Benazir Bhutto: Remembering the Dream

Posted on January 2, 2008
Filed Under >Yasser Latif Hamdani, History, People, Politics, Society
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Yasser Latif Hamdani

Pakistan is mourning. It is not just Benazir Bhutto but the dream of Pakistan itself that is in pieces.

Pakistan was envisaged as a modern democratic homeland for the Muslim minority of British India as a last resort by Pakistan’s founding father Mahomed Ali Jinnah, who had fought for it to ensure the political and economic future of his people. Jinnah‘s Pakistan was to be a land free of exploitation, religious exclusion, bigotry and intolerance. It was this dream that Benazir and her father echoed, though not always consistently, making the Bhuttos immensely popular amongst the people of Pakistan.

Today this dream looks to be coming to an end. Pakistan stands at the threshold of a great tragedy. We are gripped with uncertainty, with Bhutto‘s home province of Sindh ablaze with agitation and violence. The whole country is paralyzed. Benazir was known as the common link and leader who brought all four provinces together behind her, making her the one truly national leader we had at present.

The elder Bhutto had authored in 1967 “Myth of Independence” about Pakistan and its role in the world which definitively shaped Pakistan’s foreign policy especially the way ZAB played a pivotal role in bringing the US and China closer together and cracking open the anti-US eastern bloc and in one smart move creating a counterbalance to India. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto viewed the survival of Pakistan as part of a thousand years struggle of the survival of Muslim community in the subcontinent. His own passionate love affair with Pakistan had a lot to do with how closely the Bhutto family’s fortune had been intertwined with Pakistan from the start. The house in Naudero played host to Jinnah many times during Bhutto‘s childhood and people forget that it was the wily Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto who had managed to get the Junagadh document of accession for Jinnah thereby upsetting several British calculations.

Bhutto himself had played a key role in organizing a successful student strike in Bombay in 1946 for the Muslim League or so Bhutto claimed in his last days. This is why anyone who has read his biography is struck by how far Bhutto went to identify himself in the public perception with the memory of Jinnah. His deeply personalized involvement in the Jinnah propagation project through out 1976 and his distribution of his own photograph in the Jinnah cap was an indication of this. If there was ever a politician who was an ultra-nationalist in Pakistan it was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Throughout his career as the foreign minister he subscribed to the idea that India was out to gobble up Pakistan. Remember Bhutto started his career as firmly an establishment man inducted by Sikandar Mirza and retained by Ayub Khan so he furthered the national security thesis which at the time meant extra-reliance on the US but bitter experience in the 1965 war taught Bhutto that Pakistan needed a range of options in foreign policy. The menu Bhutto created included a combo of China and US aimed at Soviet expansionism which he saw as the prime backer of India. It was this reason that forced Bhutto to famously declare that

“if India makes the bomb, then we will eat grass but make our bomb”.

ZAB was a remarkable politician and a diplomat. He was no anti-imperialist though. Whatever his posturing he was at the end of the day a US ally who drove a hard bargain. Throughout his half a decade in power he continued to try and convince the US that he was a more reliable ally than the Shah of Iran. It was Bhutto who started the Afghan insurgency against the pro-communist government there at the US behest. PPP, ZAB and BB were the greatest champions of the Kashmir cause. The Bhutto family had very close ties with the Mir Waizes and this shows in how Srinagar reacted yesterday. Kashmir was a central tenet of the original PPP manifesto.

That ZAB gave the country a unanimous constitution is an undeniable fact. Unfortunately his use of religion was theological and not as a tool of identity formation. In contrast Jinnah had to put theological issues on the backburner to bring shias, sunnis, ahmadis, ismailis, etc on one platform. Bhutto‘s unfortunate action opened up a pandora’s box of theological disputes. That said Ahmadis did not face persecution per se even after their constitutional excommunication. It was Zia ul Haq who tormented us. All in all when one says that BB continued her father’s mission through out her life, the mission was always the preservation of Pakistan and not some undefined imperialist agenda which the elder Bhutto used a political slogan. No one would have said it 10 years ago but Benazir Bhutto as a leader and global figure stood head and shoulders above her famous father. Not above opportunism and manipulation, the mercurial Zulfikar Ali Bhutto banked on cheap popularity and often followed the sentiments of the people (Friday as a weekly holiday, ban on horse racing, alcohol and gambling, all of which he himself enjoyed, and ofcourse the Ahmadi issue being a clear example of it). Benazir was an intellectual of a much higher ability and a leader who was in 2007 finally ready to lead instead of being led

