The Bhutto bandwagon

It’s been two weeks since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan.  But it was only a matter of days before all manner of pundits crawled out of the woodwork in a rather unseemly way to talk about their personal relationship with her; she was Harvard-educated and circulated freely and comfortably among the world’s elites.  As noted in this post at Passport, the people injecting themselves into this drama run the gamut from conservative firebrand Cal Thomas to liberal icon Arianna Huffington to Washington Post gasbag David Ignatius.   There was even a parody of such reminiscences at Slate.

In case you missed it, a refreshing contrast came from our own Byron King, editor of Outstanding Investments and Energy and Scarcity Investor.  Yes, he knew her at Harvard, where she was known as “Bennie,” but his New Year’s Day reflection in the DR focuses largely on what happened in the years after their acquaintanceship:

I always wondered how Bennie Bhutto was able
to balance her inner modernism with the traditional Islam of a place
like Pakistan. In 1979, her father was indicted, tried in a kangaroo
court and executed by Pakistan’s Zia-ul-Haq. Afterward, Bennie and her
mother went through some very hard times under house arrest. Still, I
think that Bennie believed she was bulletproof because she just got out
in front of Pakistani politics and rose to become the first female
prime minister of an Islamic nation. It was not to last, because there
were too many people feeding out of the trough of sinecures and
corruption. Bennie was a threat to all of that, particularly to the
power of the Pakistani intelligence services and secret police. In the
process of trying to initiate too much change too fast, Bennie
apparently got mixed up with her own form of family self-enrichment.
That was too bad, because in some respects, Bennie became a caricature
of the feminine misuse of power, similar to Imelda Marcos and her
closets full of shoes.

spent many years living in Dubai, London and New York. She had “enough
money,” if you know what I mean. Bennie did not have to return to
Pakistan. But in October 2007, she flew in to Karachi, where she was
greeted by thronging masses that included a man who tried to hand her a
baby to kiss. But the baby was wired up with a bomb that detonated and
killed 140. This pretty much set the stage for the next few months of
Bennie’s life.

And ultimately her demise.  The assassination set off a spike in oil prices, one of several in the past couple of weeks:

Pakistan is not a world oil power, so why
did the death of Mrs. Bhutto cause oil prices to rise? Because a lot of
people in the West were hopeful that Benazir Bhutto would return to
political power in Pakistan and help to get things more under control.
Among other things, Mrs. Bhutto would probably have been more
accommodating than other leaders to Western efforts to secure
Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. And “loose nukes” are a nightmare to people
who dream of world stability. So now that Mrs. Bhutto has been
assassinated, it is all but certain that nothing like the formerly
hoped-for nuclear security will occur anytime soon. Worse, Pakistan may
be sliding downhill into its own form of revolution. And a
nuclear-armed nation in revolution is not a good thing.

the events in Pakistan lead to some sort of eruption within the Islamic
world? Really, nobody knows. So we will just have to wait and see. But
from the perspective of the Western world, and certainly the
perspective of the U.S. and its national interests, if there is going
to be a revolution in oil extraction technology, it cannot come about
too soon.

But until the revolution comes, Byron says the Bhutto assassination “highlights the importance of investing defensively and in the right kinds of sectors.”  Which is exactly what he does with his premium service, Energy and Scarcity Investor.  Through next Monday only, it’s available through a special offer — three months free.

The Daily Reckoning