Democracy Will Have to Wait

Is it possible now for someone to rise up and make a serious call, for example, for Pakistan's democratization after Bhutto's assassination?

Pakistan is tough on its leaders. Benazir Bhutto's father, who was prime minister, was executed by his successor, Gen. Zia ul-Haq, who made himself president. Zia himself died in a mysterious helicopter crash in 1988, and now Bhutto, America's choice for the country's next prime minister and a symbol of democracy, was eliminated by political or religious rivals.

Pakistan is also tough on its inhabitants. The country's laws are based on Islamic law. The press is free, but the boundaries of its independence are determined by the head of state. Its parliament is lively and active - until the leader decides to dissolve it. Pakistan is also not always welcoming toward its allies. The state supported the Taliban and is undergoing an accelerated process of Talibanization. In thousands of religious schools the students learn that democracy is an evil Western invention and that foreigners should be killed, or at the very least hated.

All of this can shed light on why Bhutto was murdered. There are several options: 1. Muslim extremists, some of them allied with the military leadership, feared the democratic change she promised to bring if elected. 2. The army sought to foil her plan to subordinate it to the government, especially after it observed how President Pervez Musharraf was forced to bend to Washington's edicts and resign from the army. 3. Someone from Pakistan's "Taliban" decided that a few hundred dead was worth the head of Bhutto, who had publicly expressed her abhorrence of them. (Many years ago, by the way, she actually supported Afghanistan's Taliban.)

And then there is always Al-Qaida, who is always willing to claim responsibility for any act of terror, whether or not it was its doing. Al-Qaida is a good cover for any regime that cannot battle domestic terror, because ostensibly an international coalition is necessary to fight it, absolving individual states from responsibility.

But the aggregation of the reasons that political, military or religious agents have for wanting Bhutto dead - reasons particular to Pakistan - now play perfectly into the hands of those who continually blamed "Islam" as a whole and expressed chagrin over the country's lack of democracy. But neither religion nor a lack of democracy per se are responsible for the terror or assassinations. Rather, those lovers of authority who use them for their own needs are responsible.

Pakistan, for example, is controlled by a dictator impersonating a civilian ruler. Musharraf turned in his army uniform for an expensive tailored suit and appointed his deputy as army chief. But in effect, nothing has changed. Musharraf is presenting himself as the enemy of terrorism - a good slogan for anyone who wants to destroy his political adversaries or present democracy as a threat. The slogan also plays well in the Bush White House, which has still not decided which is better, fighting terror or exporting democracy. After all, this is the same administration that cooked up the new partnership between Bhutto and Musharraf in a bid to keep the dictator in power.

It isn't only Musharraf who believes that democracy is not the precise tool for ruling Pakistan. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, also believe in a "unique democracy" cut to the cloth of the regime in each state.

All of them can be reassured by the policies of democracy salesmen such as Bush and his predecessors, as well as Europe's leaders. On the one hand, these leaders argue that democracy is the only guarantee against terror, but on the other, they did and do cooperate with these despotic regimes as long as they serve their interests and even call them "moderate regimes."

Is it possible now for someone to rise up and make a serious call, for example, for Pakistan's democratization after Bhutto's assassination? After all, Pakistan is a nuclear state, and no one wants a nuclear bomb in the hands of an Islamic or terrorist regime, for example, that was elected democratically. We're better off with a dictator; democracy can wait.