Democracy in Pakistan under Cloud

The homecoming of Ms. Benazir Bhutto was a long awaited event in Pakistan, which of late has been showing a yearning for democracy. The desire of a common man in Pakistan to taste the usual civil liberties was more pronounced in the background of a tussle between the military regime and the judiciary, the bloody…

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The homecoming of Ms. Benazir Bhutto was a long awaited event in Pakistan, which of late has been showing a yearning for democracy. The desire of a common man in Pakistan to taste the usual civil liberties was more pronounced in the background of a tussle between the military regime and the judiciary, the bloody events of Lal Masjid, and the feeling that the condition of large segments of masses is much exploited. On the other hand, America was arm-twisting President Musharraf to reign in extremists and was forcing on him ruthless military solutions to the problems raised by rising discontent in Pak citizens where discussions, dialogue and debate could yield better and more effective solutions.
Secret Deal
It was in the air that Benazir had entered into a secret pact with President Musharraf under the patronage and auspices of America under which she would return to participate in January 2008 elections. The general perception that had gained acceptance was that the USA had meditated between Musharraf and Bhutto as such an arrangement suited the American interests in the region. America’s additional interest in brokering a ‘deal’ between the two contenders is that Benazir is supposed to be pro-West, a secular and a liberal. After years of settlingbetween Dubai and U.K., she considered it a golden and unique opportunity to return to Pakistan as the cases of corruption against her no longer stood after the Presidential ordinance in the name of ‘national reconciliation’.
Violence Erupts
The mid-night suicide attack shattered the return of Ms Bhutto. It was only some 10 hours earlier on October 18 that she had emerged at Karachi airport. She had returned to Pakistan to lead her PPP into national elections. Soon after she boarded the specially designed truck and her vehicle edged through crowd waving the tri-colour of her party comprising the red, black and green colours. This scene of joy turned into gloom when two bombs blasted leading the country to chaos.
Intensity of Attack
The attack was not only one of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan history; it was as toll-taking as attacks in Iraq in recent years. Some people suspect the hands of pro-Taliban Baitullah Mehsud or al-Qaeda. The sound from the first explosion was like a tyre had blown out but the second one, much stronger than the first one caused people to run for safety as balls of flames, debris and dirt erupted. It happened on Shahrah-e-Faisal when the caravan was still some 12 miles away from its destination – the mausoleum of Pakistan’s founder M.A. Jinnah.
On her part she had taken due precaution as could be taken in the circumstances. During the journey of the convoy she often sat hidden from the masses sending messages on phone. The result of the attack was so devastating that in no time the streets were littered with dead bodies. The second explosion was so strong that as a consequence of this explosion, arms, legs and other body parts were to be seen everywhere over a large area. The human tragedy of blood, pain, tears, torment and trauma couldn’t be described. The explosion had claimed about 140 innocent lives within no time whose only fault was, if any, that they had come out of their homes to welcome a leader of their choice. Reports say that it was an attack by a suicide bomber. Later Ms. Benazir said that she had been informed by a friendly country of this impending bomb attack aimed to eliminate her.
Forces Against Benazir
Ghulam Muhammad Mohtarem, top security official in Sindh, suggested that Benazir’s camp got carried away celebrating her return and had not taken seriously the need for security. This apprehension was reportedly conveyed to the PPP but they got carried away by political exigencies instead of taking it seriously. It is significant that Ms. Bhutto did not blame the President or the Govt. directly but did cast some aspersion on some people in the government. She explained that she had informed the Government vide her October 16 letter about threat perception to enable the government to take appropriate precautionary measures. What arouses suspicion and lends some credence to ‘conspiracy’ theory is that street lights were off during the convoy movement. The engulfing darkness was a substantial reason for the chaos which descended post-explosion.
Benazir’s Earlier Role
It is worthwhile to analyse the support and opposition to this Oxford-educated leader who had been trained in practical ‘polities’ by her own father, late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Benazir is considered out and out corrupt by a substantial section of middle class people. Her husband Asif Zardari was popularly known as Mr. Ten Per Cent indicating that he used to have his cut of 10 per cent on the value of contracts and agreement and other instruments through which government payments were done to the contractors engaged in development work. This was eating into the developmental funds of the state. The common knowledge is that if people at the top start indulging into corrupt practices, bureaucrats and other members of government staff are encouraged to follow suit. The net result is siphoning away of government money for filling personal coffers. During her second term as Prime Minister starting 1992 onwards, Mr. Zardari’s reputation underwent a transformation; now he was called Mr. 30 Per Cent.
Collaborating Evidence
This is no mere speculation of common man in Pakistan; it is lent credence by the secret accounts in Swiss Banks and purchase of palatial buildings and real estates in London and some suburbs in the UK by the Bhutto family. It is the misfortune of Pakistan that a country brought into existence in the name of Islam has dithered from its straight path and acclaimed ideals. Though political parties and individuals at the helm of affairs there changed at various points of time but the saga of abuse and misuse of power continued. It seems Pakistanis believed the words of every leader, later to find themselves to be cheated.
prevailing Scenario
There are obviously two aspects of present political scenario in Pakistan. There is a substantial number of Pakistanis for civilian supremacy. On the other hand there is an extremist fringe which is desperate to sabotage a return to democratic rule. There is a third strong group consisting of middle class educated citizens, who wish that Islam, the cherished ideology of the State, must reflect in its policies and administration. But since they do not adopt the tactics of other more active groups resorting to violence, their voice is not given the attention it deserves. The second group, with its extremist approach, steals the limelight but simultaneous condemnation in the world fora.
Today Benazir is talking about giving a death blow to all those inspired by a violent ideology but she seems to forget her own complicated history with the Taliban. Drawing support and inspiration from America, she encouraged tough resistance to Russians in Afghanistan in 1980s. With the break-up of the USSR, America no longer wishes to tolerate Taliban and such similar groups. The general feeling is that her return will promote national reconciliation by her positive role in the democratic political process.
Benazir’s Strategy
Benazir’s open statements supporting U.S. policy in the region has put her in the cross-hairs of terrorist outfits. It is relevant to remember that it was during Benazir’s second tenure as Prime Minister in 1994 when General Musharraf was Pakistan’s Director General of Military Operations that they promoted their country’s presumed interest in Afghanistan through Taliban. Benazir’s return to Pakistan at a time when parliamentary elections are knocking at the door and the General appears to have loosened his grip on the country is likely to offer many options. The country must tread a cautious path with people’s aspirations as central to its policies.
Whither Pakistan
It is an irony that nations with low literacy rate and not having national character stabilised go astray on becoming politically free. Instead of working for economic growth, social development and social security, expanded job opportunities, providing roads, power, potable water, fighting against hunger and disease, raising per capita income and GDP, improving service sector, etc., people in power tend to accumulate wealth for personal benefits and selfish ends. Let Benazir act in a manner so as to make her really ‘a Daughter of the East’, which she claims herself to be against many people’s perception of her being ‘Daughter of the West’.