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While Bhutto’s relationship with both the ISI and the Taliban were marked by turmoil, it is clear that Bhutto, when in power, supported both---and enthusiastically supported Anglo-American interventions.
In his two landmark books, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia and Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia, Ahmed Rashid richly details the Bhutto regime’s connections to the ISI, the Taliban, “militant Islam”, multinational oil interests, and Anglo-American officials and intelligence proxies.
In Jihad, Rashid wrote:
“Ironically it was not the ISI but Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the most liberal, secular leader in Pakistan’s recent history, who delivered the coup de grace to a new relationship with Central Asia. Rather than support a wider peace process in Afghanistan that would have opened up a wider peace process in Afghanistan, Bhutto backed the Taliban, in a rash and presumptuous policy to create a new western-oriented trade and pipeline route from Turkmenistan through southern Afghanistan to Pakistan, from which the Taliban would provide security. The ISI soon supported this policy because its Afghan protégé Gulbuddin Hekmatyar had made no headway in capturing Kabul, and the Taliban appeared to be strong enough to do so.”
In Taliban, Rashid provided even more historical detail:
“When Bhutto was elected as Prime Minister in 1993, she was keen to open a route to Central Asia. A new proposal emerged backed strongly by the frustrated Pakistani transport and smuggling mafia, the JUI and Pashtun military and political officials.”
“The Bhutto government fully backed the Taliban, but the ISI remained skeptical of their abilities, convinced that they would remain a useful but peripheral force in the south.”
“The US congress had authorized a covert $20 million budget for the CIA to destabilize Iran, and Tehran accused Washington of funneling some of these funds to the Taliban---a charge that was always denied by Washington . Bhutto sent several emissaries to Washington to urge the US to intervene more publicly on the side of Pakistan and the Taliban.”
Bhutto’s one mistake: she vehemently supported the pipeline proposed by Argentinean oil company Bridas, and opposed the pipeline by Unocal (favored by the US). This contributed to her ouster in 1996, and the return of Nawaz Sharif to power. As noted by Rashid:
“After the dismissal of the Bhutto government in 1996, the newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his oil minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan, the army and the ISI fully backed Unocal. Pakistan wanted more direct US support for the Taliban and urged Unocal to start construction quickly in order to legitimize the Taliban. Basically the USA and Unocal accepted the ISI’s analysis and aims---that a Taliban victory in Afghanistan would make Unocal’s job much easier and quicken US recognition.”
Her appealing and glamorous pro-Western image notwithstanding, Bhutto’s true record is one of corruption and accommodation.