Benazir’s Shameless Return

published on October 28, 2007

By M. P. Ajithkumar

It is almost certain that Benazir would once again don her old mantle. With her secret deal with General Musharraf having been successfully worked all the hurdles in her path to be prime Minister of Pakistan are now vanished. The challenges that forbid her to be Prime Minister once again are off the scene, cases pending against her and husband withdrawn and the traditional Muslim practice of prohibiting woman becoming the ruler overlooked. So magical are the effects of Musharraf’s ordinance for ‘national reconciliation’ that with this his regime that has screened her off the Pak polity ever since the military coup has turned almost sweet to her. And with Musharraf having emerged victoriously in the Presidential election it is now easy for both to see their dreams of becoming the Prime Minister and the President fulfilled. Pakistani politics, no doubt, is returning to the 1988 comic mess.

Interestingly, it was not in too distant past that she slammed the West for its wily support to the General. “By acquiescing to the Musharraf dictatorship, the West has empowered him to defy the world and cooperate with the forces of terror. West chooses to apply human rights standard when politically expedient”, she said. Addressing an academic assemblage at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies on 6 February 2007 she accused the West of “inadvertently supporting militancy and terrorism” by supporting Musharraf’s military dictatorship. She referred to the most tragic anticipated consequences of retreating from the principles of human rights as found in Afghan case, and dealt with the Pakistani opposition parties’ fear of an unfair election under the military jackboot with Musharraf at the helm. She also ruled out the possibility and constitutional ability of the assemblies elected for five years terms to “elect a President twice giving him ten years as President”. Debunking the claim of enlightened moderation by Musharraf, she disparaged the military ruled Pakistan as a hell where human rights suffocate with elected Prime Ministers being forced into exile. But it is the very same Benazir who is now poised to sacrifice the democratic principles she has waxed eloquent on for a safe political equation that tilts the balance in her favour.

It was the very same Benazir who in her hunger for power sacrificed the democratic principles in 1988. It may be remembered that though in the 1988 election Benazir’s Pakistan People’s Party topped getting 92 out of the 207 contested seats she could not form government owing to the delay tactics of Gen. Mirsa Aslem Beg and President Ishaq Khan manipulating to horse-trade for Mian Nawaz Sharif who towed the Zia line. Though pressures from many corners including USA finally compelled Ishaq Khan and his coterie to invite Benazir to take over, the military junta did not forget to attach the required strings to trap Benazir in the ensuing power brokering. In her reckless slapdash into the seat of power she too could not sense the dangers involved in the preconditions for her taking over as Prime Minister. It was agreed that she would not do away the dominant role of armed forces in Pakistani politics or take any action against its members who were hostile to Bhuttos and the PPP. It was also agreed to retain the 8th amendment of Pakistani constitution, which endowed the President with special right to dismiss an elected Prime Minister whenever the former deemed it necessary for national stability and security and appoint the Chiefs of Armed Forces without Prime Ministerial consent. Also she would not tamper with the defence and foreign policies systematized by Gen. Zia. It was thus ensured that Benazir could not help recognize the military domination over the country’s administration and that she won’t be permitted by the military junta to purge the national politics of the hurdles which had well become an internal part of Pak administrative structure. Power hunger overrode all other considerations including sense of justice, integrity and independence and these shameless impositions naturally did not prove problematic to Ms. Benazir who was impatiently anxious to hold the reigns of power. Surely one could not expect anything more than this from the daughter of Zulfiqar Al Bhutto who in 1971 mooted the idea of two Prime Ministers for Pakistan so that he could be one! And thus having satisfied all concerned including the USA whose ambassador Robert Oakley was contend that the conditions of agreement would not deter his nation’s interests, she swore in as Prime Minister, followed by Ishaq Khan becoming the President with all the powers Zia enjoyed. The fate of a democracy was thus sealed off in the best interests of a group of power hungry politicians, military junta and alien forces. But the noose she put her neck into made her an all-time slave of the Pak military and earned her military and public wrath that necessitated playing into the hands of the terrorists and harp upon the hate-India sentiments to divert the growing Pakistani discontentment against her towards India. Benazir, inclined in the initial stage to an Indo-Pak amity, had resorted to ‘hate India’, the trump card Pakistani rulers used as the safety valve to ventilate the growing public wrath against them. She cried for ‘self-determination’ for Kashmiris whom, she alleged, India was suppressing with an iron hand. Not only did her government endorse the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir government’s grant of Rs.10 Crores to the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front but also went up to the audacious extent of inaugurating a solidarity week on Kashmir lasting from 2 to 9 February 1990, declaring 5 February the day of IJI’s nationwide strike to support Kashmiri secessionism as national holiday and provocatively describing Kashmir terrorism as holy Jehad during her visit to POK on 13 March. But all this nimble antics could not help her. Her insincerity to realities and her power hunger only ditched her. She met the very same fate her wily predecessors were met with. Scorned and spurned, she was evicted to exile.

