Published December 24, 2008

Benazir’s Policy to Pakistan’s Problem

 By: Asma Amanat


 “The goal – the great hope of militants – is a collision, an explosion between the values of the West and what the extremists claim to be the values of Islam” – Benazir Bhutto 

 “Pakistan under military dictatorship had become the epicenter of an international terrorist movement that had two primary aims. First, the extremists’ aim to reconstitute the concept of caliphate, a political state encompassing the great Ummah (Muslims community) populations of the world, uniting the Middle East, the Persian Gulf states, South Asia, Central Asia, East Asia and parts of Africa, and second, militants’ aim to provoke a clash of civilizations between the West and an interpretation of Islam that rejects pluralism and modernity. The goal – the great hope of militants – is a collision, an explosion between the values of the West and what the extremists claim to be the values of Islam.”  

This was Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s ideology to fight extremism, rising militancy and how to reconcile a modern Islamic state with the West where Pakistan would emerge as a modern, stable tolerant state. She expressed these sentiments in her book Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West.


Her love for Pakistan was unquestionable, even moving and inspiring. While she raised her hands in prayer on October 18th, 2007, hundreds of thousands welcomed her and prayed for her success, with her. In her own words “ my foot touched the ground of my beloved Pakistan for the first time after eight lonely and difficult years of exile, I could not stop the tears from pouring from my eyes as I lifted my hands in reverence, in thanks, and in prayer. I stood on the soil of Pakistan in awe. I felt that a huge burden, a terrible weight, had been lifted from my shoulder. It was a sense of liberation...I knew what I had to do.”


And that she surely did. She had to pull the country out of chaos; she had to clean the mess created by General ® Musharraf and to lead it to the path of moderation and tolerance. She was aware that the land of pure has been corrupted with extremism because of eight long and dreary years of dictatorship - the dictatorship during which militants had gained grounds of her beloved soil inch by inch.


Today, US’s Vice President-elect Joe Biden admits that terrorism has flourished and grew during Bush regime. President Bush and General ® Musharraf, undoubtedly, were two sides of the same coin. There is an uproar in international community about the terrorist camps and non-state actors in Pakistan. Wasn’t the international community aware of these camps and militant elements when General ® Musharraf was the head of Pakistan. The root cause of terrorism, that has taken lives of thousands of people in the South Asian region, is support of dictators in Pakistan by the US and the West. In spite of its knowledge about army’s role in the northern and tribal areas of Pakistan billions of dollars were poured into Pakistan that fortified Musharraf’s military rule.


 Can the mess created in eight years be cleaned and be done with in a few months? Is it right to expect it even if there are disagreements within the country about how to tackle the situation? 66 per cent Pakistanis are against terrorists according to the recent IRI poll. Isn’t this the stance Pakistan’s diplomats should be taking to present their case to international community at a time when India is testing grounds to launch surgical strikes in Pakistan?  Unelected officials, who lack the support of masses, when put in the position of power do not care much for the aspirations of people and make decisions that they cannot sustain.

The country is at the brink of war with its traditional rival that has the world support and more resources than Pakistan can muster. According to IRI’s recent polls, people’s satisfaction rate with the government is 67 per cent. 19 per cent blame President Zardari for falling apart of coalition, 83 per cent people want judiciary to be restored, and only 19 per cent people favor President Zardari’s leadership. This is almost the same approval rating that General Muhsrraf had in his final days of presidency. And this is a wakeup call for PPP government to start working for its people. With unelected people at forefront and elected popular leaders left behind in running the affairs of the party and the country, people are bound to be dissatisfied.  General Musharraf was thought as Mikhail Gorbachev of Pakistan, now President Zardari is believed to be Pakistan’s Gorbachev. The slogan of roti, kapra, makan seems to be a far cry now.

People who had admired Mr. Zardari’s canniness in getting all parties together after February 18th elections have been turned off by him now. Furthermore, the senior members of party are embarrassed when they are asked how it feels like to have a 20-year-old Chairman after 40 years of dedicated service to the party.

The intellectual circle of Pakistan that was in love with Benazir Bhutto and accepted her as their leaders is frustrated to know that the PPP’s own government has not taken the right steps to bring Benazir’s murderers to justice. The kind of government for which Benazir Bhutto has given her life is nowhere in place in Pakistan. In the Parliamentary system, all powers remain in President’s house. The Prime Minister’s office seems to be a mockery of the parliamentary system in Pakistan. 17th amendment and 58 2(B) are intact. And Mr. Zardari is hanging on by hair to powers that General Musharraf possessed.

This brings us back to Benazir Bhutto. She probably did not have solution to Pakistan’s entire problem, but she had a clear vision of how to keep eradicate extremism; she was the one person in Pakistan who could have brought all political parties together. It was her intellect and tactic that had allowed Mr. Nawaz Sharif to be in Pakistan. Whatever faults she might or might not have had, she had charisma to present the united Pakistan at the face of religious extremism and militancy.


A year after her assassination, one of the greatest loss Pakistanis and the world could suffer from; Pakistan has surfaced as anything but stable.  Pakistanis miss her and remember her as “a leader” and not as a politician. She had sacrificed herself for the cause she believed in. She knew all the dangers and risks she was putting herself in by holding rallies. Regardless of these risks, she went out among her people -  the people she was forced to stay away from for more than 8 years. 


Benazir Bhutto was the only leader Pakistan had who could have kept the federation together in a reasonable manner. People who knew her and admire her vow that she was larger than life and was the most capable one to fight rising militancy and extremism in Pakistan. Some would argue that she was not capable enough because of not too good working relationship with Pakistani army and intelligence services. Rumors are that that army had asked for Pakistan Peoples Party in the government devoid of Benazir Bhutto.


Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and her daughter have given Pakistan what every Pakistani is proud of. Her father had initiated the Pakistan’s nuclear program in spite of warnings from the US and the West. The Daughter of the East has strengthened the defence of Pakistan by authorizing purchase of missiles from North Korea.


She knew the language the West; she understood it and knew how to counter it. At the same time she was also aware of how to protect national interests of Pakistan in the international community.


With all the criticism on how she had ruled in the first two terms as a Prime Minister, people were willing to give her a chance to prove herself once more. This is what democracy is all about and this is what she stood for.  

However, was this the Pakistan for which Benazir has so passionately returned to the country. All those in circles of power, now, were in backdrop when Benazir was alive. She must have a very good reason to keep them there, and all those who have served the party loyally in Benazir’s absence have been put on the back burner. Her murder’s investigation is of interest to everyone except those who should have interest in it. In her book she has clearly laid out how she sees the clash between the East and the West and how we can move towards its resolution. She challenged the Muslim world to look into its practices also. However she has left thousands and thousands of admirers who wish her to be alive for them. But life moves on, only questions remain. 

 Will we ever find out how the leaders of Pakistan die, starting from Quaid-e-0Azam to Benazir Bhutto?

Her fans get some solace in the fact that she is not alive to see all that has happened to her homeland and continues to happen to Pakistan.