The Pakistan Conundrum

Scott Ritter in TruthDig.com:

The secular nature of Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship disguises the fact that Pakistan as a nation was birthed in an environment of Islamic national identity. Pakistan from its inception was supposed to bring together the Muslim populations of the former British Indian colony into a viable nation state. While many of those who oversaw the formation of the new governmental structure were moderate, even secular lawyers trained in the British tradition, the overwhelming population of what was to become Pakistan traced their loyalty to a system of local elders and religious figures who more often than not referred to Shar’ia, or Islamic law, when pronouncing decisions of government. This duality is reflected in the resolution passed by Pakistan’s early leaders on the eve of what was to become the country’s constitutional convention. It proclaimed: “Sovereignty under the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty alone,” and characterized Islamic values as essential in any new government.

But Pakistan is no homogeneous Islamic state. Its roots are deeply seated in tribal, familial and ethnic realities that most non-Pakistani observers are ill-equipped to comprehend. An illustration of this can be found simply by noting that Benazir Bhutto, the martyred symbol of democratic reform, in reality sat at the head of a political party, the PPP, which was born not from Pakistani society in general, but rather from the ranks of the 700,000-strong Bhutto tribe. The Bhuttos, an ethnic Sindhi group, possess an insularity that belies the image of democratic reform embraced by Benazir Bhutto herself. An ongoing rift within the PPP over Bhutto’s successor illustrates this: Benazir’s husband, Zardari, together with her son, Bilawal, have claimed the leadership of the party, citing a controversial and challenged ‘will’ which emerged following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Neither Zardari nor Bilawal are considered to be part of the Bhutto tribe, because Zardari is of Baluchi heritage and the son is traditionally linked to the family tree of the father. It is not the history of corruption that surrounds Zardari, or the inexperience of Bilawal (a student in the UK), which the Bhutto tribe finds objectionable, but simply the fact that a political party founded by, and for, the Bhuttos is now in the hands of someone outside the tribe.

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