Poor choice strikes at PPP’S rich legacy
There is no dearth of politicians, generals, judges and the teeming millions across the land, who are frustrated, but still awed by President Zardari’s ability to pull a rabbit out of the hat just when the chips are down — for him and his party.
But what happens when the rabbit is just that — a rabbit in political weight. Regardless of the present tense, the Pakistan People’s Party has a proud history — of leaders with few parallels, of men and women of valour and the long but triumphant struggle against despotic regimes bequeathing fine sepia tones for posterity.
It boasts of a founder — aptly, the first popularly elected prime minister — who picked up the pieces of a broken and demoralized nation in 1971 and, in a short span of time, raised its self-respect and standing to pitch it as the leader of the Muslim world.
Legend has it that President John F. Kennedy was in awe of young Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. When they met, Kennedy walked with him in the Rose Garden and said, “Bhutto, if you were an American, you would be in my cabinet”. Bhutto responded with a smile, “No, Mr. President. If I were an American, you would be in my cabinet”.
The story is long but a few ponderables beg mention: think Bhutto — think of the nuclear programme; think Bhutto — think of the only time something resembling a united Muslim world (remember the inspirational rounds of the 1974 Islamic Summit Conference in Lahore?); think Bhutto — think of the country’s first unanimous Constitution; think Bhutto — think of the only powerful chief executive, who put the Generals in their place but who also brought back 90,000 prisoners of war; think Bhutto — think of the only leader who could see the U.S. in the eye and still be friends with all the superpowers — the U.S., Soviet Union, France, Britain and China thanks to an independent foreign policy.
Enter Benazir Bhutto: the daughter of destiny, who was referred to as the Antigone of Pakistan — a character in Greek mythology who avenges the family name. She went on to become, at 36, the youngest elected prime minister, and the Muslim world’s first elected woman chief executive.
And who was she pitted against? General Ziaul Haq, the military strongman, who toppled her father and hanged him, who hounded her family — forcing her brothers to go into exile and herself and her mother incarcerated for long spells.
Yet, she found the courage to lead her father’s and the party’s proud legacy to win back power for the people — not once but twice.
She then paved the way for a third comeback by forcing another army chief to eat humble pie but not before she died bravely in the midst of people under Musharraf’s watch.
In the male-dominated preserve of power, Benazir’s life is etched as a brilliant exception to the rule, and a source of inspiration.
But what now?
Like a rude awakening, the party of “martyrs” has a face that launched a thousand blips. It is wrong to assume realpolitik can override history in the ultimate analysis, for, some records are not meant to be broken but preserved. Consider the incredulity of finding Raja Rental and the legend of the Bhuttos in the same annals. Enough said.