Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s Legacy and the Rebuilding of Pakisan

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By

Iqbal Ahmad Khan [*]

Abstract

(The present PPP-led coalition government faces problems of Himalayan proportions. The country, following eight years of military and quasi-military rule, sits on the brink of a precipice. The situation is not much different from that inherited by the founder of the PPP, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in December 1971. Yet, despite overwhelming odds, within the space of a few years he managed to build a new Pakistan which was democratic, vibrant, confident and progressive. That was no mean achievement. As the government of Syed Yousal Raza Gillani takes its first steps to rebuild the country, it should seek inspiration and guidance from the words and deeds of Pakistan’s most popular prime minister. This would be the greatest tribute to him and to the bravest daughter of Pakistan, Ms Benazir Bhutto.  Author)

Following a long period of military and quasi-military rule, Pakistan, not for the first time in its history, stands at the edge of a precipice. The constitution embodying the fundamental principles and laws governing the state and society lies emasculated, victim of a military dictator’s lack of understanding and contempt for human rights and liberties, the hallmark of a civilized society. The state, confronted with the breakdown of institutions, appears impotent in discharging its basic responsibilities of protecting the life and property of its citizens and providing basic amenities. Despair and hopelessness, engendered by iniquitous economic policies, crumbling and unresponsive state institutions and lack of fundamental freedoms, has enveloped the people from the Khyber to Karachi and from Chaman to Tharparkar. It is ironical that the national security of Pakistan in which successive governments, in particular those led by the military, have invested the major chunk of the country’s meagre resources to maintain the armed forces, have not been able to successfully  confront the threat from a small ragtag body of religious extremists.

On 17 October 1999 after his coup, General Pervez Musharraf described the prevailing situation in the country in the following words:

“Today, we have reached a stage where our economy has crumbled, our credibility is lost, state institutions lie demoralized, provincial disharmony has caused cracks in the federation and people who were once brothers are now at each other’s throat. In sum, we have lost our honour, our dignity, our respect in the comity of nations.” Anybody reading this and unaware of its timing cannot be blamed for assuming that it was a description of contemporary Pakistan. The accuracy of this depiction of the situation prevailing in the country in autumn 1999 is debatable. However, with the exception of the economy, which has not crumbled, but could very well be heading towards a partial meltdown, it is a precise portrayal of present-day Pakistan eight years after Musharraf removed the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In the same address, General Musharraf promised to:

a. Rebuild national confidence and morale.

b.Strengthen the federation, remove inter-provincial disharmony and restore national cohesion.

c. Revive the economy and restore investor confidence.

d. Ensure law and order and dispense speedy justice.

e. Depoliticize state institutions.

f. Bring about the devolution of power at the grass-roots level.

g. Ensure swift and across-the-board accountability.[1]

The performance of the various governments during Musharraf’s rule has been pathetic. He cannot claim to have achieved even one of his objectives. His popularity can be gauged from an opinion poll conducted in June/July 2007 by the reputable United States’ International Republican Institute (IRI). The findings of the IRI, which had in previous years been touted by the government to demonstrate the president’s popularity, revealed that 64 percent opposed Musharraf’s re-election as president and 62 percent wanted him to resign as the chief of army staff. [2] The benighted country is, by all accounts, worse off today than it was when Musharraf usurped power eight years ago.

All the four military governments that the people of Pakistan suffered in the past 60 years painted the politicians as devils out to spread nothing but evil, promised the nation the moon and finally departed leaving behind a desolate graveyard to be tended to and transformed into a blossoming garden by the very ‘devils’ they claimed to have exorcised. This pattern has  not only been observed in Pakistan, but also in Latin America and Africa where former colonial control gave way to military dictatorships which left in their wake political and economic wastelands. In many instances callous external powers, normally the former colonialist or a neo-colonialist power aided and abetted the coup-makers to further its narrow strategic goals.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto himself a victim of a general’s lust for power undertakes an in-depth analysis of military coup d’etats in his remarkable book, “If I am Assassinated,” written in his “stinking death cell” with the paper “resting on my knee.” In the process of analyzing the extremely important and relevant subject of civil-military relations, he reaches the following conclusion.

