the Disillusioned kid: Bhutto RIP
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Friday, December 28, 2007

Bhutto RIP

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is clearly a very big deal. I worry that we may look back on this attack as the moment Pakistan became a failed state. Many Pakistan People's Party supporters are asking questions about the Musharraff's failure to protect Bhutto, perhaps even holding him personally responsible. This can only compound widespread anger at the regime. Attempts to remove chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry from office in March drew hundreds of lawyers onto the streets, indicating that resentment had reached well into the middle-classes.

Bhutto's assassination is hardly an unusual occurence in modern-day Pakistan. Islamist fundamentalists are engaged in a bloody, and apparently growing insurgency, particularly in the regions bordering Afghanistan and Musharraff himself has been the target of attacks on a number of occasions. Such groups can only be empowered by Bhutto's death, although they will likely have to weather some kind of military response. One only has to look across the border to Afghanistan to see how difficult it is to beat such groups in territory they are intimately familiar with.

There's nothing inevitable about state failure, but the country is surely standing on the precipice and it's a hell of a long way down. The consequences for the people of Pakistan of an upsurge in conflict are obvious enough, but the ramifications for the wider world of a nuclear-armed state in disarray ought to be troubling.

Perhaps predictably, this atrocity has encouraged the more dimwitted islamophobes who hold that Bhutto's murder demonstrates the fundamental brutality and inhumanity of Islam. The reality, of course, is more complex. What this shows is rather that the real conflict is not between Islam and the West (Christianity?), but rather within Islam. This is more complicated than the simplistic conflict between secularists and fundamentalists envisaged by many liberals, encompassing a wide range of interpretations, traditions and movements, but will shape in very important ways the world we live in over the coming years and decades. Provided, of course, we manage to survive that long.

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