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The Price To Pay For Democracy In Pakistan


The Price To Pay For Democracy In Pakistan

By Syed Atiq ul Hassan

The West likes to see democracy in Pakistan but Pakistan's troubled history tells that democratic process in Pakistan means further disintegration. In 1970, post-election events of the largest democratic election in the history of Pakistan led to the loss of then East Pakistan.

The 1977 general election led to another military rule and capital punishment to the most powerful civilian leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. And now, the world has seen another blow to Pakistan's political process that may result further disintegration.

On Thursday December 27, 2007, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated at Liaqat Bagh (Park) Rawalpindi. This is the same place where Liaqat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, was assassinated on October 16, 1951. And Rawalpindi is same city where Benazir's father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged on April 4, 1979.

Musharraf was forced to open the ways for political process in Pakistan by the Western powers. The two top political figures, Mr. Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Group) and Ms. Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan Peoples Party were consented to return to Pakistan. The Bush administration was reportedly found brokering the deal between President Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto.

On her arrival Benazir Bhutto was attacked by a suicide bomb blast which left about 140 people dead while Benazir Bhutto found to be lucky enough to escape. Threat to kill Benazir Bhutto came from Al Quaeda and Taliban of Afghanistan but Benazir immediately made Pakistan's secret agencies responsible for planning to eliminate her. She continued to lead the election campaign of her Pakistan Peoples Party holding election rallies and large gathering. However, her luck did not back Benazir this time and she was shot dead followed by suicide bomb blast left 20 other people dead when she was leaving a large public gathering.

The country-wide angry reaction on Benazir's murder further left many killed and loss of millions of dollars public/private properties damage by fatal violence.

Pakistan is a very country which is strategically very important for United States in the on-going war against Al Quaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan. Though President Pervez Musharraf has been cooperating with United States and Western powers in the war against terrorism yet Musharraf could not deliver completely what they were expecting instead Taliban's power is further spreading in the northern parts of Pakistan. Therefore, the United States wanted to kill two birds with one stone. Step down Musharraf from its military power on name of democracy and use Ms Benazir Bhutto - internationally known figure from the most powerful political dynasty of Pakistan and the leader of mainstream Pakistani mainstream political party - Pakistan Peoples Party.

For Benazir; it was a golden opportunity and perfect timing to return to Pakistan from her long-term self exile. Harvard's educated highly intelligent, Benazir used a very well calculated slogan of eliminating radical & terrorist elements from Pakistan to gain support from in and outside of Pakistan.

Since her arrival into Pakistan the Western media remarkably projected Benazir as a restoration of democracy in Pakistan despite of the fact the she was sacked twice from Premiership, in the past, on the corruption charges.

Benazir first came to power in 1988 but her government was dismissed in 1990 following the charges of corruption. She was again re-elected in 1993 but was dismissed again in November 1996 amid various corruption charges. The Supreme Court of Pakistan found Benazir and her husband Asif Ali Zardari guilty of corruption and sentenced them for five years in prison. Later Asif was sentenced to jail and Benazir left the country into self exile.

The tales of the Taliban in Afghanistan also shows that when Benazir was in power, in 1990, the Taliban was supported and provided heavily with arms by United States through Benazir's administration in order to steadily gain control of Afghanistan from the northern alliance.

The Bush administration played a key role in brokering deal between President Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto. And it was logical to understand that a civil rule of a ragbag of Benazir Bhutto - a strong political leader of a mainstream political party (Pakistan Peoples Party) - and President Musharraf - a strong ally of United States from Pakistan army - might have continuously served the US strategic interest and support in the war against Al Quaeda, Taliban and other radical groups.

Benazir Bhutto, in her election rallies, openly slammed Islamic fundamentalism and radicalism. She vowed to allow US forces to launch operations against Al Quaeda groups, if needed, inside Pakistani border in northern Pakistan for which Musharraf always denied. She was attacked by suicide blast on her arrival but found lucky to escape, however, she was continuously receiving death threats.

Bush administration have asked President Musharraf to continue the up coming election process, however, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto must be now a serious blow to the US administration.

Anti-American statements in the current election campaign by another former Prime Minister, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, who is leading the second biggest party of Pakistan, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Group) shows that US will not support him to come into power. However, according to latest reports, Nawaz Sharif has already announced that his party will boycott the January election.

In the current situation, the chances are that except pro-Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League (Q), the other political-religious major parties will boycott the election. And if President Musharraf continues to hold the election on January 8 (2008) then nothing will change in Pakistani government except that Musharraf will continue to enjoy his power now as civilian President with his own appointed military Generals and a loyalist parliament.

Yet, in Pakistan where there are enmities found between smaller provinces (Sind, Balochistan and NWFP) and Punjab (the largest province of Pakistan with more than 60 percent hold in army and civil bureaucracy) in various administrative and governing matters; the assassination of Benazir Bhutto will be seen as the murder another political leader and former Prime Minister (after Liaqat Ali Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto) from Sind in Punjab or by Punjab. This may further lead to political disintegration of Pakistan.

Concluded: Saturday, 29th December, 2007

ENDS

Syed Atiq ul Hassan, JP, Sydney, Australia: The writer is a Sydney-based journalist and a media analyst.

*******

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