Martyr Without a Cause

Bhutto was a brave, gutsy, secular and liberal woman. But she was a central part of Pakistan's problems, not a solution to them

Robert Nickelsberg / Getty

Bhutto on a 1988 whistle-stop tour shortly before she became Prime Minister for the first time. Although she drew support from women and the poor, she did little to improve their lives

Benazir Bhutto's assassination is a body blow to the troubled but strategically vital state of Pakistan. It removes from the scene a secular, liberal, pro-Western leader. It gives momentum to Pakistan's jihadis in their campaign to Talibanize the country, and it edges Pakistan closer toward Islamic revolution. Her death is also, of course, a tragedy for her family, including the three children she leaves motherless. But the horror of Bhutto's end should not blind us to her mediocre legacy, and it is misleading to depict her as any sort of martyr for freedom and democracy.

Bhutto's instincts were highly autocratic. Within...

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