Champagne With Blood, Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto

“Make arrangements for me to have a bath and a shave” my father tells him. “The world is beautiful and I want to leave it clean. “Tonight I will be free,” he says, a glow suffusing his face. “I will be joining my mother, my father. I am going back to the land of my ancestors in Larkana to become part of its soil, its scent, its air. There will be songs about me. I will become part of its legend.” He smiles. “Until we meet again,” I hear him call.” Page 20, Daughter of Destiny, Benazir Bhutto, Rosette Printers, 1989. And call her, he did, 28 years down the road.

These were excerpts from the last words of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s first politically elected Prime Minister as narrated by his daughter, twice PM of Pakistan, later assassinated, Benazir Bhutto.

I am in a rather unsettled state as I write these lines, much of my life I sided with the rhetoric on the Bhuttos and later, Zardaris, the landlords, the corrupt, some of it changed in my interactions with the late Fauzia Wahab, a senior political figure of PPP who died last year in a minor operation. A fine lady she was, graciously explaining my misconception, but a lot changed when I read Benazir’s books. In fact, twice that I saw her in dreams post 3-6 months of her death, in one she was handing over an old wooden box to me with a key, quietly staring at me, in another, a sad stare as she showed me her wedding reception with Asif Ali Zardari. I was sweating post these dreams and called Fauzia in the middle of the night, she said “Imran she wants you to do something for her, unfinished business”

I do not know to this date what that unfinished business could have been? Politically I for one, haven’t seen democracy as a “savior” of the people, at least in our present state where votes are driven by castes, faith and poverty then intelligent choice which they are theoretically supposed to reflect. Surely that has explained the plethora of illiterate or not but influential and corrupt politicians who have time and again taken the ropes of Pakistan, only to be interrupted by Army Generals when the exploits were too many. I could say that for Musharraf, but what excesses did Bhutto “commit” for Zia to murder him? I know not, many say it was “Uncle Sam” and their “long term leadership strategy” using a General to kill a politician, and apparently as the days unfold, the politicians to kill a General (Musharraf)

Or as John Perkins summed it up in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2004), which claims that he played a leading role in a larger process of economic colonization of Third World countries on behalf of what he portrays as a cabal of corporations, banks, and the United States government?

Truth be told, each of Pakistan’s leaders had their own plus and dark sides, Ayub brought in law and order, Bhutto gave a voice to the people and, (ahem!) united the Muslim “Ummah” in an intellectually captivating way – way ahead of the idiotic Taliban/Al Qaeda (remnants of Osama Bin Laden) Islam, why was Uncle Sam upset with Bhutto? I know not? But then critics point out the same raison d’ etre for King Faisal, (even Zia!) Benazir Bhutto, and soon, perhaps, Pervez Musharraf too. How can Uncle Sam be anti the people who encourage the moderates among the Muslims? (Zia perhaps being the only exception but was he not doing Uncle Sam’s dirty job in Afghanistan against Russia? And perhaps, just perhaps he’d overgrown his marching boots?) and perhaps soon “Taliban Khan” aka Imran Khan, the “Sportsman Bhutto” of the masses of Pakistan? Or perhaps not, for his idiocy and naivety is his biggest ticket to life. BTW, Uncle Sam is the guy every Pakistani loves to hate once in a while and just why not? America always used us, abused us, and dumped us. We were that 52nd state which had no rights, only wrongs.

“The Quran provides broad beliefs and morals by which to live. The specifics were left to be interpreted in light of the proper historical context. The text is silent. We have to hear its voice. In order to hear, we need presuppositions. In order to have presuppositions, we need the knowledge of the age. In order to have the knowledge of the age, we have to surrender to change.” – this was no religious scholar, again, these were the words of Benazir Bhutto (Page 65, Reconciliation, Simon & Schuster, 2008) – she could have done for Pakistan what none could, after she was “forced to leave.”

And where does Pakistan stand today? Best summed up, to me, in an IFPRI presentation by N Haque, and I quote their excerpt from a newspaper, the Nation, “The regal manner in which the rulers have treated themselves at the tremendous expense of the misery of the ruled is most depressing.” And the world thinks it’s just a problem of democracy, terrorism and bad neighbor relations (Afghanistan and India)!

