The rise of Benazir Bhutto

28 10 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007
Yasser Latif Hamdani

Benazir is back. Without drumming about the salience of the events of last week, it should suffice to say that she is back with a bang- a bang that resonated — where no previous Pakistani bang resonated – in that hallowed hall of international diplomacy that is United Nations Security Council. It seems that the international community does not seem to notice the loss of hundreds of innocent lives anywhere in the third world, unless of course it came close to killing someone of significance on the global stage. Still there is no downplaying that the fact as far as significance goes, Benazir Bhutto is the most significant individual on the world stage right now. Linked with her is the future of a country of 160 million people, the second most populous nuclear-armed Muslim majority nation, and a country that has played a pivotal role in global politics since the Second World War. Therefore, it is no surprise that when Benazir travels in and around Pakistan this week, the world will be watching her every move.

A lot has been written, indeed right from her first homecoming, about the comparison with her famous father, the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The elder Bhutto was a global figure in his own right. Because he was passionate and patriotic, he electrified the people of Pakistan. On the global stage he positioned himself as a great third world and Islamic bloc leader challenging the might of the super power – though he was enough of a diplomat cut from the cloth of Talleyrand himself to have a good working relationship with the US. He failed because Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was, despite his Berkeley and Oxford education, at the end of the day steeped in the feudal politics of honor and revenge. Never financially corrupt, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was capable of considerable cruelty and guile towards his enemies real or perceived and in many ways, he had risen too high too early. This was also the cause of his downfall. Had he become the Prime Minister a decade or two late, he would have a statesman of the highest caliber who would have never made the tremendous mistakes he did. He paid for those with his life. If Benazir Bhutto becomes the Prime Minister next year, she will be 55 years of age. That is five years older than the age her father died at. Her first two terms in office came at a difficult time. She was a newly married young woman who carried the burden of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s martyrdom on her arms. Her mistakes were horrible and they dented her credibility considerably. The Benazir of 2007 is markedly different from Bhutto’s daughter of 1986. While she owes her constituency to her father, Benazir’s style of politics is at considerable variance to his, at time diametrically opposite.

For one Benazir Bhutto is unabashedly pro-West. While her father had quit the British commonwealth — a largely ceremonial cultural fraternity – it was Benazir who re-joined it. Unlike her father, she is not swayed by the romance of revolution. Her politics is not red by any stretch of imagination. We got a glimpse of that when the stock exchange shot up to unprecedented levels on the day of her return. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on the other hand is rightly credited with the most devastating blow to the business sector of Pakistan with his ill-advised nationalization. In many ways despite being the inheritor of the glorious Bhutto legacy of populist politics, Benazir is increasingly coming into her own as a leader who has ready to make hard choices and take tough decisions. But does she have it in her to carry out the monumental task before her? The very fabric of Pakistan’s society has been torn asunder by parochial concerns and the military establishment’s manipulation of right wing Islamic groups. All over the world Pakistan has been projected – with some truth to it albeit exaggerated – as a violent and extremist society. In these circumstances, even the most well-meaning and honest of politicians like Imran Khan are clueless. They honestly believe that religious extremism is not an issue in Pakistan. The media — completely free and independent – reflects the middle class’ flirtation with this the re-hashed and Islamised “anti-Americanism”. A TV anchor who narrowly escaped death last week in the Karachi suicide bombing was seen lamenting the fact that while condemning Islamic radicals for their activities, no one condemned the “liberal fascists” for their actions. As if the “liberal fascists” were going about blowing themselves up in crowds of people.

Benazir must — to use her father’s phrase – pick up the pieces. Her stand must be clear. The answers are well known: While respecting its Islamic heritage and sense of identity, Pakistan must become for all practical purposes a secular state with clear separation of church and state. She must undo the terrible legacy of outward and hypocritical Islamization, which ironically was initiated by her own father. As the leader of the largest and the strongest party she must go at it alone without any futile consensus building exercise. Benazir must learn to live in the solitude of great leaders. She must leave her father behind and rise above him not for the sake of popularity but posterity. Despite her many faults, Benazir today commands the support of the people. For once Uncle Sam also seems to be on the right side of the Pakistani current, dragging the army and the establishment along kicking and screaming. The soldier-president must also know that while he will fade away into oblivion, Benazir is the best hope for the future of his agenda of enlightened moderation. A democratically elected strong woman Prime Minister like her alone can further the little good Musharraf has achieved. He must therefore come out in total support of Benazir Bhutto.

