Bhutto and Corruption Again

For a bit more on the subject of everyone's favorite Pakistani opposition leader and her formidable record of corruption, it's worth taking a look back at this old Slate article on Pakistan written the week after 9/11 by James Gibney, now an editor here at The Atlantic. Back then he wrote:

While Pakistani political parties backed by extreme fundamentalists don't command wide support, they have built ties to Pakistan's military and intelligence services—an ironic byproduct of a political coalition forged in 1993 by that ex-darling of the West, Harvard-trained kleptocrat and former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Obviously, Bhutto's corrupt past and the problems with her administration aren't a reason not to support Pakistani democracy. They are, however, a very good reason not to make the concept of "democracy in Pakistan" identical in our heads to the political fortunes of the woman who happens to be the West's favorite Pakistani politician. That kind of approach hasn't served us well with regard to Ukraine or Georgia, and didn't serve us well in the 1990s with regard to Russia. We should understand that something like a Musharraf-Bhutto power-sharing agreement of the sort we were trying to broker before the current crisis broke out isn't a close substitute for actual democracy.

That's something to keep in mind when you read that two major Pakistani opposition parties say they won't agree to participate in elections held under emergency rule, while Bhutto's party remains uncertain. Obviously, the issue of what sort of arrangements are or aren't acceptable is something on which sensible people are going to want to defer to actual Pakistanis. But that, in turn, requires a recognition that there are multiple opposition groups in Pakistan and multiple opposition leaders, each with their own agendas. Westerners are entitled to like Bhutto more than the others if we like, but it's important not to let the fact that she went to college in the states totally obscure the existence of other Pakistani factions.