We have warned about this: Blatant U.S. support for Mrs. Bhutto is an open invitation for anti-U.S. terrorists to kill her. She knew this but played along. Despite the image of a daring democratic warrior, she never would have returned to Pakistan if not for Washington’s nudge. Just this week, she openly supported American accusations against Pakistan about ‘wasting’ $ 5 billion in U.S. aid, allegations that drew unusually strong rebuke from her own country. With her death, Washington’s plans for regime-change in Pakistan lie in complete tatters.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—In 1988, the United States actively helped Benazir Bhutto’s rise to power in Pakistan. Nineteen years later, Washington has seriously botched a second attempt. Mrs. Bhutto is killed in the process.
In 1988, the American preference was firmly conveyed to Islamabad but remained confined to diplomatic channels, never made public. This time, however, the unconcealed and very blatant support by the United States for Mrs. Bhutto did not go unnoticed and might have marked her for assassination.
Rightly or wrongly, people inside and outside Pakistan got the impression she was ‘America’s choice’ at a time when anti-Americanism is at a peak in Pakistan and worldwide. Mrs. Bhutto became the latest and the highest-profile target for many people on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border who believe it is payback time for the Pakistani government and, most importantly, for the United States.
Mrs. Bhutto’s transformation in Washington – in less than a year and a half – from a failed politician into a democratic icon, is mind boggling. It also raises questions as to why Washington was so eager to install her in Islamabad despite her record and despite the legal ban on third-time premiership.
For an entire decade, Mrs. Bhutto was ignored by the American media and political elite. The U.S. media had documented colorful stories about the ineptitude of Mrs. Bhutto’s two administrations during the 1990s.
By mid 2006, there was a sudden change of heart in Washington. It coincided with a gradual increase in American criticism for Pakistan, a concerted U.S. media campaign portraying Pakistan as a country ripe for American military intervention, and unwarranted focus on the Pakistani nuclear and strategic arsenal. There was open talk about Washington contemplating regime-change in Islamabad after what appeared to be Pakistani leadership’s refusal to play ball on China, Iran, and Afghanistan.
The last one, Afghanistan, has recently become a staging ground for cross-border, state-sponsored terrorism inside neighboring Pakistan, further fueling Pakistani suspicions about Washington’s real intention for Islamabad.