BENAZIR BHUTTO RETURNS TO PAKISTAN TODAY
DOES THIS MARK THE RETURN OF DEMOCRACY?
United Kingdom: There have recently been talks of National Reconciliation in Pakistan. My personal opinion is that it is going to be in the best of federation's interest.
BENAZIR BHUTTO (the chairperson of the biggest political party in Pakistan) had suggested it to be the most appropriate way of transition to democracy. The general outlook of reconciliation aims at allowing the dictator Gen. Musharaf to be elected as president for the next term and in return he will shed his military uniform. On the other hand, political parties will get all politically motivated cases dropped against their leaderships. Accordingly to a rough estimation about 550 cases are dropped out of which about 13 cases were against BENAZIR BHUTTO and her husband. One more bargain has been made and that is on elections issue. The elections will be held under neutral care-taker government and there will be no intervention by the military or by its agencies. On paper it looks like a real chance of taking the country to democracy where there will be no biased laws restricting any political leader from contesting elections and there will be no role of military in politics.
But in reality it is totally different. Gen. Musharaf has recently been on the back-foot because of insurgent independent media and judicial activism. The general public & civil society are sensing blood and they are in no mood to let Gen. Musharaf to hold on to power even as a civilian President. But what people are unable to understand is that if Gen. Musharaf is pushed too much to the wall he might end up taking drastic decisions which could see folding up everything including media, judiciary and the parliament. On ground people are blaming BENAZIR BHUTTO to helping the man-in-power to linger on. But in reality BENAZIR BHUTTO is ensuring that this down fall is not stopping by emotional decisions. In fact, she has made it institutional by reaching to an understanding that Gen. stays as president without the army uniform and political parties are given level-playing ground with independent election commission, media and active judiciary which in no way is a bad start to a journey towards real democracy.
As a result, PPP have taken all the mess of last 8 years of military rule on their shoulders as they did in 1988 (towards the end of last martial Law) but still provided a ray of hope which only history can judge. Current players and audience are just not good enough to evaluate it.
In my personal opinion, if BENAZIR BHUTTO has secured the following three things then she has saved her future and of her party's (party’s future is linked with Pakistan’s future given PPP is the biggest party in the county);
1. Dropping of all politically motivated cases
2. Securing 3rd term as Prime Minister (A biased Law was introduced by Gen. Musharaf banning her to be a Prime Minister for the third time)
3. Last but the most important, a security from the west regarding establishment's support for an extended period. It is important because party is an anti-establishment party and has had serious confrontation with establishment which saw BENAZIR BHUTTO’s father (elected prime minister) hanged and three brothers killed. Since the judicial-murder of late Bhutto during the last martial law Pakistan’s politics has been divided into Pro-Bhutto and Anti-Bhutto. There has not been any third political force in Pakistan. Traditionally, the anti group includes Pakistan Muslim League (different fractions) and MMA (the religious Alliance). Both these actors are pro-establishment which makes them anti-Bhutto. In today’s changed world these pro-establishment groups have little leverage because of their sympathies towards fundamental & radical Islam. However, PPP has over the years aligned itself with Washington. Gen. Musharaf has cleverly used these pro-establishment groups for black mailing west and prolonging his power by rigging the last general elections and giving these pro-establishment groups huge political space. The Pakistan Muslim League is heading the government whereas the religious alliance is having opposition leader and the PPP that won the highest number of votes is systematically denied power. It is important to note that MMA were playing a double game; they were openly criticizing Gen. Musharaf for acting on US agenda and behind doors were strengthening him. It was MMA that helped him to pass a constitutional amendment which allowed him to be a president in uniform. And today this MMA is again preparing to go into the next general election on anti-musharaf campaign so that all the anti-musharaf voters can be controlled. In such scenario the role of BENAZIR BHUTTO and PPP becomes very significant as she is the only real opposition to military rule (the other big opposition name is NAWAZ SHARIF who is in exile because of a deal he stuck with Gen. Musharaf in 2000 that allowed him amnesty for not taking part in politics for next 10 years). Therefore we will switch back to the understanding she has reached with Gen. Musharaf.
The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) has taken account of the first point mentioned above. And Secretary of states’ recent statement is a clear indication about the third point in which she categorically highlighted the political role BENAZIR BHUTTO can play in setting forth the future priorities of Pakistan. We will see that the second point will be addressed before the next general elections as well-abolishing the law of banning the third term as premier.