Here is where I find the link between the Bhuttos and Musharraf most compelling as per a World Bank report, “According to the World Bank’s WGI (Worldwide Governance Index), governance actually seemed to improve slightly under the first military government (1999-2002) following Musharraf’s coup. In 2003, the country even performed slightly better in terms of controlling corruption, rule of law and government effectiveness. However, all the country’s indicators have since collapsed (based on 2007 results)” adding further “The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report (2007-08) identifies corruption as the third greatest problem for companies doing business in Pakistan, after government bureaucracy and poor infrastructure.”

Roughly 40 percent of companies in Pakistan feel that corruption is one of their major concerns. Interestingly, the country is seen as a relatively better place for running a business than its neighbours.

Malaise Of The Less Developed Countries

I’ve highlighted time and again in my Change blog – all LDCs (less developed countries) more or less suffer from the same malaise, poor law, order and justice, period.

To my mind, it isn’t the governance mechanism that makes a huge difference, take for example, the fact that much of the middle east has no democracy, yet they are highly developed, successful and progressive nations! Their nationals are happy, the expatriates are happy, World Leaders bow to their system of government, apparently quite happily so! So why link democracy with progress first and foremost. Don’t get me wrong here, as I write “first and foremost” – one can transition to democracy, the Western democracies herald high literacy levels, a huge respect for individual rights, and humility and work rather than extravagant “show-off” culture as their core values. Now contrast that with an extravagant dinner that Angelina Jolie attended at one of ex Prime Minister’s of Pakistan’s house post the floods, “She said that she was feeling awful at that time to see so much food at the table, suffice for hundreds of flood victims who were fighting like crazy to get a small bag of flour and a small bottle of water. She was ill at ease when she saw the interior of lavish Premier house and some of the government buildings and the chartered planes and other such luxuries, when there was so much misery outside. In her report to the United Nations, she has recommended UN to ask Pakistani government to first cut down on their expenses and to first cut down their luxuries before asking for aid from the world.”

Today, an average Pakistani doesn’t have clean drinking water, gas, electricity, basic infrastructure, healthcare, protection of life, property or business, it’s a long list indeed and I have little strength to go on and on. Just see ChristianAid’s views and I cannot express them any better as you shall see “Over the past few years, low growth and high inflation, led by a spurt in food prices, have increased poverty, especially in rural areas. It is estimated in 2011 almost 50 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. Much of the GDP is spent on the military and security. The fight against radical Islamist groups is a huge drain economically, and huge debts or bankruptcy will only serve the Islamists further. This issue, combined with poverty and unemployment, creates dissatisfaction and resentment against the government and foreign influences.”

Pakistani Media Trumping Up Charges

In this backdrop one sees Pakistani media trumping up a “catch the billa (cat)” movement against Musharraf. But was / is he really the fat cat one should spend one’s time and energy to “catch” (he’s pretty much caught in the line of his own self-chosen fire as we speak) or should everyone who “matters” in Pakistan be it politically, armed forces, judiciary or the bureaucracy, for once focus on fixing the system that breed corruption, power play and high headedness?

But will the people who benefit from corruption, fix corruption? Or is it easier to, time and again, look for scapegoats, the US, or Taliban, or Musharraf.

Will killing Musharraf avenge Benazir’s death? Two people who weren’t quite opposites in any sense. As Fatima Bhutto, Benazir’s charismatic niece wrote right after Musharraf imposed the “Emergency” an article well worth reading. “The only parties who stand to benefit from the emergency are the government and their allies. Contrary to what is reported in the Western press, one of these very beneficiaries is a twice-disgraced former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto.”

It is clear the opposition, despite all their differences, are united in their desire to see Musharraf hanged, it’s more like a cult ritual, everyone gains political mileage out of it, cornering the army. Biting the hand that protects, no, that’s so “uncool” by Pakistani intellectuals’ standards isn’t it? The army is “corrupt” etc etc etc.

No one dare talk about solutions, about law and order, about moderation, about safety for all minorities and majorities alike, about an end to landlords, OMG, why am I so politically incorrect?

Well then, have it your way. Unless the Billa looks up to the Cheetah – it’s a drink I just can’t afford to have.