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Was Bhutto just a tragic victim?

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Friends say return to Pakistan was a suicidal decision

Canadian writer Mark Steyn wrote on his blog today, “She was beautiful and charming and sophisticated and smart and modern, and everything we in the West would like a Muslim leader to be - though in practice, as Pakistan's Prime Minister, she was just another grubby wardheeler from one of the world's most corrupt political classes.”

Speaking on PressTV, Jeff Steinberg, Senior Editor of Executive Intelligence Review, was rather more forgiving. “I think she’ll be remembered generally in a very positive light. Although, I must say that while some of the characterizations are obviously a bit harsh considering she was murdered earlier today, they also carry some truth.”

Steinberg sees her neither as simply a politician who may have engaged in some creative accounting practices while in office, nor simply as a martyr for the cause of democracy in Pakistan.

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Rather, he characterizes Bhutto as a victim, a tragic victim of the policies hatched up by international power brokers in Washington and London.

“I know from speaking to some people who were very close friends of Mrs. Bhutto, that they urged her not to return to Pakistan, fearing it was a kind of death wish on her part,” Steinberg told PressTV during a television interview. “But other people have said look, this was a moment of crisis for her country and clearly there was a strong push from both the U.S. and British governments to encourage her to go back and forge a political deal with President Musharraf,” Steinberg said.

They hoped, he continued, that such a deal would bring stability to a situation that was inherently unstable.

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Other analysts have suggested that Musharraf, the general/president, had lost the edge in the war on terror, and that a military option alone would not get the job done.

What was needed was a political force behind the military to fight the terrorists. And that, they say, is where Bhutto came in.

 “I think we’re dealing yet again with a strong element of delusion and misjudgment from world powers who have been putting pressure on and imposing their will on the Pakistani government for some time,” Steinberg said. “I think, in a sense, she was a tragic victim of a larger policy that was doomed to fail because it was based on an unreal assessment of the situation on the ground in Pakistan and in neighboring Afghanistan.”

Steinberg explained that in his opinion Washington and London had come up with an idea that they could create a solution to a complex and difficult problem – namely creating a governing combination in Pakistan that could also deal with the intense instability in neighboring Afghanistan.

“The fact that the frontier provinces of Pakistan are now safe havens for Taliban and al-Qaeda, all of these things make for a very difficult situation, and the idea that the U.S. could impose a package deal between a now civilian President Musharraf, a Prime Minister Bhutto, and a new American vetted general in charge of the army, was a dangerously unrealistic fantasy,” Steinberg said, “and one I think that was finally played out in the streets of Rawalpindi and Bhutto’s tragic death today.

Al-Qaeda has already claimed responsibility for the attack that claimed Bhutto’s life, but it’s President Musharraf who is finding himself the target of criticism for not providing sufficient security for the campaigning politician. 

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“There’s a lot of questions that will be asked over the coming days about the security logistics on the scene,” Steinberg said, “Its rather stunning to me that in a situation where there had been previous assassination attempts the security people would have allowed her to be standing up in the car. I saw some BBC footage of her completely exposed to a crowd of what looked like thousands of people.”  

There is little doubt that Bhutto was a target for al-Qaeda. She was considered a strong Washington ally over her recent public promises to fight the terrorist group. 

 “There is going to be an enormous amount of blame going on,” Steinberg said, “Pakistan is also a country where when a crisis occurs the military invariably steps in as one of the anchors of stability.”  

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British journalist currently based in Tehran, Iran.

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