“The events of the last twenty years have made me arrive at the unambiguous conclusion that, at present, the greatest threat to the unity and progress of the Third World is from coup-gemony. The era of colonialism is all but dead. Only a few places remain where colonialism has still to be buried. In those places also, the burial is at hand. The Third World has to guard against hegemony, but the best way to guard against hegemony is to prevent coup-gemony. The biggest link of external colonialism is internal colonialism, which means that hegemony cannot thrive in our lands without the collaboration of coup-gemony. Military coup de’etats are the worst enemies of national unity. Coup d’etats divide and debase a free people. If there was any doubt on the subject, the events in Pakistan have shown that the people of the Third World have to primarily guard against the internal enemy, if foreign domination or hegemony is to be resisted. Coup-gemony is the bridge over which hegemony walks to stalk our lands.[3]

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is of the view that unlike Africa or Latin America there is a historical and deeply entrenched democratic tradition in South Asia. This was manifest in the panchayat system, in the fact that the subcontinent was a huge land mass with an enormous population, in the numerous people’s uprisings and movements that had taken place since the time of Asoka and finally in Britain conceding successive instalments of democracy to the people of  India leading to total independence in 1947. For over three decades, Bhutto states, civilian leaders like the Quaid-e-Azam,and Gandhi led the masses of the subcontinent in intensive struggle for independence and freedom. Without political consciousness, without political awakening, agitations against the salt tax, the Khilafat movement, the Quit India and Direct Action movements would not have been possible, and without those convulsions the pillars of British Raj would not have collapsed. “Nowhere in Latin America or Africa or in the Middle East, had the lesson in mass awakening been so long and so persistent as it had been in the subcontinent. The people of the subcontinent, both the Muslims and the Hindus, aroused and inspired by their civilian leaders, struggled and sacrificed not to merely hoist two new flags but to get the fruits of freedom and democracy. Nowadays we are told ever so often that Pakistan was created in the name of Islam. This is true, but who created Pakistan? The Muslim masses, galvanized under the civilian leadership of the Quaid-e-Azam and not under a coterie of generals, created Pakistan. This country came into being by the massive movement of the Muslim masses and not through a midnight coup d’etat. The Muslim population and not the military generals created Pakistan. The country was created by the people and its independence can be sustained only by the people through their chosen leaders. Only those who created Pakistan in the name of Islam can order their chosen representatives how to ordain that name. A usurper or a coterie carries no mandate to fulfil the task. Nor has the usurper or his coterie been empowered by the people to determine whether this State is being administered in the name of Islam. The interpretation has to be done collectively in Parliament and not by an individual or a gang with guns in their hands. The name of Islam does not come out of a barrel of a gun.”[4]

Bhutto then narrates an incident wherein he asks General Zia ul Haq for his views on the 1973 Attock Conspiracy case. The general gave him a detailed account of his evaluation of the causes and impulses behind the plot. “After hearing him patiently I was struck by the personal and selfish factor that aroused the conspirators. Not a trace, not even the pretence of an objective motivation was available in the cause of that attempt. What made it more melancholy was that it came so soon after the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971. This meant that the historical tragedies arising out of military rule meant nothing to power blind individuals. The flow of blood was like water down a duck’s back. The blunders of military regimes, both internal and external, were not eye openers. The pollution of the armed forces by its involvement in politics had not conveyed any message. The catastrophe of East Pakistan and the surrender of 90, 000 prisoners of war did not teach a single elementary lesson.” These impressions recorded by Bhutto in his book reveal perhaps an “appetite for aggrandizement, the unquenchable thirst for naked power” on part of the armed forces which in his words could become “a habit-forming drug.”[5]

Military-civil relations in Pakistan have been adversarial and mutually suspicious. Inherent in the word civilization, is supremacy of civilians; yet for more than half of Pakistan’s history it is the military that has been in charge of the country’s affairs and during the remaining period its shadow has loomed menacingly over the civilian set-up. The consequences of this state of affairs are there for all to see and lament. The presence of the military on-stage or back-stage has proven to be disastrous for peace, progress and prosperity of the country. On occasions it appears that the negative implications of military rule are appreciated by the military itself. In a rare display of courage and candor several hundred retired military officers on 31 January 2008 called upon General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf to hand over power to the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and to hold elections under a neutral caretaker set-up. The chairman of the meeting Air Marshal Asghar Khan expressed solidarity with the lawyers and journalists and assured them full support on behalf of the servicemen in their struggle for the independence of the judiciary and freedom of the press. Regrettably, the assembled generals, air marshals and admirals were evasive when queried regarding their respective roles in previous martial laws. Air Marshal Asghar Khan was among the strongest supporters of General Zia ul Haq’s martial law and Lt. Gen. Chisti was Commander 10 Corps at the time of Zia’s takeover and became his partner in all the despicable actions taken by the military dictator. Those assembled were simply not prepared to admit any wrongdoing.[6]

