Thursday, January 03, 2008

Well, it worked for JFK and Lincoln... why not Bhutto? An AP article sheds light on Bhutto's "mixed legacy." Since my Pakistani history is a little shoddy, I'm going to quote the article:

Bhutto's tenure as prime minister certainly helped open doors in Pakistan's male-dominated society, they say. But it was also sullied by the allegations of corruption, dirty politics and unfulfilled promises that have dogged the rule of every Pakistani leader, male or female.

"Yes, of course there was some symbolism in having a women as prime minister," said Aysha Iqbal, a 23-year-old business student in Lahore.

But "she was prime minister because her father was prime minister," Iqbal continued.

There's been Indira Gandhi in India; Sirimavo Bandaranaike and her daughter, Chandrika Kumaratanga, in Sri Lanka; Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia in Bangladesh, and, of course, Bhutto, who twice served as Pakistan's prime minister, between 1988-1990 and 1993-1996.

Every one of them rose to prominence after the death of a male relative — no coincidence in a corner of the world where family often dictates one's occupation, be it as a street sweeper or a prime minister.

In Bhutto's case, she took the leadership of the populist Pakistan People's Party founded by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged in 1979 following a military coup. She then led the party to election victory.

"She was our heroine at the time," said Zareen Ahmed, chief of the British Muslim Forum, whose family comes from Pakistan. "We all crowded around the television at our house here and we were all very proud of her. For young women like me, she gave us hope."

Bhutto was young and glamorous, a graduate of Harvard and Oxford who could campaign through Karachi slums as

And, early in her administration, there were advances for women in Pakistan.confidently as she had graced the salons of London and New York.

But Bhutto also picked up all the baggage that came with running Pakistan, a largely impoverished land that was — and still is — in many parts near-feudal.

She became the center of a vast patronage system, dealing in political debts and working with a network of old-timers whose issues became her issues. Overshadowing everything was Pakistan's powerful military and intelligence establishment.

Women's rights took a back seat, and Pakistan remained as corrupt as it had been under her predecessors, perhaps even more so. Her husband, whom she wed in a traditional marriage arranged by her mother, quickly earned the nickname "Mr. 10 Percent" for the tens of millions he is alleged to have taken in kickbacks.

"I think Western feminists want to view Bhutto and the other women leaders as pioneers," said Muneeza Rashed, 38-year-old woman in Lahore.

"But they're not. They're more like throwbacks to the men who came before them. They practice the same kind of old-boy politics. Helping women is secondary for them," she said.

Under Bhutto, most Pakistani women still lived the impoverished, home-bound lives they had lived before. Girls still went uneducated while their brothers were sent off to school. And those women who endured the tragedy of being raped still found themselves contending with laws that discriminated against the victims of sex crimes — laws that would only be changed years later by President Pervez Musharraf, who came to power in a 1999 military coup.

"In many ways women benefited very little under her," said Unaiza Malik, 64, who was born in Pakistan and now works with the Muslim Women's Society in London.

"It's only in death that she will become an icon — in some ways people will look at her accomplishments through rose-tinted glasses rather than remembering the corruption charges, her lack of achievements or how much she was manipulated by other people."

Sorry to quote so heavily, but I was definitely one of those "Western feminists" who didn't know enough about it. Figured I should let the people who know what they're talking about speak.

1 comment:

Andy Swan said...

Nepotism trumps sexism every time :)

Good read...thanks for sharing.