ATP Poll Results: Who did the most good?

Posted on August 27, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, ATP Poll, People, Politics
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Adil Najam

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Field Marshal Ayub Khan. According to the 126 visitors who voted in the third ATP blog poll (earlier: here and here), these two did more ‘good’ for Pakistan than any of the leaders who followed them. (Of course, we should add that the Poll did not ask for an evaluation of whether the ‘bad’ they did was greater than the ‘good’; nor was the current government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf included).

The Question: Focussing primarily on whatever ‘positives’ might have been achieved during their stint(s) in power, who, amongst the following, did the most ‘good’ for Pakistan?”

Choices: (a) Ayub Khan; (b) Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto; (c) Zia-ul-Haq; (d) Benazir Bhutto; and (e) Nawaz Sharif

(Click image for larger picture)

The result is a split decision, but a very clear split decision.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto got the most votes (52 votes; 41%), but is practically neck-to-neck with his erstwhile mentor-turned-nemesis Ayub Khan (48 votes; 38%). In the context of this Poll and how voting went, the honest thing is to declare them co-winners. The other three – Zia ul Haq, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharifcombined get only around half as many votes from ATP readers as either of these two! A review of the comments posted with the poll seem to verify these sentiments.

Of course, this is simply a ‘pulse of the blog’ poll and is NOT a scientific or representative survey. And, while one must (again) caution against over-analyzing these results, there are a number of striking elements in the results that are worthy of note, or at least of further discussion:

  • First, it is striking that the two people our readers voted most overwhelmingly for were both thrown out of office through massive street protests; albeit amongst very different circumstances (the later aided by a military coup and an eventual execution)!
  • Second, although my guess is that the average ATP reader is fairly older than readers of most Pakistani blogs, it is fair to say that most of our readers (and I assume voters) are too young to remember either Ayub Khan’s or ZAB’s eras. More likely that they know of them either from hearing about those times from others or (in Ayub’s case) staring at the back of painted trucks. One wonders, then, if the passage of time has had a ‘healing effect’ on the memories we have constructed of them.
  • Notwithstanding the above points, it is quite clear from the margins in the poll as well as the comments that Z.A. Bhutto and Ayub Khan are considered to be WAY above all others. This, however is not a surprise finding and only verifies the view expressed by in one comment that Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif are not considered to be of the same ‘league.’ This would be so, at least partly, because they never had the type of ‘real power’ that Ayub and ZAB did and also did not stay in power long enough in continuous stretch.
  • The biggest surprise to me was Zia ul Haq getting as few votes as he did (11 votes, 9%). He did have absolute power. He was at the helm for a very long time. And he orchestrated very significant changes that continue to be difficult to undo. I would have expected that he does have a residual constituency of support that is not captured by any of the others. I assume that constituency just does not visit ATP!
  • Fifth, although Benazir Bhutto got the least votes (5 votes; 4%) I do not feel too sorry for her. My assumption is that BB’s father over-shadowed her (as he always, rightly, has). Had he not been in the list I assume a lot of those votes would have gone to Benazir. However, I am no longer convinced that all of them would have gone to her. Midway through the poll I kept thinking what might have happened if the poll only have Zia, Benazir and Nawaz as choices? I think the proportions of the votes would be very difficult, but I have no idea how. Politically, the fact remains that her constituency – although still sizable – remains largely hereditary.
  • Finally, my other big surprise was Nawaz Sharif, who got more support than I had expected (10 votes, 8%). I had though his constituency would view Zia as the ‘father figure,’ but it seems not. Although his Bomb test was cited in the comments, my sense is that most people understand than the Bomb was ‘Bhutto’s choice and Sharif’s necessity.’ Maybe for those who get to use these things, highways, airports, overpasses, and infrastructure do matter in the end.

So there. These are some of my quick thoughts on the results as they panned out. What would you add?

I wonder, how the future might view Gen. Musharraf’s legacy in comparison to these?

My guess is that he probably wants to be seen in Ayub’s mould. However, I have a feeling that history will ultimately judge him on whether and how much he is able to undo the imprints that Zia left on the country. As Chou En Lai once said about the French Revolution, ‘Its too early to say!’

33 responses to “ATP Poll Results: Who did the most good?”

  1. Taimur says:

    Very nice.

    I am glad this poll focused on the good. Sometime we get so stuck in the bad things that we forget that all of them actually did a lot of good things too. Maybe we are too cynical. So, I am glad you did this poll.

  2. Only Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

  3. Mazhar says:

    Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto indeed was a great leader It is amazing that ZAB got the highest number of votes in your polls in spite of the fact that there was campaign against him by some of the governments that followed him and an organized efforts were made to defame him, on the other hand, we use to read about Ayub in our text books while Ayub was in power. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

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