Winthrop University history professor Ed Haynes specializes in India, Pakistan and the South Asia region and has taken at least seven trips to Pakistan.
The death of Pakistani opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto marks the end of many people's hopes for democratic change in a country whose political history is riddled with violence and marked by military rule, he said.
Haynes shared some of his thoughts Thursday about what's happening in Pakistan and why it matters:
On Pakistani elections:
Elections have been held in the past but were somewhat of a sham, and Haynes said he initially thought elections scheduled for January wouldn't be any different. Then Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif came back to the country.
"That was a very brave act on the part of both of them," he said. "When Benazir came back, when Nawaz Sharif came back, it was my assumption that it would end somewhat the way it has. Neither one was popular with the army. Neither one was popular with the religious communities. The religious communities would be willing to do something about it, the army that ran security might be willing to look the other way and let it happen.
"Benazir Bhutto is not exactly the cleanest politician, but she proved herself to be incredibly, incredibly brave."
If free and fair elections ever did take place in Pakistan, it could produce an al Qaida government, he said.
"Bhutto represented much more secular government," he said.
On what people in Pakistan thought off Bhutto:
Haynes said Bhutto made a lot of friends and a lot of enemies as a politician.
She was extremely popular with the rural and urban boor, the kind of people who don't speak English and aren't quoted in The New York Times, he said.
Some of her popularity carried over from people who liked her father, but she also had a socially progressive economic policy.
"She was concerned about the welfare of the poor and the generally powerless," he said.
On why the average South Carolinian should pay attention to her death:
"It means that his sons and daughters (in the military) are going to be spending much more time in Afghanistan than they had planned and that they may be spending more time in Pakistan," Haynes said.
Pakistan and Afghanistan share a long border. Many Taliban and al Qaida members are believed to be going back and forth between the two countries.
"Suggestions have been made that Osama bin Laden has been spending time in Pakistan," he said.
On what might happen now:
"I think it is highly, highly unlikely that elections will go forward," Haynes said.
Even though President Pervez Musharraf has taken off his military uniform, he still essentially holds a one-man undemocratic rule over the country.
"I would suspect fairly large violence and demonstrations to break out in the country," Haynes said. "I would not be surprised to see Musharraf have to impose martial law."
Bhutto represented hope for restoration of democracy and the end of military rule, he said.
"That feeling of loss, of betrayal, most people are going to act that out in some form or another."
Jessica Schonberg • 329-4072