Also if and when this battle is fought and won, Benazir must also preside over the institutionalization of the great Pakistan People’s Party as a truly broad based political party of the masses, no longer dependant on caste and biradari politics of rural Punjab and Sindh. The Pirs and the Makhdooms must ultimately give way to party workers like Jehangir Badr and Fauzia Wahab — extracted from the people. Pakistan People’s Party must also, for itself and for Pakistan, break away from the South Asian tradition of the cult of personality. Benazir must ensure that she is absolutely the last Bhutto to lord over this party, but is the first of many Benazirs that the party will produce from within its cadres in the service of the nation. Only then will she be able to go down in history as a truly epoch-making figure. May Allah help her succeed in her stated objectives and protect her from those who want to harm her. Amen!

The writer is a lawyer. Email:

Government parties, military and Taliban seem to be uneasy with the lady. Ladies’ apartment is specifically separate, that explains.

One candidate who could stop her from surfacing again as PM is probability of keeping Shahbaz Sharif around the seat. Government previously had the ‘Little’ Sharif in good books. Lately, it would be possible, Government might have initiated some talks with the brothers. ‘Elder’ Sharif might not extend warm hands to the Government, to save face. But the Junior brother was scurried unscathed, the card is ready. Let’s see how things turn up. The General is waiting for the Supreme Court’s ruling for him or against him.

But cards are ready for yet another showdown.

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22 12 2007

By Dr Adalat Khan

There is nothing worse, or more pathetic, than to see the whole Pukhtoon nations standing aside and wringing their collective hands over the death and destruction of their fellow brethrens either by bigoted extremists or mercenary forces. The whole Pukhtunkhwa is under fire and it would seem that if sense and sensibility did not visit the minds of Pukhtoons the whole race will erase. This is not exaggerating because many strong nations who once ruled the world do not exist today and have only become part of the forgotten history. Babylonians, Romans, Byzantine are just a few examples of civilizations which were wiped out and do not exist today. Is that a destiny Pukhtoons wish to embrace? If the answer is yes then this article will lose its utility. But let us hope that the same nation which was once the envy of the world will regain its dignity if not earlier glory. The task is tough but not impossible provided there is a collective struggle towards this end. No one can change the conditions of Pukhtoons but themselves. In the Holy Quran, Allah says that He does not change the conditions of a people unless they make efforts to change these themselves. The time to change our conditions is now because now are the worst conditions we as a nation face. After the last kind Pukhtoon King Ibrahim Lodhi whose rule was taken by Mughals in 1562 Pukhtoons have seen the worst of oppressions, colonialism, wars and destructions. However of and on they were able to bounce back either by consistently fighting their enemies, or regaining back their sovereignty from occupying forces. However today this regal race is pushed to the extreme wall and sliding backward will prove fatal. The one and only option available to Pukhtoons is to move forward and unite. Unity is not only needed but it is our survival and if we do not grab this opportunity in the history of annals we will be attributed the worse place.
There are great dangers because the great devils have brought the battle to our homes but alas we are fighting among our selves. A New Great Game is being played where the only obstacles seen are Pukhtoons and conditions are orchestrated to wipe out this race so there is a free flow of oil from the Caspian Sea to the Gwadar port and onward to the West. In The New Great Game, a book written by Lutz Kleveman, he gives us a fearless, insightful and exacting portrait of a new battleground in the violent politics and passion of oil: Central Asia, known as the “black hole of the earth” for much of the last century. The Caspian Sea contains the world’s largest amount of untapped oil and gas resources. It is estimated that there might be as much as one hundred billion barrels of crude oil in the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan alone. And to transport this resource all obstacle must be removed at all costs including the annihilation of the Pukhtoon race.
Division into different parties, sects, tribes, and schools of thought is only offering the ammunition to our enemies to wipe us out. So what is needed is unity. It is ironic to see that the big Khans who sing the songs of Pukhtoon unity have not united us but further divided us. Our youth have joined extremist groups because the Khans have discriminated them, divided and ruled them, and in some instances forced even to vote against their will. Some of these Khans who even give long lectures on Pukhtoon unity have the blood of poor Pukhtoons on their hands. They must be shameful now as the Pukhtoons have reached a stage where if not reversed they will face total destructions. For the unity to be realized the following are some of the steps which needs to be taken:
• All Pukhtoons including other people of the whole province as well as the tribal area must come together. Putting aside our political affiliations or linguistic proficiency we must once and for all realize that disunity equals destruction and unity is the need of the hour.
• There is a need for a collective dialogue with the government as well as the so called Pro Taliban elements. Consultation or Jirga is not only part of the Pukhtoon culture but at the heart of Islam. We need to iron out all our differences be it between the Pro-Taliban or the people or the government. I am sure win-win solution could be found as the destruction of any of the three parties is the destruction of all.
• Instead of wasting time on futile and minute issues as to what should be the ring tone of a mobile phone or how long should the shalwar be hanging over the knuckles etc. people as well as government must focus on development activities. Health, education, employment and entrepreneurship should be spurred as these are the root causes which have enraged people into doing the things which we see these days.
• It is also the duty of every Pukhtoons to see that Pakistan remains intact as a country and counter all elements which are bent on destruction be they inside or outside. We must give up the retreat mentality but expand our influence throughout the country as well as the world.
• Extremism, ignorance, media assault on our image are some of the enemies which we need to confront. Being a freedom loving, secular, and Islamic minded people we must get rid of these menaces before the destroy us.
Pukhtoons have seen the best of times as well as the worst of times. Today Pukhtoons are at the crossroads and defining moment of their identity or survival. Extremism, international conspiracy to vanish them, and the lack of great leadership to steer them out of trouble are just a few of the myriads of problems faced by this brave people. Frankly there are only two options-first being destruction which is searching us and the second being survival which we must seek. If we do not opt for the second one then it is almost certain that we will become part of a forgotten history. A history where the members of the community were utterly disunited, too caught up in the pursuit of self interests and personal power, too reliant on others to do their work and to fight their wars, and these are the danger signs. They warn of destruction in society, the loss of identity and a decline in resolve that in times past had ensured both the survival of society and its continued existence. Unity among Pukhtoons and the people of the NWFP and Tribal Areas is the need of the hour as without unity we have no other options. So let us unite and rise to the occasion and save our land, our identity, our faith and the destiny of our present and future generations.
Dr Adalat Khan is an international columnist who is based in Malaysia and can be reached at

