Quaid-e-Awam Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Shaheed's martyrdom anniversary on April 4 falls at a time when Pakistan is faced with a critical situation.
The dark shadow of military dictatorship clouds the political horizon and spawns fissiporous tendencies striking at the solidarity of the country. Rocket launchers and bomb blasts kill innocents while the military is involved in operations against its own people.
The rise of the suicide bomber and armed struggle is reminiscent of an earlier military dictatorship. The tyranny of General Zia's brutal military rule led to the kalishnikov culture where young men picked up automatic weapons. That culture has reasserted itself under the present military dictatorship of General Musharaf. Except the weapons are more dangerous than the kalishnikovs of yesterday.
The country has learnt through tragic lessons of history that each military dictatorship leads to national loss, culture of lawlessness, corruption, nepotism, political persecution, misgovernance and neglect of areas that directly affect the lives of the citizens of the country.
A small elite benefit from the rentier mentality of the military dictatorship which rents out Pakistan's real estate in return for power and hundreds of millions of non budgetary support which often ends up coming in suitcases. This creates a climate where tragically some have taken to calling Bin Laden, "the best finance minister Pakistan has" due to hundreds of millions of non budgetary support that comes for his capture. They argue that while the money may not come directly to the people of Pakistan, it would "trickle down".
The supporters of the military dictatorship often point out that when the Soviet occupation of Pakistan ended, the west, "turned its back" on Pakistan. By this they means the suitcase politics ended and the non budgetary support dried up. It appears that they wish to convey that when the war against terrorism ends, the non budgetary support would dry up too. That creates a vested interest for stoking the fires that enable
Islamabad to emerge as a "strategic" player.
Although we are the closest allies, under the nose of the dictatorship, Taliban forces have reorganised, reasserted themselves and ensured they dispense their form of "justice" in parts of the tribal areas of Pakistan. Neighbouring Afghanistan complains they are destabilising the country and has given a dossier to Islamabad. Insteaad of examining the dossier, Islamabad chose to use harsh language against Afghanistan and
accused its leadership of being "oblivious" to the ground situation.
One could argue that it was Islamabad that was "oblivious" to the ground situation except that too many cynics believe that the regime is not oblivious but choosing to ensure its political survival and economic self interest.
President Bush came to Pakistan to see whether General Musharaf was still as committed to the war against terrorism as he was after 9/11 and found he was. Musharaf in turn was apologetic about the "slippages" that had occurred.
However, the question that comes to the fore is how credible that apology can be. The military dictatorship knows fully well, having learnt this from the departure of Cento, Seato and the Soviet occupation, that without a "strategic threat" the raison d'etre of
military dictatorship as well as the unaccountable non budgetary amounts would dry up. Do they want that? Would they want that?
The non budgetary support is reported to be in the region of nine hundred million dollars annually. That amount is almost equal to the cotton export of the country. It amounts to significant flows of external support for a country that is additionally getting another five hundred million dollars in budgetary support.
To consolidate its hold on power, the military dictatorship has ruthlessly targeted the mainstream political parties through horsetrading, coercion and inducements. However, they have failed to deceive the people, who are the children of the democratic dream of
Quaid e Azam and Quaid e Awam, into abandoning the mainstream parties. Undetterred by this, the military dictatorship is now seeking to crush the moderate forces in Balauchistan, Pakistan's largest province. The suppression of the nationalist Balauch tribes plays into the hands of the bearded and non bearded leadership that relies on religion or the military for its support. Another dangerous vacuum is being created in
yet another part of the country.
The price of "rentier politics" is alienation, divisiveness and the threat of an implosion that could strike at the very territorial integrity of Pakistan.
It happened before. The disempowerment of the people of Pakistan resulted in the disintegration of the country and the emergence of Bangladesh. West Pakistan was threatened with break up but Quaid e Awam Shaheed Bhutto saved the country through his popular support and his empowerment of the people and the provinces. When Quaid e Awam Shaheed Bhutto was unjustly killed, the country was once again in turmoil. Sindh threatened to separate. The Balauch leaders were sitting in Kabul. Once again it was the leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party which saved the country through honest dispensation to people and provinces. The Balauch and Pakhtoon leaders were invited back from Kabul, given amnesty, they contested elections, development funds were made available and the country re-integrated.
However, since military academies are forced to re-write history to ensure that its dictators are repackaged as knights in shining armour, memory remained short. The drunken rule of General Yayha Khan was exonerated from the military mind as the cause of national disintegation. Blame was placed on the politicians who were out of power and therefore powerless to take the decisions that led to disintegration. So too was the tyranny of General Zia whitewashed to paint him as a mard e momin (man of faith). His rape of the Constitution, hanging of an elected Prime Minister, creation of sectarian and ethnic violent groups and emptying of the treasury were buried. Instead the politicians were blamed to pave the way once again for another military ruler.
It was during the rule of the present military dictatorship that advertisements were taken our for nuclear export and a ship intercepted on its way to Libya with cargo to assist in nuclear proliferation. Although the nuclear scientist Qadeer Khan chose to confess sole
responsibility and fall on his sword to protect others, the damage to national interest was done. India is given nuclear energy packages that Islamabad cannot dream of. As President Bush put it, India and Pakistan are two different countries with two different histories. Yet in 1947 they were cut from the same cloth and Pakistan had parity with India.
