- Benazir provides guidance in these troubled times
By Mustafa Baloch
On 3 July 1972, the Simla Accord” between Prime Minister of Pakistan Z.A Bhutto and his Indian counterpart Indira Gandhi that turned out be a triumph for the former, as he successfully negotiated for the return of Pakistani territory lost in Western wing during the 1971 war, and convinced Indira to repatriate 90,000 Pakistani POWs. All this with establishing Line of Control (Loc) in Kashmir, and resumption of trade. During this he was accompanied by his young daughter who silently observed all negotiation tactics of her father. She was hardly aware that 16 years later she would be talking oath as PM herself. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s struggle was not easy; she had to walk through a rough trail, her life was devoted to her father’s mission and she had to face multiple obstacles facing the patriarchal political system and merciless dictatorship of Zia.
So what was the Benazir doctrine? It was bold but not vengeful!. It was anti-dictatorial but believed in strengthening the military and defense system of Pakistan. It advocated restoration of democracy while doing politics of inclusivity and co-existence in the region.
She was a born leader exhibiting all the traits a leadership should have, something she inherited that started to reflect at Oxford with strong grasp on debate and later being elected as President of Oxford Union. She showed all the signs of leadership since student politics days with an impeccable debating and communication career.
“I never chose politics, politics chose me” said Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, something which Bilawal often quotes when asked how it feels to be in politics when he could have easily opted for a better and safer career. Mohtarma transformed the anger and anguish of her father’s loss into courage and determination, being a woman she had to face multiple challenges as all the responsibilities of the PPP almost unavoidably shifted on her shoulders She knew it wouldn’t be easy as the power corridors which didn’t spare her father won’t give her a walkover.
Revisiting the history is a need of the hour and if we do that then there is only one way for stability and that is to adopt the Benazir Doctrine for a peaceful, non-polarized and economically stable Pakistan where political dissent is faced in a democratic way keeping personal differences aside. Today when Zia, Musharraf and Ishaq Khan are irrelevant, the Benazir Doctrine continues to be timeless and emerges as a beacon of hope for a better, brighter and tolerant future
Things got even harder as the years passed, soon she had to onboard one of the heaviest and most painful journeys of her life, that to bring back the dead body of her younger brother Shahnawaz Bhutto who died under mysterious circumstances in France. But her wisdom helped her in revamping the party as she gathered all the hardships into her strength. The 28 year old daughter of Bhutto brought all the mainstream parties on loop and formed the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) against Zia. The MRD gave tough time to Zia especially in 1983, and when he got himself elected President in a dubious referendum.
On her return to Pakistan on 10 April 1986 in Lahore she was welcomed by millions, in the biggest turnout in the history of Lahore. In 1988 she won the general elections, formed federal government and became the first woman Prime Minister of the Muslim world. When she came to power in 1988 after a prolonged struggle she opted for smooth democracy as she never believed in revenge and personal vendetta against the opposition which gave her and her party a hard time during the 11-year dictatorship of Zia-ul Haq. As a Prime Minister she faced President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, another Zia remnant, who from day one was intriguing against her elected government and was openly supporting a king’s party, the IJI, to rattle her regime and ultimately using the infamous tool of Article 58-2(b) for dissolving her government on flimsy and concocted allegations.
When Pervez Musharraf was calling the shots she was in exile for the second time in her life while her husband was incarcerated in Pakistan and her party was in opposition, but she flew back to her homeland despite death threats by the militants. Indeed she was the force behind the revival of democracy in Pakistan twice. Being a woman she did wonders in the field of democracy, her iconic personality and charisma brought attention to Pakistan internationally. Above all she stands tall in the history as the only democratic leader who defeated two dictators.
Looking at the current scenario, it is the need of the hour to form a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to acknowledge victims of imprisonment, and politically motivated persecution and accountability. The commission shall also examine and identify the causes and fix responsibility and make recommendations in this regard.
NAB must be replaced with an independent accountability commission that should have zero influence of the sitting government and should investigate any malpractice impartially. Governance must be improved to help the common citizen, by giving access to quality social services like education, health, job generation, curbing price hike, combating illegal redundancies, and cutting down lavish expenditure. Above are the few relevant and burning points which need to be addressed today to bring political stability in Pakistan. Ironically some of these points are also encompassed in the Charter of Democracy that was led and formulated by Mohtarma in partnership with all democratic forces back in year 2006. Still a dream …..
Today democracy is facing major turmoil in Pakistan where a civilian tyrant is suppressing opposition, squeezing the economy and crushing the economic wellbeing of a common Pakistani, topped by inept governance. One thing Imran Khan must learn from history is that those who make peaceful revolution impossible, can make violent revolution inevitable. Today Pakistan is anxiously seeking true leadership, someone with the stature and capabilities of Shaheed Benazir, who could rescue the nation from the present defunct democracy. The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has challenged Imran Khan over his incompetence, revengeful and dictatorial politics and seeks revival of genuine democracy. PDM must be taking inspiration from Shaheed Benazir who stood firm against tyranny twice. The word democracy is incomplete without her. She sacrificed her life for her people, didn’t cut corners and stayed the course. She was a role model, an inspiration for all the young leaders out there; showing that if you stay strong together no matter how difficult the situation, the impossible can be made possible.
“Democracy is the best revenge” is one of her timeless quotes as Prime Minister that echoed during a Joint session of US Congress, just 17 years after the historic Simla Accord. A journey so eventful, a statement that encapsulates the journey she made for the larger interest of the country. She never resorted to vengeful politics but rather believed in inclusivity, something that’s still so pertinent now. She believed in an egalitarian Pakistan with a balance between rich and poor. Today when Pakistan is experiencing economic crunch and political polarization Imran Khan is adding fuel to the fire by political victimization, but can the country afford this? Well, for that revisiting the history is a need of the hour and if we do that then there is only one way for stability and that is to adopt the Benazir Doctrine for a peaceful, non-polarized and economically stable Pakistan where political dissent is faced in a democratic way keeping personal differences aside. Today when Zia, Musharraf and Ishaq Khan are irrelevant, the Benazir Doctrine continues to be timeless and emerges as a beacon of hope for a better, brighter and tolerant future.
The writer is a columnist and social activist)