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Bhutto, Pakistan and peace

The New York Times story has made it clear that India has become so desperate that it is planning to use a nuclear option. Its attempts at isolating Pakistan diplomatically have not produced the desired results. Its army has not succeeded in defusing the situation in Kashmir. Neither had it succeeded – despite its claims – in stopping Pakistan in its alleged cross border terrorism.

Indeed, disclosure by New York Times provides us an opportunity to pay tribute to the great leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (and his daughter Benazir Bhutto), who gave Pakistan nuclear teeth and enabled its long range nuclear-head carrying missile technology at the cost of his life.

Bhutto had a very broad perspective of Pakistan’s history. He had realised that the permanent tug-of-war between India and Pakistan had a devastating impact on Pakistan. Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision of a social welfare state was converted into a garrison state.

While India was lucky that it did not lose its founding fathers immediately after partition and they were there for many decades to consolidate the post-partition gains of freedom, Pakistan unfortunately was not. MAJ died after 15 months of its creation. Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, after having survived first attempt at military coup, was assassinated four years later and the hired assassin’s bullets plunged Pakistan into uncertainty that continues to haunt its future to this day.

While India did not, in Pakistan people were denied the role of sole arbiters of power and it remains undecided till today. It was only for a brief period—five years under ZAB—that the masses had a taste of power. Ever since his execution in 1979 they are paying the price. Long periods of successive dictators, their oppressive rules, and revival of the vested interest and resurgence of retrogressive religious forces have brought us to such a pass that we now pray for another Bhutto. Only Bhutto could have gotten the subcontinent 43 years of peace.

No doubt following 2008 elections Pakistan has had some silver linings. First time its elected government completed its tenure and transferred power to another elected government—indeed a land mark achievement.

Indeed we would not have travelled this far had the path not been strewn with the blood of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, his daughter Benazir Bhutto and thousands of their followers. Theirs was a life-long struggle for the empowerment of the people—especially the women and the minorities.

The military-civil-judicial troika backed by the vested interest did not allow SZAB or his daughter to complete their missions. The machinations of the known enemies and their quislings within could not destroy SZAB’s or Bibi’s steeled determination to challenge the dictatorship.

It is very difficult to forecast how long this struggle between the people as the sole arbiter of power and the barrel of the gun shall continue. Half of our independent years have passed under dictatorship with rest indirectly, have rendered Pakistan into a great hub of duplicity, converted it into a nation of confounding murkiness making life short, brutish and nasty.

ZAB’s advent in politics was a turning point in Pakistan’s history. He was the youngest minister with ideas in an autocratic Ayub government with generals and senior bureaucrats in cahoots to put their claim to political power. He accepted beung part of an unelected regime to see how he could move forward to get the country back to MAJ’s vision. Bhutto, as such, chartered himself on a challenging course that would give a new sense of direction to the people and a fresh meaning to politics.

As a dynamic minister Bhutto did wonders with whatever portfolios he was assigned. As Minister for Fuel and Power, he opened Pakistan for diverse explorers tapping for our hidden energy resources discovering oil and gas deposits. As Minister for Science and Technology he set Pakistan onto the path to match India’s advancements in the nuclear technology. And had he had his way earlier under Ayub Pakistan would have acquired nuclear capability much before India tested its atomic device in 1974.

ZAB had no match in statesmanship and his skills in international politics. He untied Pakistan from the American apron strings. Pakistan’s independence had been rendered into a myth by Ayub. ZAB salvaged it by consolidating relations with China, European nations and the Third World. And the Islamic Summit that he held in Lahore remains to this day unsurpassed in its glory.

Gen Zia treated Bhutto very shabbily though he was both his benefactor and Pakistan’s saviour. He not only retrieved 93,000 PoWs, recovered over 5000 square miles of our prized territory in Sialkot lost in the battle, rearmed and rejuvenated a demoralised army—what hurt him most was that General Zia pushed Pakistan back into dark ages. He ruefully lamented before his execution: “In the process they have robbed the nation of the high ideals and spirit of fraternity the people shared and demonstrated in 1947.”

The massacre in Parachinar at Imam Bargah and the failure of the government to pillory the radical religious elements who are in cahoots with Mulla Fazlullah of TTP does not augur well for a pluralist, liberal and progressive Pakistan. Some people allege that the government is in league with such elements as they are its electoral allies. It does not seem to be far from truth.

One would not expect those who had opposed to support ZAB’s mission to carry forward torch of MAJ’s secular Pakistan. With Shaheed Benazir Bhutto gone, it is now incumbent upon the PPP leadership—AAZ, Bilawal Bhutto, Bakhtawar and Aseefa and its diehard workers to get organised, work on a left of the centre manifesto, carry forward the torch of democratic freedom fuelled by the Bhutto blood. There should not be any compromise on the supremacy of the Parliament, empowerment of the people and equality for all its citizens, irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender, rule of law, independence of judiciary, freedom for media and a firm reiteration that religion shall have nothing to do with the business of the state.

Shamsul, Wajid. Bhutto, Pakistan and peace. Pakistan Today, April 4, 2017.

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