Oct 24, 2007 4
If the stakes weren’t so high, the segment of above could simply be seen as an exercise in stupidity. But with U.S. engagement with Pakistan at perhaps an all-time high, both countries entering important political transitions and facing multiple intersecting security threats, the laughter should perhaps be followed by tears.
Richard Miniter, a right-leaning polemicist cum-”expert on terrorism,” appeared on the Fox News Channel’s Hannity and Colmes show Friday night (the second highest rated cable news program in the U.S.) to discuss the attempted Bhutto assassination. While the print media has extensively quoted Pakistan and South Asia specialists, H&C decided in favor of the author of related (and quite fair and balanced!) books, “Losing bin Laden: How Bill Clinton’s Failures Unleashed Global Terror” and “Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush is Winning the War on Terror.”
Producers at the most popular cable news network in the United States decided it was best for a partisan hack to brief the American public on an already critical country that recently experienced a monumentally important event. Miniter proved to informed viewers (if there were any) that he was ignorant of Pakistan save for a Wikipedia entry he perhaps skimmed before coming on the show.
Here’s a re-cap of his misadventure into Pakistani history:
Ludicrous Statement No. 1: Former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was killed “partly for corruption, but also because of political dissatisfaction.”
Correction: Though corruption is endemic in Pakistan’s politics, Z.A. Bhutto was executed after being convicted (in a questionable trial) of ordering the extrajudicial killing of a political opponent. Are corruption and political dissatisfaction grounds for execution anywhere? It’s like saying JFK was assassinated because of his extramarital affairs.
Ludicrous Statement No. 2: Next, Miniter stated that if Benazir Bhutto “stayed in her home in Morristown, NJ,” Friday’s carnage “wouldn’t have happened.”
Correction: First, let me just say that Benazir staying out of Pakistan for security reasons is a slippery slope. If she decided to postpone her return and the threats continued, her self-exile would perhaps be never-ending. BB can, however, be faulted for actions taken after her return: having an absurdly long procession and a mediocre security detail surrounded by untrained young boys who literally were guarding her with their bodies and nothing else.
But where in the world does Miniter get that BB has a home in Morristown, NJ? The Harvard and Oxford graduate has assets that, in some estimates, exceed a billion dollars. She inherited leadership of a Sindhi feudal family and Pakistan’s largest political party. Her main homes are in expensive areas like Dubai and Karachi’s Clifton area. There’s also her family feudal home in Larkana, and she presumably has access to her husband’s luxury condo in Manhattan. So why would a landed, Ivy League educated, two time prime minister of Pakistan have a home in a middle class town in central Jersey?
Ludicrous Statement No. 3: Alan Colmes, the program’s meek co-host, decided to get into the mix and asked Miniter of Benazir, “Didn’t she make a deal with Karzai to come back and have some kind of a unity government?”
A puzzled Mintier asked, “With Karzai of Afghanistan?”
Colmes attempted to correct himself, “Ah, uh I’m sorry, with Sharif.”
Mintier scored a point, informing Colmes that Pakistan’s ruler is “Musharraf.”
Ludicrous Statement No. 4: Miniter reverted back to old form, stating that Pervez Musharraf, “siezed power from Sharif, who was the same member of Benazir’s political party and that political party was suspected in the 1990s of taking money from al-Qaeda.”
Correction: Nawaz Sharif leads an altogether different party — his own faction of the Pakistan Muslim League. Sharif is a center-right politician, a Punjabi businessman. Bhutto is a center-left politician and a Sindhi feudal. They fiercely competed against one another throughout the 1990s and the bitterness remains. Miniter’s statement would be similar to saying that Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush are part of the same political party. I won’t even get into the al-Qaeda comment.
Ludicrous Statement No. 5: Mintier topped it off with this gem: “And so really the people of Pakistan have the choice between Islamists, either radical or not, and corrupt Marxists… there isn’t much of a political debate despite those ends of the political spectrum.”
Correction: Wow. Marxism fizzled in Pakistan in the 1950s. Perhaps it re-emerged in the late 1960s into the 1970s, but the tendency were co-opted by Bhutto’s People’s Party, a populist social democratic party that was overtaken by feudals not too long after its founding. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and rise of Zia bid adieu to Marxism for good.
The three major centers of power in Pakistan are Musharraf’s liberal authoritarianism and center-left and center-right quasi-democratic parties. Islamists are on the second tier along with liberal constitutionalists. Marxists are not even on the radar. That’s like calling Hillary Clinton a Marxist — wait, some already do.
Ludicrous Statement No. 6: Mintier: “even now when he [Musharraf] flies, he flies [with] a foreign air crew and foreign security force protects him, not Pakistanis…”
Correction: This is a case of the ‘Musharraf is threatened from within’ paradigm gone mad. He’s no Karzai. Pakistan is no Afghanistan. Plain and simple.
Ludicious Statement No. 7: Guest co-host Mark Steyn asked, “Who’s going to be able to re-assert Pakistani sovereignty over [Waziristan]?” Then he followed by asking, “Why don’t we just go in there when we have to?”
PS: The Fox News Channel appears on many cable television providers in Pakistan.