28 12 2007

How Swat the Valley of Tourism was lost to Terrorism?
Swat, a scenic valley in the NWFP, Pakistan has always been a tourist attraction as its topography is extremely beautiful. A fertile land sandwiched between two ranges of picturesque mountains and a blue water river flowing in the middle makes it a natural tourist and picnic spot. However the valley was thrown into a war and destruction when a so called Pro-Taliban group headed by Fazlullah got control of the region. The government forces have now regained control of the most parts of the area and it would seem that ultimately they shall prevail. However Swat offers a classic case study from where the government and the communities need to learn few valuable lessons. Two important questions need reflections and answers. How extremism came to Swat and living there need to questions may arise chief among them- how Swat was lost? and how identical terrorist encroachment in other parts of Pakistan can be avoided. Let us soul search and find answer to these questions:
The following are some of the key factors which contributed to the Swat take over by extremist elements:

The origin of most of the extremists can be traced back to the war in Afghanistan against Russia. The American CIA in collaboration with Pakistani intelligence agencies started recruiting civilians mainly from Pukhtoon areas of NWFP and tribal areas and brain washed them to fight against Russians. The same strategy was also used to fight a proxy war in Kashmir. Civilians Pukhtoons brainwashed into believing that the war in Afghanistan was a Jihad (Holy war) against infidel occupying forces enthusiastically fought. However when the Russians were driven out of Afghanistan the Western powers and the Pakistani intelligence agencies washed hands from Afghanistan and left it to self-destruction without ever thinking that it will have spill over effects in Pakistan and the world at large. The recent turmoil in Swat is the side effects of that flawed strategy where people once used are dumped in self and others destruction.

