Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Pakistan after Benazir Bhuttoo

Pakistan after Benazir Bhuttoo
Dr Shabir Choudhry 27 December 2007

Benazir Bhuttoo is no more with us but her legacy, like that of her father’s legacy, will stay with us for many years to come and will dictate politics and future of Pakistan. All ‘sins’, past ‘deeds’, ‘deals’ and ‘weaknesses’ are washed away, and she will be remembered by majority as a symbol for resistance, democracy and a champion of human rights.

I hope after her tragic death she is presented as a popular Pakistani leader killed by unknown assassin rather than a Sindhi leader killed in Punjab, as already declared by some Sindhi nationalists. Nationalists in Sind already use ‘Sind card’ to propagate against the federation of Pakistan that a popular Sindhi Prime Minister (Zulfqar Ali Bhuttoo) was hanged and other Sindhi Prime Minister (Benazir Bhuttoo) was twice deposed, and another potential leader (Murtaza Bhuttoo) of Sind was assassinated by the Punjabi dominated establishment.

Rumours are wild as to who are killers of Benazir Bhuttoo. According to Italian independent news agency Adnkronos International (AKI), Al- Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu Al- Yazid from Afghanistan said: "We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat the mujahadeen,"

Many will discard this claim, and there are solid reasons for this. Al- Aqaeda would like to take ‘credit’ for killing of such high level target, as it would boost their power, ability and potential to take out their enemies. But question is why would Al- Qaeda kill her? People who support this view will say that she was killed because she was too pro West, and went there to safeguard their interests. In my view this is not true.

May be she was pro West and went there to protect the Western interests, but key point to remember is that she was not in power, and was not even close to getting elected. All the assessments before her death were indicating that there would be a hung parliament in which any one could have been ‘chosen’ to become a Prime Minister. One has also to remember that under the 17th amendment to the constitution, made by Musharaf, she could not have become a Prime Minister third time, and she needed a two third majority to change that. How could she have got this number of votes in a hung parliament?

Even if she had overcome all the obstacles and was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, she would not have been much different to Prime Minister Jamali and Shaukat Aziz. One has to remember that Musharaf Sahib has changed balance of power, and now most of the powers are vested in the post of the President, and not Prime Minister which should be the case in a Parliamentary system of government.

We all know that Musharaf or his Prime Minister had an army of Ministers and they took pride in supporting and promoting American interest or ‘War on terror’. They, in order to stay in power undermined the Pakistani or Muslim interest and have virtually made Pakistan a colony of America? They were responsible for many policies, which resulted in killings of thousands of innocent people in mosques, madrassaes and in other parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was not too difficult for an organisation like Al- Qaeda to take some of them out, especially when they were not Ministers or Prime Ministers.

So question is why target a person who had not yet become a Prime Minister, and have not practically done much to support the Western policy in Pakistan? How she would have behaved after becoming a Prime Minister was merely guess or speculation. And question for Al- Qaeda leadership should have been (and they are clever and thinking people), why not go after those, who are former ministers now, but nevertheless were responsible for many tragedies, instead of going after some one who could possibly harm them in future?

So I would not waste my time finding killers of Benazir Bhuttoo in mountains of Tribal areas or Afghanistan, I would look for them in and around Islamabad. Her killers are embedded in the state apparatus of Pakistan, and aim of killing has nothing to do with her support for the West, as most of the government officials and pro government leaders take pride in what they have done to support the West.

Nenazir Bhuttoo also knew who her enemies were, and after the first attack on her life in Karachi, she while addressing a press conference the following day indicated that Pakistan's intelligence agencies were behind the attack. She said: " if something happens to me, I will hold them responsible rather than militant groups like the Taliban, Al Qaeda or the Pakistani Taliban." She even demanded the removal of the Intelligence Bureau chief, Ijaz Shah, hinting at Pakistani intelligence agencies' linking with their desire to take her out.

In an interview on Venus TV soon after this tragic event I said: No doubt it is another black day in history of Pakistan. It is a sad day for democracy, justice and liberal politics. However it would be wrong to get in to blame game and accuse other countries. Killers of Benazir Bhuttoo are those who are against democracy, and against Pakistan. They have always hated and opposed her and have regarded her as a ‘security risk’. This is a turning point in the history of Pakistan, and things will never be same again. Her death could pose a serious threat to already fragile federation.

In my view her assassins have given a deadly blow to the federation of Pakistan. She was, in view of many, a force that kept the federation together. Many thought she was symbol of federation and now that she is brutally killed what challenges are there to Pakistan as a nation state?

One has to see who will benefit from her killing, and surely it is not rag tag jihadi groups living in mountains of Afghanistan or in Tribal areas. Beneficiaries are surely those who were part of the previous government and take this interim period as holiday or absence from office. The ruling elite and agencies which did not like her return, realised that their favourites are not going to win if Banzir Bhuttoo and Nawaz Sharif are given free hand to contest.

But there was no danger from Nawaz Sharif. He and his brother were not allowed to contest elections. As the election - day was approaching closer it was becoming clear that Kings Party known as Q League was struggling and would not win many seats.

It must be noted that many commentators think Pakistan is at the brink of a full-scale civil war, some even say civil war has been going on since March of this year. And when we view this in the light of what has been going on in various parts of Pakistan, including Tribal areas, Balochistan, Swat and Frontier Province then they are not wrong.

Her tragic death will further weaken already fragile federation, and it will strengthen all those who are against the present government and against the policies and thinking of the ruling elite. This will lead to more trouble, antagonism, extremism and disillusionment. It will strengthen those who feel that Punjabi or military dominated establishment is treating smaller provinces unfairly and want to break away from the federation.

This disillusionment, anger and resentment could exacerbate the political situation of Pakistan, and could lead to a civil war resulting in more trouble, more deaths and more destruction. But I hope the common sense will prevail and people will restrain and learn from this tragedy and help Pakistan to become a stable, democratic and liberal country.

Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at: drshabirchoudhry@googlemail.com

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