Once again as usual West is poised to play conveniently upon the diplomatic chessboard of Pakistani politics. West’s political expediency she disparaged lately is no more her subject of lambaste but has become a welcome necessity without which her road to Prime Ministerial chair would surely have become bumpy. The West is thus repeating the artful scripting for the soap opera to be staged in Pakistan shortly. As we all know the UK diplomats Mark Lyall Grant, former High Commissioner to Pakistan and Tom Drew, Counselor in the High Commission in Islamabad employed their magic wands to bring about the Musharraf-Bhutto deal. Their US sister, the Time Magazine has also started eulogizing Musharraf’s 1999 military coup as ‘bloodless’. Or how could the Time Magazine describe otherwise the blood thirst of the military bandicoot who ever since the coup, was accepted and anointed as US’ best friend and principal ally in its war on terror despite his continued militarily terrorism against his nation’s democratic set up and the latter’s grooming and quarantining the Islamic terrorists on the Indo-Pakistan border lest they should, if driven out from there in an Indian military operation against Pakistan, take asylum in the Middle East and adversely affect its economic interests deeply entrenched there? Obviously the US and its western coterie worked clandestinely both in installing and unseating governments in Pakistan where democracy continued to be a comic interlude between long military regimes. The dirge of democracy continued to be sung in the best interests of all the parties concerned. And the dirge has reached its most passionate crescendo with all impatient to bury the corps of Pak democracy for which all are ready to bury the hatchet. The general election due in January 2008 will, no doubt, give a comfortable majority to the pro-Musharraf-PPP combine, ensuring a safe equation to quench their power thirst. If no miracle changes the situation, Miss. Bhutto will take over as Prime Minister, followed by Musharraf becoming the President and Gen. Kiyani, his right hand man as Army Chief, all with the blessings of the US since such an arrangement holds up green signal to its economic interests in the East. Pakistani politics is recoiling to its 1988 state to be an all-time old vine in the new cup.

In such a reenactment of the old drama one could easily assume the ‘important’ position Benazir would be enjoying – fastened to the golden throne with golden chain, fully handicapped. But what is more put to chains is the fate of a democratic nation than a lady’s ambition and power hunger.

Never in the history of the world one could come across such a dastardly murder of democracy as in Pakistan. Indeed from the very birth of Pakistan in 1947 its people never tasted the sweet fruits of democracy since none of the Pakistani leaders possessed the qualities required to burn the lamp of democracy bright. They always resorted to occasional tricks rather than find permanent solutions for the grave realities confronting national prospects. Again the very idea of independence and national development in Pakistan was thrown to winds with politicians who clamoured to cut a figure for themselves resorting to double dealings and bad manners to capture power, neglecting the urgent needs of a new born state. Idea of a welfare state never flowered in their imaginations. Most of the politicians who filled the vacuum the eminent leaders like Jinnah or Liaqat Ali Khan left were rank opportunists and specialists in preaching separatism and disruption. Devoid of any ability and least inclined to serve the national cause, they were interested in carving niches for themselves in Pakistani politics, which they audaciously did by using every conceivable trick at their disposal. In their scramble for power they made and unmade governments and within five years of Pakistan’s birth six governments and six Prime Ministers had fallen. And as V B Kulkarni rightly observes, Prime Ministers followed one another in quick succession and retreated into obscurity with equal speed. Kwaja Nizamidin, Mohamad Ali, Chaudhuri Mohamad Ali, I I Chundrigar and Sir Feroz Khan Noon, flitted like phantoms across Pakistani horizon, gathering unprecedented unpopularity and odium on their return trip to anonymity.

Democracy in Pakistan thus having turned into a comic affair, it was in its logic of history that military has often been the real master. Thus we see a long array of military rulers starting from Major General Iskender Mirza up to the present military administrator, General Musharraf in the saddle.

But quite common to all the Pak leaders irrespective of their political and military backgrounds was their anti-India tirade to camouflage their innumerable blunders. By projecting India as the common enemy of the Pakistanis, these unpopular rulers could divert the popular wrath, which otherwise would have burned them, against India. ‘Hate-India’ thus proved a trump card for the Pak leaders to get rid of the public wrath. It was indeed on the wave of this hate-India feeling that most of the Pak leaders banked to soar up in the eyes of the Pakistani public. Nonetheless Hate-India never helped Pakistan, which still remains in its stereotyped shambles. And now with the return of Benazir to the scene it has fully reverted to its former state, which is messier than ever. Time has elapsed, but no character or trend changed. Pakistan is the very same Pakistan that packed her off years ago to exile. Benazir is the very same Benazir, the comic figure of 1988 that repeats itself. And it is to the very same Pakistan that she returned, all but once again to be in the noose, if no miracle happens. Indeed a shameless return!

* Author of India-Pakistan Relations – The Story of A Fractured Fraternity, Gyan Books, New Delhi.

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