Emad's Blog (Under Renovation)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Benazir - Giving "Lessons of History"

Never have I sit with a blogger page open for so long, trying to write a post. Writer's block is a horrible horrible thing to happen to anyone, and I normally avoid it by simply not writing unless I am inspired enough. However, this is a compelling post that needed to be made, before Pakistan wakes up in the morning, so while Terry Pratchett did his best to completely switch my mindset over from today's events, I will try regardless to string a few thoughts along. Certainly a book can be written on this topic, but I don't feel quite so generous today! :) So by no means is this a comprehensive analysis.

I was told by a dear friend, actually that I should be careful when imparting my opinions through the blog, since a number of people don't necessarily see the boundary between my opinions and existing facts. So any value judgments herein are my opinion only although I feel that in some ways they represent the views of a typical Pakistani from my age and socioeconomic group.

So here's a brief intro to someone that's stealing a lot of airtime (although allegations of theft move way beyond just airtime) - Benazir Bhutto, popularly known as B B. A lot of people have been asking me how I, as a Pakistani feel about her, especially in the current political context.

As customary, I'll start off with a bit of history. Benazir, is the daughter of an extremely popular prime minister from the 70s, named Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. In the coup led by General Ziaul Haq, then, Bhutto was given the death penalty for certain alleged crimes. Controversy remains to date on the validity of the offences. In his time, though, Mr Bhutto - aided by his charisma - aided the development of an active civil society, and in doing so became the leader of the largest political party in Pakistan: The Pakistan People's Party (PPP). He is also credited to be the person that first conceived that Pakistan's defenses should include nuclear capabilities and began to pursue means to those ends, including recruitment of scientists including Dr A Q Khan. Furthermore, there is divided opinion on the part he played in the secession of Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) and so on.

Benazir, to say it quite simply, still reaps the benefits of that man's position in the minds of the people of Pakistan. Her political campaign, even her TV ads, begin with images of his speech. On those grounds, she was the natural leader of the country when Ziaul Haq died in a plane crash. She then proceeded to become Prime Minister of the country, the first woman to become head of state of an Islamic country (earned her a statuette at the Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum). She got ousted, and then returned again 4 years after for a second term, which ended with the same fate wherein the President of the time, a member of her own party, disbanded her government on severe corruption charges. Her husband was jailed and she went into self-exile. Reports say that during the course of her second term, some modest estimates of her embezzlement are around USD 1.5 billion plus billions in real estate around the world and in Pakistan, case for which still remain in Pakistan and in a number of other countries including Switzerland.

Following Musharraf's coup in 1999 she began fighting in the name of democracy since a big blow had been delivered to her political career through a provision in the constitution that was passed by the Musharraf government limiting number of terms that one can be elected Prime Minister. However, she struck a lucky hand recently with a potential deal with the Musharraf government which is clearly backed by the US and their plans for 'moderate leadership' in the country. There's also a National Reconciliatory Ordinance that was forwarded by the government, that gives general amnesty to all politicians for pending legal cases from 1986 to 1999. I find that extremely shameful and hope to God that the ordinance is defeated, but details on that shall wait for another time.

Benazir is now due to land in Pakistan in about 10 hours and Karachi has been brought to a high terror alert and complete standstill.

How do I feel about it?

Well, I was collecting some view from some others (again, it's a one-sided tale - she DOES have supporters too!) -

"yeah that liar is coming to pak be careful tomorrow" - Friend in Dubai

"b b is gona be bak , no one showz there guns anymore, no muslim shall participate in suicide bombs anymore, no sindhi will be discriminated anymore, no supreme court will give justice anymore, celebrate :S" - College Friend

"When Zulfiqar Bhutto was around, I would drop all else to support him. I even broke all curfews and joined the masses that supported him when he was overthrown, with a PPP flag and a painted face. And then I supported his daughter, for she was his daughter. Today, I am ashamed I did so and I hope that her supporters realize that her father is long gone and she isn't doing any justice to his legacy" - Dad


But that's not what I am currently thinking about right now. What's still eched in my mind is the images of a press conference she held in Dubai a few hours ago. Cutting through the political gibberish about how she will help the poor and bring employment bla bla, it had some very clear facets of 'Let's impress Uncle Sam' with her support of Musharraf and Pakistan's stance in the War on Terror (She was in Power during the government's support of Talibans during the early 90s). She also voiced views on Dr A Q Khan being handled by the US, who's alleged with claims of nuclear proliferation when every Pakistani Tom, Dick or Harry knows that he was a scapegoat in a government backed plan, which her government was an involved in as any other.

What really surprised me even for someone I clearly don't hold in much high regards, is when she mentioned how unfair things are in Pakistan for people from different provinces, particularly from Sindh and Punjab. She bellowed about how Sindhis were mistreated and the Punjabis were given exclusive rights in all arenas of social, political and economic life. Now, for a second, even if we were to hypothetically believe that this was in fact true, I am appalled by the idea of someone that aims to run for Federal Government, let alone for the highest office to be harboring and fueling such sentiments. Shame!

Times like these one does wish that politicians' political records and stances were more clearly visible to all segments of the voting society (refer to a previous post on voting patterns), although the media is getting better at that job now, and that while giving us all "Lesson of history" today, she'd reflect a moment to learn some of her own. Unfortunately, for every inhabitant of the 15 million strong city of Karachi, the next few hours mean complete shutdown of life and prayer and hope that the overzealous supporters and opponents of Ms Bhutto don't decide to voice their opinions in gunpowder.

It's not the 16% I'm worried about, it's the sad state of the 41% that are immersed in apathy.

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3 Comments:

  • Emad, thank you so much for this post! Bohat dilchusup! It helped me understand much better the political situation in Pakistan.

    Before you wrote this post i had a chat with a Pakistani friend here and he expressed exactly the same opinion about the political scene.

    As you said, hopefully today will be a peaceful day in Karachi.

    Keep us updated,

    Delia

    By Anonymous Delia, At 18/10/07 12:16  

  • Spoke to soon, eh.

    By Blogger eMad, At 19/10/07 03:53  

  • dude,

    thanks for that brief history behind bb. been following the events here in toronto and it seems much of the vocal pakistani community here voices the same sentiments.

    continue to keep you lot in my mind!
    marina

    By Blogger Marina, At 20/10/07 22:27  

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