It is against this background of the experience and fate of their leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the mind-set of the military that the new PPP led coalition government has taken over the reins of the country. As the government faces a mountain of problems, it would be wise to remember the fear expressed by the founder of their party, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: “If a coup d’etat becomes a permanent part of the political infrastructure, it means the falling of the last petal of the last withered rose. It means the end.” Merely remembering Mr. Bhutto’s words will not suffice. Too much water has flown under the bridge. The government needs to act upon this warning from the death cell, so that history does not repeat itself. “Martial law is not law,” he asserts. “A regime not established by law is devoid of the attribute to dispense law. A regime which puts in a bunker the highest law in the land does not have the moral authority to say that nobody is above the law. I do not want to escape from the law. I do not want anybody to escape from the law. But I definitely want to escape from the lawlessness of Martial Law. I want the whole nation and every citizen to escape from this lawlessness. My struggle for the restoration of the Rule of Law shows that I do not want anybody to escape from the majesty of law.[7] The government must take steps to ensure that now and in future the armed forces function strictly in accordance with the provision of the constitution which clearly lays down that the armed forces “shall, under the direction of the Federal Government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power, when called upon to do so.”[8]

In the event the Armed Forces deviate from their constitutional duty, and in particular violate Article 6 of the Constitution, the full force of law should be brought to bear upon the violators. Professor Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a perceptive political analyst, concludes one of his recent articles titled “The Third Transition” by drawing his readers’ attention to the debate in the country about trying the perpetrators of the treason committed on 12 October 1999. “That call must be heeded because a vigilant civil society, free media and the accountability of coup-makers are essential in saving the country from military takeovers in the future.”[9] Some observers contend that had Mr. Bhutto brought to trial the top brass of the army for their acts of commission and omission in East Pakistan following the debacle in December 1971 and exposed to the public their wrong-doings perhaps the 1977 coup might not have taken place. Accountability and transparency must be the hallmarks of the new government so that some amongst us are disabused of the impression sedulously created by the coup-makers that the politicians are the bane of our society and essentially responsible for all its ills.

That the new political dispensation emerging from the 18 February elections is deeply conscious of the cancer of militarization of Pakistan’s body-politic seems obvious from a reading of the Charter of Democracy. The Charter was signed on 14 May 2006 by former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in London, where both were living in exile. The present coalition government in Pakistan is led by Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party and Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League is its principal partner. Not only have the two leaders drawn attention to the damage caused by military governments and military’s interference in political affairs, but outlined measures to lend accountability and ensure civilian control of military affairs. Some of the salient points contained in the Charter include:

– Military dictatorships have played havoc with the nation’s destiny and created conditions disallowing the progress of our people and the flowering of democracy. Even after removal from office they undermined the people’s mandate and the sovereign will of the people;

– Drawing history’s lesson that military dictatorship and the nation cannot co-exist – as

military’s involvement adversely affects the economy and the democratic institutions as well as defence capabilities, and the integrity of the country – the nation needs a new direction different from a militaristic and regimental approach of the Bonapartist regimes, as the current one;

– National Security Council will be abolished. Defence Cabinet Committee will be headed by the prime minister and will have a permanent secretariat.

– An effective Nuclear Command and Control system under the Defence Cabinet Committee will be put in place to avoid any possibility of leakage or proliferation.

– No party shall solicit the support of the military to come into power or to dislodge a democratic government.

– All military and judicial officers will be required to file annual assets and income declarations like Parliamentarians to make them accountable to the public.

– The ISI, MI and other security agencies shall be accountable to the elected government through Prime Minister’s Secretariat, Ministry of Defence, and Cabinet Division respectively. Their budgets will be approved by DCC after recommendations are prepared by the respective ministry. The political wings of all intelligence agencies will be disbanded. A committee will be formed to cut waste and bloat in the armed forces and security agencies in the interest of the defence and security of the country. All senior postings in these agencies shall be made with the approval of the government through the respective ministry.