Quaid e Awam opposed the "rentier" mentality that lies at the heart of military dictatorships and creates the crises that damage national integrity as well as impoverish the people of Pakistan. He believed that Pakistan's true wealth lay in its people. He took Pakistan from the bullock age to the atomic age. He broke the shackles of ignorance by
building universities across the nation and opened their doors to the young. He gave hope to the millions of Pakistanis living in poverty by telling them that it was not birth or class but hard work and knowledge that would determine their future. He created a new middle class and sent Pakistanis overseas to work. They were welcomed with open arms because Islamabad's standing reached the skies. In sharp contrast, the presentation of a Pakistani passport at an immigration desk today, sadly, too often means suspicion.
As Balauchistan burns, Taliban strength grows in the tribal areas, earthquake victims struggle to survive, innocent civilians are killed, the elite celebrate while the poor sweat, the internal contradictions grow greater. There is a stark need to revert to the democratic legacy of the greatest leaders of Pakistan, namely Quaid e Azam and his political son Quaid e Awam to avert the danger of a failed state.
The military regime, unfortunately, is still building casteles in the air. According ot reports, it still conspires at rigging elections to deny the people their right to choose a government of their choice. Attempts are made to offer the main stream parties either the governments of Sindh or Punjab in return for presidential support and re-alignment with the political orphans who make up the ruling party. The real intent is to break the Opposition allaince and continue with a structure that was erected in 2002 and which has failed to meet the needs of reform or institution building.
Recently Alexander Haig came on television where he described General Musharaf as an endangered species. The reasons that great nations build great institutions is because they realise that greatness lies in enduring structures that are immortal and not in individuals who will have their time on the stage and then move on.
In Quaid-e-Awam Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a Colossus of a leader, Pakistan was fortunate to have a peoples hero who studied history and knew the lessons of history. He picked up the pieces of residual Pakistan and energised it with investments all the way from the Karakorum Highway to the Bin Qasim Port. He built the Heavy Mechnical Complex, gave Pakistan the Mushak aircraft, health and education, jobs for the youth, dignity
to the women who were inducted into the foreign service and the judiciary, labour rights, land reforms, habeous corpus and most importantly the unanimous Federal, Democratic, Egalitarian and Peoples Constitution of 1973 with provincial autonomy. Quaid e Awam brought back 90,000 prisoners of war, prevented their war crime trials and also restored territorty lost to West Pakistan on the battle field. He laid the foundation for an enduring and honourable relationship with India on the basis of the Simla Agreement. He negotiated with President Daud of Afghanistan the signing of the Durand line as a border between Afghanistan and Pakistan but was overthrown before it was signed. He emancipated the people from ignorance and backwardness and hosted the first Islamic Summit at Lahore where President Arafat was recognised as the sole leader of the Palestinians paving the way for the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority.
Quaid e Awam did not believe that the strength of a Party came from the name of a political leader. He believed that the strength of the Party came from the masses. When he launched the Pakistan Peoples Party in 1967, it did not have any famous names. General Musa made fun of the PPP claiming that it had only, "rickshawalas and tongawalas". The people of the country did not care for the famous names. They wanted to end military dictatorship and the drawing room politics where a small elite belonging to the bureaucracy and security decided the destiny of the nation through their subservient puppets. The people said that they would vote for the PPP even if it gave a ticket to a lamp-post because they wanted to take charge of their lives. The people of the country, whether professionals, presiding officers, returning officers, election commission officials, ordinary citizens or on election duty, police duty, military duty, judicial duty saw the elections of 1971 as a clarion call to end military rule. They refused to rig elections. They voted for PPP under the leadership of Quaid e Awam. The election victory was a triumph of peoples power washing away all the so called big names of politics in freedom's tidal wave of triumph.
Today Pakistan has to battle terrorists, extremists, militants, suicide bombers, Taliban, insurgency in Balauchistan, reform maddrassas, improve the judiciary, the police service, the military, protect women and minorities, address the problems of the youth, ensure labour and peasant rights while dreaming of bringing the twenty first century from backward tribal areas to the sea shores and dusty villages of the land.
A country that launched the world of modernity in the region in the seventies introducing radios and passports for every citizen and which launched the telecommunication revolution as well as the policies of information technology, deregulation, decentralisation and privitisation in Pakistan in 1988, with its success being copied in South and West Asia, has the capacity to once again transform its society from crisis
And to do that it must turn to the message of Quaid e Awam, the torch bearer of the legacy of Quaid e Azam who believed in true enlightenment based on representative institutions, anchored in justice and born with the zeal to serve the working classes, the middle classes and all the people of Pakistan.
He who gave his blood and the blood of his sons, both from his party and his family, knew that there can be no sacrifice greater than the sacrifice for the people whose respect, honour and dignity is the respect honour and dignity of the Nation.
Even though Quaid e Awam was sentenced on a trumped up charge, today, as millions pay him tribute across the world, his name shines and inspires whereas those of his opponents is forgotten. His supporters pay him tribute although more than two decades have passed since he was taken away from this world in 1979 on the same day as the Jesus Christ was crucified.
Quaid e Awam made the people proud of themselves and of their Nation. As his followers say, "Zinda Hai Bhutto, Zinda Hai"--Bhutto lives, he lives.
Indeed he does, in the heart of all those who dream of a better tomorrow.