those of us sharply critical of Benazir Bhutto's behaviour and
policies - both while she was in office and more recently - are
stunned and angered by her death. Indignation and fear stalk the
country once again.
An odd coexistence
of military despotism and anarchy created the conditions leading
to her assassination in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. In the
past, military rule was designed to preserve order - and did so
for a few years. No longer. Today it creates disorder and promotes
lawlessness. How else can one explain the sacking of the chief
justice and eight other judges of the country's supreme court
for attempting to hold the government's intelligence agencies
and the police accountable to courts of law? Their replacements
lack the backbone to do anything, let alone conduct a proper inquest
into the misdeeds of the agencies to uncover the truth behind
the carefully organised killing of a major political leader.
How can Pakistan
today be anything but a conflagration of despair? It is assumed
that the killers were jihadi fanatics. This may well be true,
but were they acting on their own?
according to those close to her, had been tempted to boycott the
fake elections, but she lacked the political courage to defy Washington.
She had plenty of physical courage, and refused to be cowed by
threats from local opponents. She had been addressing an election
rally in Liaquat Bagh. This is a popular space named after the
country's first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, who was killed
by an assassin in 1953. The killer, Said Akbar, was immediately
shot dead on the orders of a police officer involved in the plot.
Not far from here, there once stood a colonial structure where
nationalists were imprisoned. This was Rawalpindi jail. It was
here that Benazir's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in
April 1979. The military tyrant responsible for his judicial murder
made sure the site of the tragedy was destroyed as well.
Bhutto, according to those close to her, had been tempted
to boycott the fake elections, but she lacked the political
courage to defy Washington. She had plenty of physical courage,
and refused to be cowed by threats from local opponents.
Ali Bhutto's death poisoned relations between his Pakistan People's
Party and the army. Party activists, particularly in the province
of Sind, were brutally tortured, humiliated and, sometimes, disappeared
turbulent history, a result of continuous military rule and unpopular
global alliances, confronts the ruling elite now with serious
choices. They appear to have no positive aims. The overwhelming
majority of the country disapproves of the government's foreign
policy. They are angered by its lack of a serious domestic policy
except for further enriching a callous and greedy elite that includes
a swollen, parasitic military. Now they watch helplessly as politicians
are shot dead in front of them.
It is impossible
for even a rigged election to take place now. It will have to
be postponed, and the military high command is no doubt contemplating
another dose of army rule if the situation gets worse, which could
happened is a multilayered tragedy. It's a tragedy for a country
on a road to more disasters. Torrents and foaming cataracts lie
ahead. And it is a personal tragedy. The house of Bhutto has lost
another member. Father, two sons and now a daughter have all died
is difficult to imagine any good coming out of this tragedy,
but there is one possibility. Pakistan desperately needs
a political party that can speak for the social needs of
a bulk of the people. The People's party needs to be refounded
as a modern and democratic organisation, open to honest
debate and discussion, defending social and human rights,
uniting the many disparate groups and individuals in Pakistan...
first met Benazir at her father's house in Karachi when she was
a fun-loving teenager, and later at Oxford. She was not a natural
politician and had always wanted to be a diplomat, but history
and personal tragedy pushed in the other direction. Her father's
death transformed her. She had become a new person, determined
to take on the military dictator of that time.
She had moved to a tiny flat in London, where we would endlessly
discuss the future of the country. She would agree that land reforms,
mass education programmes, a health service and an independent
foreign policy were positive constructive aims and crucial if
the country was to be saved from the vultures in and out of uniform.
Her constituency was the poor, and she was proud of the fact.
again after becoming prime minister. In the early days, we would
argue and in response to my numerous complaints - all she would
say was that the world had changed. She couldn't be on the "wrong
side" of history. And so, like many others, she made her peace
with Washington. It was this that finally led to the deal with
Musharraf and her return home after more than a decade in exile.
On a number of occasions she told me that she did not fear death.
It was one of the dangers of playing politics in Pakistan.
It is difficult
to imagine any good coming out of this tragedy, but there is one
possibility. Pakistan desperately needs a political party that
can speak for the social needs of a bulk of the people. The People's
party founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was built by the activists
of the only popular mass movement the country has known: students,
peasants and workers who fought for three months in 1968-69 to
topple the country's first military dictator. They saw it as their
party, and that feeling persists in some parts of the country
to this day, despite everything.
horrific death should give her colleagues pause for reflection.
To be dependent on a person or a family may be necessary at certain
times, but it is a structural weakness, not a strength for a political
organisation. The People's party needs to be refounded as a modern
and democratic organisation, open to honest debate and discussion,
defending social and human rights, uniting the many disparate
groups and individuals in Pakistan desperate for any halfway decent
alternative, and coming forward with concrete proposals to stabilise
occupied and war-torn Afghanistan. This can and should be done.
The Bhutto family should not be asked for any more sacrifices.
Burma Is Not Back To Normal, by Jill
Download Wayne Shorter's Tribute to Aung
San Suu Kyi
Pakistan Sinks Deeper Into The Night,
by Tariq Ali
The Pakistan Question: Will History Repeat Itself?, by M. Shahid
The Killer Elites Of Pakistan, by M Shahid Alam
New Clashes In Islamabad, by Tariq Ali
Tariq Ali's new book, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Axis Of Hope,
is published by Verso. He also wrote Rough Music: Blair,
Bombs, Baghdad, Terror, London (Verso); Street Fighting
Years (new edition) and, with David Barsamian,Speaking of
Empires & Resistance. He can be reached at [email protected]
here to order Tariq Ali books.
Other articles by Tariq Ali:
Bush's Cuba Detour
New Clashes In Islamabad
Adieu, Blair, Aideu
The Khyber Impasse
The War Is Already Lost
Venezuela And The Bolivarian Dream
A Bavarian Provocation
A Protracted Colonial War
On The Death Of Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Iraq's Destiny Still Rests Between God, Blood And Oil
A Despised Leader Suffers His First Loss
Pakistan Will Never Forget This Horror
The Logic Of Colonial Rule
A Viler Barbarism
The Price Of Occupation
The New Ultra-Imperialism Of The World
"They Think God Runs The IMF"
Imperial Delusions: "Domocracy Promotion" And Resistance
The New Model Of Imperialism: Saddam On Parade
The Importance Of Hugo Chavez: Why He Crushed The Oligarchs
Getting Away With Murder
The War Is Not Going Well For Bush