– Defence budget shall be placed before the parliament for debate and approval.
– Military land allotment and cantonment jurisdictions will come under the purview of defence ministry. A commission shall be set up to review, scrutinize, and examine the legitimacy of all such land allotment rules, regulations and policies, along with all cases of state land allotment including those of military urban and agricultural land allotments since 12th October, 1999 to hold those accountable who have indulged in malpractices, profiteering and favouritism.[10]

In addition to the commitment made in the Charter of Democracy to remove military’s shadow over civilian life, it would also appear worthwhile to read and implement some of the points made by Sherry Rahman, Secretary Information of the Pakistan People’s Party and member National Assembly of Pakistan, in her article published in the English daily newspaper Dawn on 29 June 2005 under the title “Enigma of the defence budget.” The highlights of her article are given below:

– Despite defence absorbing more than a quarter of the national wealth, the subject has become inured from public debate and exempt from any Parliamentary accountability.

– Without explanation, the formal defence allocation account appears as a two-line statement divided into defence administration and defence services in the federal consolidated fund in the demands for grants and appropriations every year.

– Given the constant talk of transparency and good governance emanating from the government, it is not just surprising but shocking that the defence budget in Pakistan remains above public scrutiny as well as the law.

– If lawmakers in Pakistan cannot discuss, let alone question the allocations and management of this chunk of the country’s wealth, then it is clear that once again, almost 30 per cent of the budgeted amount will remain out of parliament’s purview. This in turn means that the army’s business interests will also remain outside the public accountability mechanism.

– When parliamentarians or donors read the allocation for defence over the next fiscal year, it will not include the military pensions, which now run into 35.6 billion rupees. Nor will the defence outlay include allocations for the combatant accounts of the defence division which include the Maritime Security Forces, salaries for defence production, allocation for the civil armed forces, Pakistan Rangers, Frontier Constabulary, Pakistan Coast Guards, nor the substantial amount set aside for military schools, cantonments and other residuals.

– Why does Pakistan need a huge defence budget that is close to four per cent of its GDP, when India is spending 2.8 per cent? The entire justification for maintaining a high defence budget is negated by the welcome downturn in hostilities with India; the rationale for Pakistan remaining hostage to its Cold War garrison-state identity should also naturally be under review. For a country that has fallen behind all of South Asia in its human development index, including Nepal and Bhutan, an urgent redefinition of outdated concepts of national security is surely expected.
– The question of maintaining the eighth largest standing army in the world, when huge undisclosed amounts on the nuclear option are disbursed, becomes critical, for the simple reason that the nuclear deterrent capability was meant to substantially reduce the need for such a large conventional force. As it stands, one of the many reasons for continued high defence spending remains a large percentage of wasted resources which has arisen out of lack of oversight from non-military sources. While purchases of bullet proof limousines by the cabinet division can be questioned because they fall under civilian oversight, no such queries can be directed at the luxury cars and goods purchased by the military, its appointment of surplus employees, nor the expenditure accruing from duplication of activities or wrongdoing. From 1977 onwards, when Ziaul Haq began the practice of maintaining funds by the corps commanders who were at liberty to use them at their discretion, many scandals over money being siphoned for political activities have surfaced.

– The inter-services intelligence agencies remain above the law and unaccountable, even though they reportedly absorb seven to 11 per cent of the military’s budget and use secret funds and ghost bank accounts to destabilize civilian political parties and their governments. The Mehran Bank scandal is an example of such financial corruption, when bribes worth Rs 14 million were unearthed as paid out by the ISI to manipulate the 1990 elections, a fact which was admitted in court by General Aslam Beg, the former COAS.
– Despite public clamour about the military’s vast real estate holdings, no equation is factored in to provide for the creeping militarization of the mainstream economy. The issue which is now constantly questioned without any satisfactory response is the size and quantum of the military’s holdings in what are traditionally commercial sectors.

– The military’s four major welfare foundations are increasingly the subject of growing public disquiet because they pay no direct taxes on their corporate activities, operate as virtual monopolies, and elbow out civilian private enterprise in their subsidized operations. They function as military welfare trusts but provide a haven for retired and serving military officers who run a multitude of corporate ventures ranging from sugar, cereal, fertilizer production to running airlines, real estate, education, advertising and others.

– The four military foundations — the Army Welfare Trust, the Fauji Foundation, Bahria Foundation and Shaheen Foundation — for instance, now run a parallel commercial empire, but end up leaving scant traces of the net financial burden they impose on the public sector, because large allocations are made from the opaque defence budget.

