The real question - Nawab Mumtaz Ali Bhutto - Saturday, April 09, 2011

We have just witnessed another festival on Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s death anniversary. I use the word festival deliberately because what transpires at the family graveyard of this branch of the Bhutto family, at Garhi Khuda Buksh, is nothing short of a political mela which most of the visitors celebrate rather than mourn the occasion with the solemnity and dignity that it deserves. This is not surprising since 90 percent of ministers, senators, MNAs and MPAs who flock to the graveyard are those who opposed Shaheed Bhutto in his lifetime and some even rejoiced at his murder.

However, this time around, Zardari and his team have out done themselves in submerging into the Bhutto ethos by filing a petition in the Supreme Court for reopening the Bhutto murder case. The whole world already treats Bhutto’s hanging as judicial murder. This includes one of the judges who passed the death sentence.

Nevertheless, 32 years later while his sons, daughters and posthumous son-in-law, did not feel the need to take this step even though they were in power twice before, Zardari has now deemed it expedient to open the case, which is likely to open up a Pandora’s box of some forgotten and concealed truths.

A strong view is that the case is being reopened to divert attention from the fact that three years have gone by and no convincing action has been taken against Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s killers even though Zardari had, earlier on, professed to know who they were. The UN Commission, after a two-year investigation, has named ministers closest to Zardari, who need to be interrogated. There is also the disclosure of a phone call asking Benazir to appear out of the sunroof of the car and so on.

Zardari declaring in his petition that in Islam no one is above the law has also been noted as negating his presidential immunity from facing the variety of murder and corruption cases against him. But the real question Zardari is running away from is: After three years of his rule, what have the people got?

He may run but he cannot hide from the answer that, the people have got nothing but uncontrolled lawlessness, rampant corruption, non availability of basic amenities, a shattered economy, no foreign policy except total submission to US suzerainty and hollow claims of reforms which break down on scrutiny.

The essence of the current governmental strategy is to rule by spreading corruption and keep the people entangled in chasing a buck while the ship of the state is sinking. Even the fate of the Benazir Income Support Scheme is dismal: Transparency International disclosed that in the first year, out of the Rs 90 billion earmarked for distribution, only Rs 17 billion reached the people while the rest disappeared into deep pockets. Similarly, the first installment on the Watan Card got worn down from Rs 20,000 to Rs 10,000 by the time it got to the intended beneficiaries.

The politicians, who are well entrenched at the banquet of Reconciliation, are of course parties to the state of affairs and too full to complain. Then there are those who are left out but living on hope. This is a totally foreign made, backed and run government, they say, which has been put in place by removing Shaheed Benazir from the scene.

The sponsoring powers will give full protection to this government and not allow any change. Others say that any political upheaval now will bring in the armed forces and another 10 years of military rule so we must endure the remaining two years of the current agony until elections, with the hope that it will be fair and free (fat chance).

There are even those who feel that the country is beyond redemption as Zardari has conclusively destroyed all state institutions and replaced honest and efficient officials with his jail mates and notoriously corrupt bureaucrats to the extent that even NAB has been turned into a venue of protection rather than punishment of the corrupt. So much so that it is now the task of the Supreme Court to take suo moto notice and initiate action.

In such circumstances, to take on the gargantuan task of cleaning up the mess is an unfathomable challenge. But history records many situations of a similar nature where unknown leaders have sprung up from the masses and led them to victory over the evil forces of corruption and chaos. All great revolutions in history such as the French, Russian and Chinese came about in this manner.

Recently, people have risen in Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and the Ukraine and of course there are the ongoing Arab revolts. Who knew Danton and Robespierre, Lenin and Mao, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Colonel Nasar, Ahmed Sukarno and Fidel Castro before they rose to recognition? Who is leading the Arab revolts? At home, an unknown Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto also emerged from a military dictatorship and defeated the same.

This raises the inevitable question – have we become such a dead nation as to stand by and allow a bunch of hoodlums to devour the country? Surely not.

The writer is chairman of the Sindh National Front.

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