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Will Benazir-Nawaz Political Marriage Be Accepted?

Will People Accept Benazir-Nawaz Political Marriage?


By Syed Atiq ul Hassan, Sydney, Australia

News broke-out that the two former Prime Ministers of Pakistan Ms. Benazir Bhutto and Mr. Nawaz Sharif, finally, agreed to launch a joint struggle for revival of democracy in Pakistan. The two exiled Pakistani political leaders met in London – a common hub for Pakistani politicians to take refuge when they find themselves in danger in Pakistan. Aiming to dislodge campaign against present Pakistani ruler General Pervez Musharraf, the two exiled politicians want to dislodge the present civil-army style government of General Pervez Musharraf. According to the sources, both Benazir Bhutto, leader of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif, the leader of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Sharif Group) discussed their return to Pakistan and find strategies to undertake the next general election in Pakistan.

The politics in Pakistan is like Hindi movies where same old story is repeated with change of actors and titles and unfortunately, the people in Pakistan have been treating their political gurus with short memories from the very beginning. Despite of terrible experiences in their tenure the people have entertained the same parties and their leaders.

During 1988 to 1998 Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif came into power twice. Both failed to sustain and promote democracy in the country. Both were accused of corruption, lawlessness and both promoted the culture of favouritism and political briberies.

During the tenure of Benazir Bhutto, during 1993 to 1996, there lawlessness was so high and insecurity in the country was so much dangerous level that people were openly inviting army to make them free from PPP's rule. It was not only political instability which had created concerns among people; the most important area of frustration was economic disorder and chaos. The budget announced in June 1996 was followed by couple of mini budgets. As a result of $30 billion of foreign debt and Rs.850 billion of internal debt Pakistan was caught in a vicious cycle of economic chaos. Favouritism and opportunism were at that extreme that her husband Asif Ali Zardari was appointed as Federal Minister for Investment and Environment. Zardari was only accountable to his wife. He was rumored to be receiving millions of dollars in bribes from a range of foreign corporations to do business with Pakistan. He had earned the street sobriquet of "Mr. Ten Percent". Extra-judicial killings in Karachi alienated large sections of Urban Sindh from state policies. Her interior minister Nasirullah Babar launched operation clean-up Karachi that resulted as per reports of human right and amnesty international, 1,750 people were killed (only) in 1996 by the genocide and extrajudicial killings. Eventually, in November 1996, Benazir was ousted from the office of the Prime Minister by then President Farooque Laghari on the charges of corruption, mismanagement and incompetence. The Supreme Court of Pakistan found Benazir and her husband Asif Ali Zardari guilty of corruption and sentenced them for five years in prison and she decided to left the country leaving Zardari behind the bars. Today, Benazir is very eager to come back to Pakistan and she is in a delusion of being the 3rd time Prime Minister of Pakistan. The point here is that, who sent Benazir in exile and who stopped her to come to Pakistan? It was her choice to avoid possible jail and leave in comfort in Dubai and England.

Nawaz Sharif first came in power November 1990 as being the Prime Minister of Pakistan. His term was interrupted in April 1993 when then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dissolved his government accusing him of corruption. Six weeks later, in May 1993, Supreme Court overruling President’s power restored his parliamentary government. However, Nawaz Sharif was accused again of defaulting on state bank loans to his family businesses and laundering at least $66 million of the borrowings. The Sharif family's wealth is built around steel, paper, sugar and textile mills and his business empire rose astronomically during 1980s and 1990s when he was in power. Nawaz Sharif and his family had not missed any chance to pile-up money in foreign banks. The income tax laws were amended to defray unlawful rebates, and grow their family business by all means. The freedom of press was humiliated. New banking schemes were launched to oblige family and friends. The stories of his exotic life and about his lavish palace in Rabwa published like a romantic serial in media.

Both, Benazir and Nawaz, in their tenures abused each other and never left any chance to degrade each other. In fact, Benazir’s foreign assets first surfaced by Nawaz Sharif when he was an opposition leader. He revealed that Benazir Bhutto bought an expensive property named Rockwood Estate in Surrey, England.

In October 1999, General Pervez Musharraf overthrew Nawaz Sharif’s government negotiated his fate with Saudi Arabia and forced him to be in 10 years exile in Saudi Arabia. President Musharraf accused Nawaz Sharif that he ordered Musharraf’s plane, returning from an official visit to Sri Lanka, to be diverted from Karachi airport to Nawabshah airport in southern Sindh in order to facilitate his arrest. Whatever the truth was and whatever the reasons were behind the scene of Musharraf’s silent cue, there should not be any surprise as in Pakistan, army creates political leaders, army holds the election, army establishes democracy and eventually army returns back when things don’t run their favour from their chosen people in civilian office.

General Musharraf came in power with his seven point agenda and the people of Pakistan expected from him major reforms and restructuring in country. There was a sign of relief. Musharraf was considered a redeemer. Politicians were declared villains, the khakis promised good governance and economic upturn. President Musharraf promised to the people of Pakistan that his top agenda would be to clean the country from incapable, fraudulent and corrupt politicians and block them from future democracy of Pakistan. The People also wanted to see change in the country - reforms in every area, agricultural land reform, government’s institutional reform, elimination of bureaucratic culture and also to get rid of corrupt and dishonest politicians. Almost 7 years gone, the country might have seen some changes on foreign policies, new slogans on enlighten moderation and so on. Yet the question remains, has the country seen any change? Change in the deeply routed feudalistic and bureaucratic system and change in the traditional involvement of army in civil administration.

Today, this is the biggest question for the people of Pakistan that what they really want and who they want to see in power and what agenda. The people must see the manifesto of these political parties and their leaders in the benefits of the nation and country. Pakistan cannot afford any more promises except long term plans for country’s development in agriculture, technology, economy, education, health, environment and foreign relations.

Times have changed. If Pakistan has to survive and be at par with the rest of the world then the people have to say ‘good bye’ to the sellers of traditional slogans. The People of Pakistan should also learn from their past experience. They should know with a very clear vision what they should expect from their leaders for their benefits and in the interest of the country. They have to say ‘good bye’ to those political pundits who want to market the manifesto of hatred, abuse and politics of confrontation and who want to divide and agitate people for the illicit actions. They people have to say ‘good bye’ to those who want to satisfy people on political statements, criticising opponents and making sweet promises and who just want to bring the people of the streets on the name giving them power in Islamabad through agitation, demonstration and damaging public property and paying the price of public lives.

*************

(The writer is a Sydney-based journalist and media analyst).

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