– Despite the fact that most of the foundations were raised with initial funding from the public sector and the sale of evacuee properties after 1971, their profits remain sky high because they remain above scrutiny even in their tendering for contracts and other market activities. The fact that government service rules prohibit public servants from running private enterprises is often ignored, while the military control of Pakistan’s public sector continues unabated as retired generals and brigadiers pick up lucrative posts and double pensions to run everything from public utilities, universities and accountability and national reconstruction boards.

– The military as a class does itself a disservice when it allows rumour to replace public disclosure. Perhaps many of its legitimate procurement and modernization demands will then not be eclipsed by the paper-trail of undocumented purchases and irregularities unearthed by the auditor-general for Defence if it develops an institutionalized mechanism of requisitioning public money for its needs.
– The people are not opposed to the military’s spending money in principle. They don’t even mind occasionally upgrading the proverbial barracks, but only if they know where the money is going. [11]

The measures referred to in the Charter of Democracy and Sherry Rahman’s article can only be implemented in phases. For them to see the light of day continued commitment of the principal political players, sound understanding and effective cooperation and coordination between them and backing of the people are essential pre-requisites. The fundamental motivation in restricting the armed forces to their legal role emanates from the belief that no individual and no institution transgresses the role that is envisaged for it in the constitution of the country. Deviations from this sacred document and absence of accountability for the deviators constitute the underlying causes of political and social instability in Pakistan.

In his historic and brilliant letter that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto wrote from his death cell to his daughter Benazir Bhutto, he expresses his “greatest satisfaction in giving the country an all-party constitution by democratic means. The Constitution of 1973 was the first unanimously approved constitution by a democratic assembly to bless Pakistan with a fundamental framework based on Islam, democracy and autonomy. It was the
voice of the people of the four provinces of Pakistan articulated in a
constitutional document by their chosen leaders. Autonomy, which
had defied solution for over a generation and which had been the
bane of the politics of the Subcontinent from time immemorial, was
at long last settled to the satisfaction of the people and their chosen
representatives. I experienced the kind of joy, the thrill of happiness
which brings tears to the eyes. With high expectation and new-born confidence we started to function under the umbrella and discipline of the Constitution of 1973. Provincial autonomy had been democratically defined. It began to function in all the four provinces. This was a spectacular accomplishment.”[12]

The Constitution indeed was a historic achievement. Passed unanimously by the first-ever directly elected 146-member National Assembly of Pakistan it represents a lasting tribute to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In his first address to the nation Mr. Bhutto assured his countrymen that he would give top priority to the rule of law and to the making of a constitution. “And this constitution will not be my constitution because I am an elected representative of the people of Pakistan. I am not making an empty promise. My dear brothers, friends and sisters, I will give you a constitution according to your requirements and actually what you want.”[13]

Considered in historical perspective, no other Constitution had the full backing of the people of Pakistan as did the one of 1973. It was framed by a legislature directly elected in the freest general elections in the history of Pakistan. The opposition parties were consulted by the ruling party before finalizing the draft of the Constitution. The result was a consensus. By virtue of their complete unanimity, the Constitution can be taken to have satisfied the existing demands and aspirations of the people. According to the official website of the Pakistan People’s Party, “Time has shown that it cannot be replaced.  Constitution making in Pakistan was bedevilled, since the birth of the State, by three unresolved issues: (i) The role of Islam in the State, (ii) the degree of Provincial Autonomy, and (iii) the Nature of the Executive.  Mr. Bhutto managed to bring all the political parties to agree to a consensus on the Constitution, thus, permanently resolving all the three issues.  A new institution, the Senate of Pakistan, was created in which the provinces had equal representation, in order to redress the balance of power in Pakistan, probably the only country in the world where one federating unit has an absolute majority.  The creation of Council of Common Interest also gave to the provinces a greater weight in the federal dispensation.  Islam was declared to be the State religion and the Council of Islamic Ideology given charge of Islamisation of laws. The never ending tussle between the Head of State and Parliament was resolved by empowering the Prime Minister.  No better tribute can be paid to the foresight and sagacity of the martyred leader.”[14]