This is why the loss of Benazir Bhutto is greater than that of her father. Her loss is more akin to the loss of Shaheed-e-Millat Liaqat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first prime minister, who was assassinated in the same place and whose death remains a mystery. The crisis that followed paved way for people like Bogra and then the Military, who didn’t threaten to go to Moscow, as LAK had done, to derive a greater bargain.

Now the world is beginning to point fingers at Pakistan’s nuclear assets. The difference between all previous such events and now is that Pakistan was strong enough to withstand the sudden eliminations of Liaqat Ali Khan, Bhutto and Zia. But Benazir Bhutto was, as the slogan said, charon soobon ki zanjeer, the true symbol of the federation. The fact that even the Baloch nationalists cried out for her shows how above and beyond Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir had proved to be. Her sudden disappearance from the scene has given many enemies of Pakistan a lot of ammunition with which to destroy the country. Some elements have gone so far as to question the very existence of Pakistan. In this hour of great darkness, we see a resolute Pakistan People’s Party standing committed to the federation. Will this be enough to keep ethnic separatists as well as Pakistan’s international detractors at bay? Only time will tell.

May Bilawal Bhutto Zardari now have the courage to follow in his illustrious mother’s footsteps. His politics must be guided by the fine egalitarian principles that Mahomed Ali Jinnah gave to Pakistan, for which his grandfather and his mother toiled through out their lives.

54 responses to “Benazir Bhutto: Remembering the Dream”

  1. readinglord says:

    Anwar says:

    “I am indebted to ZAB for only one thing – he made it easier to obtain passport compared to Ayub

  2. YLH says:

    No one is any denial… some of us check our facts before giving into media hogwash.

  3. meengla says:

    Benazir grabbed an opportunity presented because Musharraf blundered after 9th March. That opportunity not only ensured she gets back to Pakistan but also Nawaz Sharif gets back AND Musharraf takes off his uniform.
    She could have lived in the (safe) wilderness of exile with her alleged $1.5 BILLION (yes, these are American dollars) and enjoyed caviar, concerts, and casinos if she wanted to. But she CHOSE to come back.
    After she got the ‘political space’ she wasted no time in denouncing people around Musharraf and, like a true wily politician, kept everyone guessing about her moves upto and after the elections. Even Negroponte could not convince her to accept her role as a second fiddle to Musharraf and hence she was leaning to the extent of forming local electoral alliance with Nawaz Sharif.
    It is a different matter there are forces within Pakistan who are under no-one’s control and that the Chowdri brothers were no willing to cede power and that the composition of the caretaker govt. clearly hinted that rigging and that Benazir was told to shut up by Washington (“Elections will not be perfect”).

    PS. 9
    is the best analysis about the culprits behind BB’s murder.

  4. Adnan says:

    I don’t understand how self-acclaimed Jinnah specialist Hamdani comes up with a statement like:

    It was this dream that Benazir and her father echoed

    our resident specialist is forgetting that late “Dukhtar-e-Mashriq” was desperately looking towards “Wardi Wala” and waiting for his “nazr-e-Karam” which finally fulfilled in the form of “Musalihat Ordinance”

    Can someone help mr.Hamdani to find out speech of Jinnah about role of Army in this state?


  5. Ahsan says:

    “All evidence shows that three times as many Muslims died which shows that Hindus and Sikhs were armed by the Congress to the teeth.”

    If the Hindu-Sikh and Muslim population ratio is nine to one then the appropriate ratio of Muslim (M) and Hindu-Sikh (H) killed will be nine to one. In case it was only, three to one, shows that (H) group was ill prepared and also that M group was better in killing.

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