Thursday, January 3, 2008


As predicted, commentators of all stripes are hastening to raise Benazir Bhutto to political sainthood.

"Sipping tea with her was an experience I shall never forget. She knew the
risks of returning to Pakistan, but accepted them because, "I love my country
and my people." That's something else we don't see much of today: patriots.
There are many politicians who, for reasons of ego and a need to satisfy their
own narcissism, seek power, but hide their hunger with bows toward more noble
objectives. Like all politicians, indeed like all humanity, Bhutto was flawed,
but she was less flawed and more principled than many others in her country.
Women with a husband and children don't jeopardize comfortable and relatively
safe lifestyles for what awaited her in Pakistan. True heroism is to know the
risks and to take them in spite of danger."

She has been compared to the Aquinos of the Philippines for her determination to return home in the face of danger. The comparisons continue now that the inevitable assassination has happened. But the comparison doesn't hold water:

"Sytangco, who was also Aquino's spokeswoman when she was still president,
recalled that both Aquino and Bhutto came to power in 1986 as first women
democratic leaders.
She said that while Aquino did not make any state visit
to Pakistan when Bhutto was still prime minister, both leaders met twice --
first in 1989 when they attended the centennial of Paris and in Manila when
Bhutto paid a visit on Aquino after attending a conference here.

"They both
had similarities except that Aquino was never charged with corruption," Sytangco
[Emphasis added]

Further evidence comes from those who knew her, such as David Warren:

"She was my exact contemporary, and I met her as a child in Pakistan, so let me
jump on this bandwagon. I remember her at age eight, arriving in a Mercedes-Benz
with daddy's driver, and whisking me off for a ride in the private aeroplane of
then-President Ayub Khan (Bhutto père was the rising star in his cabinet). This
girl was the most spoiled brat I ever met."

Such testimony paints her less as a crusader for democracy than as a crusader for her own power. This is bolstered by the dynastic succession of her party's leadership.

The resistance to Marcos by the Aquinos was fueled by genuine democratic fervor and religious conviction, and change was largely peacefully. Saint Bhutto? I don't think so.