Monday June 17, 2024

Benazir’s vision of prosperity

By Zafar Alam Sarwar
December 20, 2020

Benazir Bhutto, elected twice to the office of the prime minister of the Republic of Pakistan and assassinated in the Liaquat Bagh of Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007, can be described safely as a martyr. On her return home from abroad on October 18, she was said to have dedicated herself to the cause of the country and its people. The brave woman did not lose her heart following an attempt on her life during a mammoth welcome procession the same evening in Karachi.

In fact, she was in a crucial phase of struggle for true independence and sovereignty of her homeland and its economic survival with honour when the enemy’s bullet struck her. The enemy pointed his gun to her at a historic moment when the Daughter of the East, with a humane smile, jubilantly waved to thousands of her brethren who had come from across the country to see her speak to the masses. The people responded loudly to her call for awakening from slumber.

One can say the way Benazir Bhutto spoke her mind at the well-attended public meeting was marvellous and the message was delivered judiciously. It appeared she meant what she said. That was, in fact, a warning between the lines to the forces hostile to re-emergence of a progressive state in South Asia. And the covert enemy of a strong and prosperous Pakistan was already playing a double-standard game in the region.

She knew her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto during his studies had been impressed by the leadership of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. So, she expected educated Pakistanis to reflect the thoughts of the founder of Pakistan and his comrades who spent their lives for achievement of the ideal. Relevant to recall in this context the message of the Quaid on the first anniversary of the country: “Nature has given you everything; you have got unlimited resources; the foundations of your state have been laid; and it is now for you to build, and build as quickly and as well as you can.” The Daughter of the East was a well-studied woman and she had intellectually borrowed a lot of good things from her father also, who himself was inspired by the life and struggle of great freedom fighters like Mao Tse-tung of China and Ahmad S. Soekarno of Indonesia. As a student of political science and history, Benazir Bhutto remembered the Quaid’s interview to the Correspondent of Daily Worker, London, wherein he had stressed that Pakistan was the Muslims’ demand for freedom because Muslims in Pakistan wanted to be able to establish their own real democratic popular government which would have the sanction of the mass of the population and would function with the will and sanction of the entire body of people in Pakistan, irrespective of caste, creed, or colour.

The martyred Daughter of the East had a vision -- political and economic. She thought of bread, not bullet or bomb, for the common man -- and she made it clear to the world at large in an article in the first week of May 1996 as a democratically elected head of government. She was grieved on report of a bomb blast. She said: “more than 50 of my countrymen lost their lives in the cold-blooded bombing in a Punjab bus returning from Eidul Azha, one of the most important festivals in the Muslim calendar.” How Benazir Bhutto felt and what vision she had for the future of Pakistan and its people can be assessed from her sayings and writings.

“Women and children burned to death, and witnesses were unable to approach the shattered vehicle for hours due to the extreme heat. It was a senseless tragedy that leaves us wondering about the kind of world we live in,” wrote the woman on the bus blast. Something more of what she emphasised is relevant today: “Although we do not know the identity of those responsible for the heinous act the preliminary findings indicate that it might have been from outside the country and externally sponsored. It may have been an effort by the enemies of Pakistan to step up activity in the important province of the Punjab. The ultimate irony is that this comes at a time when all the nations of the world should be overcoming differences and learning to co-operate in the quest of peace and economic prosperity.”

The assassinated Benazir Bhutto rightly pointed out that it had been more than four decades since the last great World War tore the globe apart and led to a world carved into competing ideological camps. Economic interests took a back seat to Cold War competition as the Soviets and Americans used the developing nations as pawns on a global chess-board. But, as the Berlin Wall crumbled and the nations of the world were freed from their ideological prisons, real co-operation for economic prosperity became a viable option. “The nations have joined in regional alliances which allow them to enlarge their markets more rationally, divide labour, pool research and development resources, and generate a higher surplus for investment. But the success of regional alliances depends upon the promotion of a common interest, mutual confidence and a spirit of equality among big and small neighbouring states -- the type easily shattered by a terrorist’s explosives.

“We must also remember that regionalisation can also be used as a barrier to change and peace when nations organise to insulate themselves from the salutary impact of a globalisation. One only needs to look at the so-called Co-prosperity Sphere, which the imperial Japan used as a justification for its invasion of Manchuria before the World War II, to understand that regionalism can serve as a cover for hegemony. We must not let these potential dangers deter us from our attempt to build successful regional alliances, however. The economic well-being of our people is too important for such fears."