The importance of restoring the constitution to its pre-12 October 1999 glory by clearing it of the distortions introduced by General (retd.) Pervez Musharraf and his rubber-stamp parliament is certainly not lost upon the new government. This would be in consonance with the understanding contained in the Charter of Democracy wherein the leaders of the two major parties in the coalition government have agreed to revive the Constitution as it existed on 12 October 1999; to entrust the chief executive who is the prime minister with the appointment of governors, the three services chiefs and the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee; to set up a commission which would formulate recommendations for appointment of judges to the superior judiciary
and forward a panel of three names for each vacancy to the prime minister, who shall forward one name for confirmation to a joint parliamentary committee for confirmation of the nomination through a transparent public hearing process; to forbid any judge from taking an oath under any Provisional Constitutional Order or any other oath that is contradictory to the exact language of the original oath prescribed in the Constitution of 1973; to set up a Federal Constitutional Court to resolve constitutional issues, giving equal representation to each of the federating units and to increase the strength of the Senate of Pakistan to give representation to minorities in the Senate.[15]

But for the rebuilding of Pakistan to succeed, an atmosphere of peace, security and stability is essential. The indispensability of a conducive environment was fully appreciated by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as he worked day in and day out to cement together the socio-economic and political fabric of the country. In order that Pakistan evolved into a self-sufficient and self-reliant nation, peace with India became the prerequisite. “We should be free from the strains and burdens of an armaments race so that both India and Pakistan can devote their energies and resources to productive development,” Bhutto wrote in an article “Pakistan builds Anew” in the American journal “Foreign Affairs.”[16] The result of Mr. Bhutto’s vision and strenuous efforts was the Simla Accord signed by him and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at Simla on 2 July 1972. The agreement expressed the resolve of both governments to “put an end to the conflict and confrontation that had hitherto marred their relations” and asserted their determination that “the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations shall govern relations between the two countries.”

When he went to Simla, the Pakistan army lay defeated and demoralized, 90,000 soldiers languished in Indian captivity, thousands of square miles of territory in West Pakistan was under Indian occupation and the economy was in tatters. Yet, during one week of intense and back-breaking negotiations with the victorious Indians he was able to stitch together an agreement which started a process and ultimately brought back the POWs and vacation of Pakistani territory by Indian forces. The Accord has generally preserved peace between India and Pakistan since 1972. Both Siachin and Kargil are exceptions to the rule and call for an enquiry commission to ascertain their causes and implications.
The Simla Accord was a master stroke of diplomacy on Mr. Bhutto’s part. Behind it lay days and nights of hard work, extensive consultations and strategy sessions and above all a clear sense of the direction in which to steer the ship of state. In a marathon address on 14 July 1972 Mr. Bhutto informed the National Assembly of Pakistan that “we made all the preparations that were humanly possible, because as I have said, we had nothing in our hands. We had no trump cards; we had no levers; the only lever was to consult our people, meet them, and also to visit foreign countries, fraternal countries, friendly countries, Russia and China. It was a fatiguing endeavour, but it was done in the supreme national interest and I think it paid dividends.”[17]

The importance that Mr. Bhutto attached to the power and will of the people in the Herculean tasks that he set about to undertake was also evident in the realm of foreign policy. On his return from Simla, Mr. Bhutto arrived at the Lahore airport on 3 July 1972 and told the huge crowd assembled there that as promised he had not made any final decision on Indian soil. “Whatever decision would be reached between the two countries as a result of negotiations would be subject to your approval. You have seen now that I have adhered to that promise. The agreement that has been arrived at with India can be accepted or rejected by the National Assembly of Pakistan which represents you. The final approval will, therefore, rest with you. My Government will not decide on our future relations with India. The decision in this respect shall be made by you, the people of Pakistan and by our valiant soldiers. The right of consent is yours. With that end in view, that is, to obtain your verdict on the agreement and on our negotiation with India, I am convening a session of the National Assembly which will debate this issue and each member will have full liberty to express his views on it. Members will be free to point out its defects, and I would be very happy to learn if there is anything wrong with it. But I want to tell you that there is nothing wrong with it. This is a comprehensive and successful agreement.”[18] The Simla Accord was hotly debated by the people’s representatives sitting in the National Assembly of Pakistan which approved it on 14 July 1972 and the instrument of ratification was delivered to India on 18 July 1972.