There has recently been severe media trail of BENAZIR BHUTTO and PPP. But the question is;
Do people listen to media commentators who criticize BENAZIR BHUTTO on behalf of the alternative which is Pakistan Muslim League, MMA and Gen. Musharaf himself?
For these commentators, it is not very difficult to see that they have seen their analysis proving wrong regarding NAWAZ SHARIF’s return when they predicted that a storm of people would welcome NAWAZ SHARIF on his return but not even a few hundred people turned up. And given their criticism of BENAZIR BHUTTO they will again see their analysis going wrong when she will return home on 18 October 2007. It may be noted because of historical reasons the present media is largely pro-establishment.
It is very important for analysts to note that if people are not happy with the deal between the PPP and the government then why these analysts forget that people are also not happy about the underground relations among MMA, Pakistan Muslim league and the military.
Time and again it has been proved that when BENAZIR BHUTTO said she is not going to make an opposition alliance with the religious elements or Nawaz Sharif needs to stay away from religious alliance, she was absolutely right. The people of Pakistan have seen how these religious elements have helped Gen. Musharaf to hang on to power. Why in the final analysis, the leadership of PPP forget this. Due to the anti-military roots of PPP even the middle-to-lower level leadership of PPP is criticizing BENAZIR BHUTTO for reaching an understating with the military. It is understandable that PPP supporters are definitely not considering this reconciliation as a perfect solution but they ALSO understand that there is no other way. Does the leadership think that the PPP worker is going to vote for Pakistan Muslim league or even to the religious alliance just because of this reconciliation with army? History says, in bold, NO.
The middle-to-lower leadership of PPP doesn’t even understand the dynamics of their own vote bank-starting from Itzaz ahsan (main character in recent judicial activism & PPP’s member of national assembly) to Raza rabani (leader of the opposition in Senate) to every one (these leaders are apparently not comfortable with the understaffing with military). The important question for these PPP leaders is that why BENAZIR BHUTTO had to turn to army once again? What good has this leadership done when she gave them a free hand to take the party into elections of 2002 while she was in exile? They gifted PPP workers and supporters with First-ever friction within. It saw party members joining Gen. Musharaf’s government while hindering from the party stance. Were these leaders able to ensure a safe return of BENAZIR BHUTTO into the county without turning to military? And now they are putting everything on her shoulders and walking away from the mess they have created. It is not her fault. It is the fault of those who are criticizing BENAZIR BHUTTO for talking to military. These 'great' leaders left no other option for her. I am talking about those leaders of PPP, who are dissenting. And people, at large, understand this.
Now there are only two ways in front of PPP workers in particular and of common voters in general. (NAWAZ SHARIF is out of the picture, credit goes to religious elements again) First of all, dissent with BENAZIR BHUTTO and get ready to be governed by black marketers, ex-offenders and fundamentalists happened to be the current setup. And listen to middle-to-lower leadership who can not do any harm to this clan supported by the establishment. The evidence of that is the last 8 years during that time both BENAZIR BHUTTO and NAWAZ SHARIF were exile and middle-to-lower level leadership of both the parties could do nothing to bring them back.
Alternatively, get ready to welcome her and make sure she is strengthened. Even NAWAZ SHARIF supporters will get what they want-the return of their leader, if she is strengthened. Therefore, NAWAZ SHARIF supporters need to vote for BENAZIR BHUTTO as well and they need to strictly avoid their middle-to-lower leadership’s point of view. They need to remember that if today NAWAZ SHARIF is not among them then it is only because of this leadership. If the common Pakistani understands this thing then I do not see the storm starting from Karachi airport on 18 October 2007 stopping before putting every single fragile tree off its roots.
However, BENAZIR BHUTTO has got tough challenges for her third tenure in terms of bad law and order situation in the country, rising fundamentalism and extremism alongside Afghan border and apprehensive silence by eastern neighbor on peace process.
While concluding, it is not difficult to see that Pakistan is coming back to normal and democratic institutions taking course of the country. And history will define the critical role BENAZIR BHUTTO played in ensuring so. She has showed her political maturity that she is fighting against the role of an institution in politics and not rule of any individual. The current ‘deal’ has ensured the victory for BENAZIR BHUTTO’s point of view. But leaders who are now fighting for personality change have no agenda. BENAZIR BHUTTO has understood, hopefully others will, as well. SOONER THE BETTER.
Always respect free and informed will.