Benazir Bhutto, who was murdered in a politically-motivated suicide attack, was the closest the Islamic world has yet got to a secular free-marketeer as a leader. Sadly, she dressed that in socialist rhetoric and demagoguery, and instituted authoritarian policies towards the press and judiciary that helped contribute to her downfall in the 1990s. The Telegraph‘s commendably objective obituary is here. After her ineffective first premiership, many forget that her second tenure was almost Thatcherite:
Her tight monetary policy produced a dramatic reduction in the budget deficit, pulling the country’s economy back from the brink of collapse, and earning it a clean bill of health from the IMF and World Bank.
The massive inflow of foreign investment gave rise to expectations of a new era of economic development for Pakistan. Her offer of lucrative packages for foreign investors garnered contracts for infrastructure projects worth many billions of dollars. And her privatisation programme was commended for its transparency and broad ownership approach.
Sadly, her father’s socialist-inspired authoritarianism manifested itself in other areas. What Pakistan needed was a free-market, secular approach that guaranteed important freedoms. She almost delivered that, but not quite.