Students of politics and international affairs observe the sharp contrast in the manner in which the Simla Accord was achieved and the veiled and arbitrary decision taken by a coup-maker and his coterie enveloping Pakistan in the war on terror. No wonder, both the decision and Pakistan’s participation in the anti-terror campaign have not only become controversial but also counter-productive. This is not to say that the war on terror is solely America’s war and that by placing itself on the frontline in the war Pakistan was fighting America’s war; it is not to say that the rise of terrorism and religious extremism is not a threat to democracy; it is not to deny that the ideology of the extremists runs counter to that of the founder of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah who had envisioned Pakistan as a moderate and democratic welfare state. The terrorist killings of Pakistani political leaders, of the armed and paramilitary forces, police and government officials and ordinary labourers and workers can never be justified and condoned. It is for this reason – the fact that the terrorist has struck at the very historical and ideological foundations of Pakistan and spread terror and fear among the citizenry – that the war on terror is far too important to be left in the hands of a few generals. In 2007 more Pakistanis were victims of terrorism than in all the years from 2001-06 put together. There is, therefore, an urgent need to undertake a wide-ranging review of both the policy and strategy related to the war on terror.

At this stage it would be useful to heed the remarks that the late Benazir Bhutto made at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York in August 2007. “We cannot allow parallel armies, parallel militias, parallel laws and parallel command structures. Today it’s not just the intelligence services that were previously called a state within a state. Today it’s the militants who are becoming yet another little state within the state, and this is leading some people to say that Pakistan is on the slippery slope of being called a failed state. But this is a crisis for Pakistan that unless we deal with the extremists and the terrorists, our entire state could founder.” Ms. Bhutto claimed that there existed a broad consensus in Pakistan between the major political parties that General Musharraf had taken the right step in joining the war against terrorism. Both the PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League were committed to fighting terrorism and extremism. But while it may have been a difficult decision for Musharraf at one level, there was a consensus within Pakistan that terrorism was a threat to the outside world as well as to the people of Pakistan. The linkage of a people with the government and, in particular, a people who have benefited in terms of jobs and schools and drinking water, helped create a vested interest and the will for the people to save their own community. But when there was a government that was non-representative, the public became alienated, and turned against the government. It was in this way that a democratic government was stronger because it could reach out to the people and it could pull together the law enforcement. Terrorism was as much a military situation as it was an investigative criminal situation. Her party, Ms. Bhutto said had the ability to eliminate terrorism and give the people security, which would bring in the economic investment that would help reverse the tide of rising poverty in the country, which in turn would undermine the forces of militancy and extremism.[19]

A welcome emphasis on the process of decision-making was manifest when the newly elected Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, reportedly told a visiting delegation of senior US officials that in future all key decisions would be made in consultation with the representatives of the people sitting in parliament.[20] The US delegation was in Islamabad to exchange views with Pakistani leaders on different aspects of US-Pakistan relations and to ascertain, in particular, the thinking of the new government on the issue of terrorism. Explaining his position on the issue, Prime Minister Gillani reportedly made the following points:

a. The new government was determined to fight terrorism in all its forms, because it concerned Pakistan.

b. His party’s approach had been consistent and its sacrifices included the martyrdom of its leader Benazir Bhutto.

c. Pakistan backed the US-led war on terror.

d. The new government favoured a comprehensive approach which included political solutions.

e. Economic development of the tribal areas was important in addressing the curse of extremism.[21]

The terrorism question is arguably the most important issue facing the new government. It has endangered the lives and property of ordinary citizens as also the vision of the founder of the state. It calls for immediate attention. Hard work, diplomatic skills, political consensus and popular support ensured the success and durability of the Simla Accord. If the terrorism issue is addressed in the same fashion as the Simla Accord, it will only be a matter of time before it is consigned to the dustbin of history. As the government directs its energies towards eliminating this scourge, emotionalism will have to be eschewed so that objectivity and realism can prevail.

The challenges before the new government are multifarious and not a single one has a simple and immediate solution. Civil-military relations, the use of force in the tribal areas and Balochistan, the restoration and building of institutions and the war on terror are indeed few among the multitude of problems facing the government that cannot brook delay and cry out for solutions. Ironically, the most pressing of the problems is the extreme economic distress to which the overwhelming majority of the population is subjected. Ironically, because both General (retd) Musharraf and former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz never ceased to remind the people that they had wrought an economic miracle in Pakistan. The World Bank’s Vice President Praful Patel has warned that unless Pakistan made painful adjustments it risked a slowdown.[22] There is particular concern about the widespread and extremely annoying power outages that have afflicted the country, in particular the mega-city of Karachi, the shutdown of industries and manufacturing facilities, rise in unemployment, the huge balance of trade and current account deficits, rising inflation and falling production, food shortages, increasing poverty levels and escalating oil and food prices.

