Pakistan After Benazir: Choosing Our Future

Posted on December 29, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, People, Politics, Society
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Adil Najam

Benazir Bhutto, twice Prime Minister of Pakistan, now lies under six feet of earth in Garhi Khuda Bux, her ancestral village, in a grave next to her equally mercurial father, the late Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

Time line for the Bhutto family

As the graphic above (click to enlarge) from Boston Globe shows, hers – like her father’s – was a brilliant but tragic life. Tragically ended.

Now she is buried. But I suspect that the Benazir saga is far from over. Indeed, just as all of Pakistan’s politics after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s hanging was contextualized by his hanging, all of Pakistan’s politics after Benazir’s assasination is likely to be contextualized by Benazir’s assasination.

In the immediate aftermath of this tragic death, the country continues to reel in grief at what has happened, fear about what might happened, and immense immense anger and everything that has been happening. As I argued in an op-ed in the New York Daily News today, this mix of grief, anger and fear is a very dangerous combination. It cannot lead to any good.

Right now the scenes we see on our screens are of mayhem, of devastation, of further violence, of destruction. These are not good images for Pakistan and certainly these are not the Benazir Bhutto would have wanted as her legacy. We at ATP have written many many times about the climate of anger that defines modern Pakistan (here here, here, here, here, etc.). This anger is the single most disturbing and single most defining motif of today’s Pakistan. Right now – and not without reason – the anger is being directed at Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf’s government. Much of this should, but not in this way.

More important to note is who the anger is not being directed at. I hope that the legacy of Benazir Bhutto’s untimely and tragic death is a legacy of a society that seizes this moment to reassert its demand for democracy and to recognize that extremist violence is our problem. This is not a mercenary war. This is Pakistan’s own battle. Right now the evidence suggests that society continues to tear at its own self. I fear that it will not change anytime soon. That things are likely to get worse before they become any better. But, I refuse to give up hope. At least, not yet.

As I wrote in my New York Daily News op-ed:

If this moment ends up being defined by Pakistan’s latent anger – if it launches a cycle of crackdowns and protests – it will certainly empower and embolden the militants further. But if it is defined by society’s sense of shared loss, felt grief and the continued movement toward genuine democracy, it might – just might – bring together a fractured society and awaken in them the realization that the common enemies are extremism, violence and terrorism. Then, we might just have half a chance of winning this war on terror. And Benazir Bhutto’s death would not have been in vain.


73 responses to “Pakistan After Benazir: Choosing Our Future”

  1. Dr Zammad Chishti says:

    This is ill fate of pakistan and its people that any politician who has the potential to do good for pakistan is assasinated . First Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto shaheed and then Benazir shaheed. these people have sacrificed there lives for the country. Benazir was such a brave lady who knew her life was at risk but fought for democracy. She was not selfish and there is nothing wrong if Mr Zardari is the president of Pakistan because if he is a Mr 10% then you may know other politicians who are even more than 10%.

  2. meengla says:

    @Hyder Yusafzai,
    Great post!!!
    By the way, this rant of ‘corruption, corruption, corruption’ is extremely stale! How come Zardardi was not convicted even after being tried AND jailed for 8+ years by a very nasty establishment?
    The fact is that even if M.A.Jinnah were to come to Pakistan now he too will be maligned with such force and resources that, before very long, he will look pretty bad.
    What we are facing is an entrenched group, dominated by the khakis, who are guarding their so-called ideological and very-material resources.
    Ayub Khan’s ‘Convention League’ has lived on through various flavors of Muslim League: A nexus of holier-than-thou khakis-mullahs-civilians form the core of the Pakistani Establishment which is determined to deny the poors of Pakistan their destiny. And they may have ensured their victory for decades with the murder of Benazir Bhutto.

    PS. How come the son of a military ruler who publicly flogged AND hanged lawyers, journalists, politicians, ‘criminals’ gets to be a federal minister under Musharraf?! Is that his ‘enlightened moderation’? What would it take to touch these holy cows of Pakistani military and their off springs? What have THEY achieved in their rule, considering that THEY have ruled Pakistan with absolute power (unlike Benazir’s diluted powers and being witch hunted)?

  3. Fasih says:

    I am surprised to see how she emerged as a heroine in the eyes of national and international media. Even sane people have started calling her an angel and only hope for Pakistan. What about all the corruption and loot she and her husband had done? The same media should show a documentary of Lyari or Larkana so that innocent minded people of Pakistan in general and her own party supporters in particular can compare the highly developed state of Lyari and Larkana with her party’s manifesto. Look at the condition of her slain bodyguards families. They were poor and they are still poor, but she has palaces everywhere she stayed, whether its Dubai, France, London, USA or Karachi. Just one painting from any of her Living rooms can pay for a decent shelter for her bodyguards’ families, but did she or her husband (Mr. 10% of yesteryears) care for them. It is so surprising and disturbing that media is so biased. All I see in media especially Pakistani media is an all around opposition for Musharraf and all the favor for twice elected (so called) and twice removed ex PMs, interesting that 3 times by their own chosen or democratically elected Presidents on the charges of corruption, mismanagement and favoritism. I personally think and support the idea that Pakistan should not be ruled by Military. Instead there should be an elected government. But with the presence of feudals in most of Pakistan, would it be possible to have true democracy in Pakistan?

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