The main theme adopted by the Fazlullah team in Swat was the imposition of Shariah or Islamic laws. In the beginning of 2007 he had begun to call the Swat Valley an “Islamic Emirate.” and started imposing Taliban style of Islam publicly punishing petty criminals and beheading some of them in the guise of Islamic laws. As almost all of the people are Muslims no one wanted to be seen against Islam and thus kept quite. In fact tribal governance was deliberately promoted and mistakenly perceived as Islam. In fact some of the local authorities also refrained from confronting these bands of thugs who beautifully exploited and misused the name of Islam and took control of the whole region. It is not the first time that someone has used the religion for their own interests rather history is full of thousands of examples when cunning dictators, terrorists, manipulators, business people and other sick minded people misused religion and the whole communities were subdued. tribal governance mistakenly describing it as Islam.

“It was gruesome,” was how a resident of Shakkardarra described the scene of beheading of the law-enforcement personnel. He told Dawn newspaper in Pakistan on phone that masked militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles brought the four men to the village at around 5pm, fired a few shots in the air and then beheaded them. The men, said to be in their mid-20s, had their hands tied together. They were pushed to the ground on the main Matta-Mingora road and had their heads chopped off. “Let this serves as a warning to all those who spy for the government or help the government. All sons of Bush will meet similar fate,” the resident quoted one of the militants announcing shortly before the execution. The public execution and use of brutal force was to scare the people and scare they did as no one wanted to become an identical example.

As a teen I used to remember that people in my village will immediately unite and fight back any outsider interfering with their lives or communal affairs. It is not surprising how villages comprising of tens of thousands of people armed to the teeth were scared from hardly 10 persons in each village who represented this bigotry because there was no unity. In fact everyone was hoping that these bands will harm others and do not touch them. On the other hand most of the Khans and rich people who could have provided leadership to the masses left their villages and shifted to safe places in big cities like Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. My mother says that most of our neighbours in our village in Swat had left. This disunity coupled with collective cowardice on the part of the people encouraged these extremists to control the area who committed abominable excesses on them including beheading, public lashing, demanding food by force etc. My mother laughingly told me that the Mullahs will announce in loud speakers and ask people to bring eggs and other good food and people out of fear will oblige. “It is total cowardice” she quipped.

Chamnay Khan one of the leading commander or also known as Amir in Chuprial village, Matta is one of the die supporters of this movement. Siddique a friend from Swat informed me that how once in Thailand the said Chamnay Khan drank almost the whole bottle of whisky. It is also reported that in Malaysia the said person was involved in homosexuality and begging donation even from non-Muslim Chinese. Judging from the character of Chamnay Khan his main aim for joining this group was not his love for Islam but his love for extra money and wield control over others which he did. It would seem that most if not all of the supporters of this group were un-employed youth who received a daily allowance of Rs. 200 per day for carrying out various tasks including public intimidation and providing security services to their leaders.
The loss of Swat is a case study in Classic mistakes which offers few lessons both for the Pakistani government and the world at large. The first lesson which one can learn from this is that government must never exploit people and make them fight for their own selfish design. Worse still is to dump them once their utility is lost. The same happened in Afghanistan and Pakistan where people who were hand in glove with US and Pakistani forces and fighting along side them turned their guns on them. There was no strategy on rehabilitating the Jihadis and it was natural that they would create troubles for everyone. Effective post Afghan war planning would have saved everyone the endless long war which is now being fought. Another valuable lesson from Swat is that no one including the government should misuse or allow the religion to be misused. The world can learn from Malaysia which also being a Muslim country have effectively succeeding in avoiding misusing religion by vested groups. Religious freedom should not be confused with religious manipulation the second being used as a guise to achieve one’s selfish designs. Another important lesson which can be learned from the Swat is that the government must also empower the moderate forces and organize them to prevail over extremist movements. If needed committees at village and other levels must be formed with financial and armed support from the government to protect themselves from extremist and fanatic ideologues. Finally and probably the most potent solution to identical problems will be the provision of speedy and cheap justice, economic, and employment opportunities as well as free education and heath services. It is good that Swat has already been regained but to retain it we must not repeat the mistakes and take the measures prescribed.
Dr Adalat Khan is an international columnist who is based in Malaysia and can be reached at

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