [Benigno] Aquino was assassinated at the airport upon arrival to the Philippines, it too led to the collapse of [Ferdinand] Marcos’s regime. Likewise, when Ayatollah Khomeini announced he was returning to Iran, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s, regime collapsed.

But the events in Pakistan are ongoing and have revealed that nothing can change this tragedy and that despotism can only breed more despotism. Just as the leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was handed down to Benazir Bhutto by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, it has now been passed on to her son Bilawal after his father, Asif Ali Zardari, turned down the offer and bestowed the position on his 19-year-old son. Zardari, at present, is facing corruption and bribery charges.

Meanwhile, Bilawal is encumbered with a responsibility that could be described as impossible, to say the least. By choosing him, his political finale will be predetermined before it has even begun  regardless of whether the aims behind his selection were well-intentioned. Bequeathal in republican regimes is what leads to grudges and the creation of seditions whilst ensuring the sustenance and growth of autocracy.

The Pakistani lesson did not end with a major showdown against the fundamentalist trend that refuses to be governed by a “woman” who would then assume general rule of the state, and similarly rejects supporting a president who advocates the “disbelievers, Christians and Crusaders”.

As for the army; it rejects any leadership in the state that has a weighty presence and that has considerable popular support among the public, and also rejects a leadership that would continue to gain more control, influence and authority in a democratic manner. Consequently, it was in the best interest of both parties to get rid of outsiders.

However; the major confrontation between the bloody extremist trend and the military despotic one still looms  and Pakistan is the ideal arena for that clash. For many long years mosques and schools in Pakistan have absorbed the extremist discourse that came from abroad but which then developed and flourished there. Likewise, for many years, the army has been allowed to gain power and influence as it expanded to encroach on all laws and customs.

Although Bhutto might rule from her grave, as her father did before her; the most dangerous role will be reserved for whoever emerges victorious in the major showdown between the army and the extremists in Pakistan today.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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