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Posted by on Jan 5, 2008 in At TMV | 0 comments

Picking Up The Pieces

Anatol Lieven, over at TNI, writes about Bhutto and the future of her party:

She was a populist aristocrat, with all that means in terms of grace under pressure, presence of style and absence of substance; and her party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has long been a dynastic party, not a modern mass party with a common and credible program. For that reason it is unlikely to survive the death of the last adult and politically credible representative of the Bhutto dynasty.

In the long run, the decay of the PPP will benefit both the Pakistani army and the Islamists: The army, because it will be able to bring bits of the PPP into government through offers of jobs and patronage—something that Musharraf has already done quite successfully in recent years. This will greatly help the military to put together coalition governments which the army will control from behind the scenes.

The Islamists will stand to benefit because if the PPP decays or disappears altogether, only the Islamists will remain as a political force promising reform of Pakistan’s deeply corrupt, unjust and incompetent governing system. The PPP’s promise to do this may have become more and more obviously hollow over the years, especially during Ms Bhutto’s two corrupt and unsuccessful terms as prime minister—and this was reflected in the PPP’s decline in the public opinion polls.

All the same, the poor of Pakistan had not completely forgotten her father’s vow to bring them “clothing, food and shelter”. No other politician in Pakistan can possibly offer this with a straight face—least of all Nawaz Sharif, with his roots and support among the industrialists of Punjab. So anyone who really wants radical change (as opposed to incremental change stemming from economic growth) will now have nowhere to go but the Islamists.

It’s hard to imagine that the PPP will continue to remain a viable force under the “temporary” new leadership of Asif Zardari, the extraordinarily corrupt husband of Bhutto known as “Mr Ten Percent.” Although the future heir-to-the-throne, 19-year-old Bilawal Bhutto, is waiting in the wing, his party may well be in tatters by the time his chance at leadership finally arrives. In the meantime, the army and the Islamists look set to gain.