The economy inherited by Mr. Bhutto was in shambles. Both the industrial and agriculture sectors, subject to strains of various kinds, were gripped by stagnation and uncertainty. Production in the mills and factories was down as was the output in the farmlands. Side by side with laying the groundwork of a democratic polity, Bhutto launched an elaborate series of major socio-economic reforms designed to level up inequalities and iniquities of Pakistani society, to end an unjust status-quo and foster a welfare state and an egalitarian society. In his article “Pakistan builds Anew” in the April 1973 issue of the American journal “Foreign Affairs” he outlined the purpose of his socio-economic program in the following words: “Our target in our socio-economic program is not only a statistically gratifying increase in the GNP but an improvement in the lot of the common man, in the living standards of workers and peasants and a radical change in the social milieu. Such a change has to be felt by the people and not only measured by economists, if it is to be real.”[23]

Among the many disservices that the different governments under Musharraf’s rule have done to the country, perhaps the worst has been the cynicism that it has bred among the people. Neither the elite, which incidentally has benefited immensely from the rich-friendly policies of these regimes nor the ordinary citizen have any faith in the credibility and efficacy of the whole state apparatus. Unless the new dispensation is able to restore the trust of the citizen in the government’s ability to safeguard his life and property and promote his welfare, it will not be able to mobilize the power of the people in support of its policies.

It is the theme of people’s power that forms the leitmotif of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s rule and to a great extent explains some of his astounding successes in extremely adverse circumstances. In his letter to Benazir Bhutto titled “My dearest daughter” he extols the virtues of people-friendly policies. “Your grand-father taught me the politics of pride, your grandmother taught me the politics of poverty. I am beholden to both for the fine synthesis. To you, my darling daughter, I give only one message. It is the message of the morrow, the message of history. Believe only in the people, work only for their emancipation and equality. The paradise of God lies under the feet of your mother. The paradise of politics lies under the feet of the people. I have quite a few achievements to my credit in the public life of the subcontinent but, in my memory, the most rewarding achievements have been those which have brought smiles of joy to the weary faces of our miserable masses, achievements which have brought a twinkle to the melancholy eye of a villager. More than the tributes paid to me by the great leaders of the world, within the four walls of this death-cell, I recall with greater pride and satisfaction, the words of the widow in a small village who told me “Sadko Warryian solar sain” when I sent her only peasant son on a foreign scholarship.”[24]

Even if the vehicle that Mr. Gillani’s government prepares to extricate the Pakistani nation out of the present mess is sturdy and durable, it might find it difficult, indeed impossible, to reach its destination safely and securely if it is powered by fuel that is contaminated. In other words, policies and measures may be excellent and intentions unimpeachable, but if corruption, wastage, sifarish and lack of accountability, the bane of our society, are not confronted boldly the government may fail to inspire confidence among the people towards whose welfare the policies are directed. In his very first address to the nation, which was extempore, Mr. Bhutto warned that he would come down with a very heavy hand on corruption. He told the bureaucracy to do its job and work like he worked night and day and to be at the service of the people. He underscored the importance of the ordinary citizen who should be able to get his work done without ‘sifarish.’ “I have no relations, I have no family. My family is the people of Pakistan….So it must be known clearly to everyone that there will be no “sifarish” from anyone, no nepotism, no corruption and no maladministration.”[25]

As the new democratically elected government endeavours to bring the nation out of the shadow of eight years of military and quasi-military rule, it would do well to remember the inspiring words of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on his assumption of office as the president of Pakistan.  “I want to tell you my dear countrymen that I have come in at a very late hour, at a decisive moment in the history of Pakistan. We are facing the worst crisis in our country’s life, a deadly crisis. We have to pick up the pieces, very small pieces, but we shall make a new Pakistan, a prosperous and progressive Pakistan, a Pakistan free of exploitation, a Pakistan envisaged by the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of the nation, a Pakistan for which the Muslims of the subcontinent sacrificed their lives and their honour in order to build this new land. That Pakistan will come, it is bound to come. This is my faith, and I am confident that with your cooperation, understanding and patience, we will emerge as a stronger and a greater state. I have no doubt about it.”[26]

The greatest tribute that the present government can pay to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the most popular prime minister of Pakistan and Benazir Bhutto, the bravest daughter of the soil is to tirelessly dedicate itself to the building of a strong and democratic Pakistan.


[*] Iqbal Ahmad Khan is a former Ambassador of Pakistan.


[1] Address to the nation by General (retd.) Pervez Musharraf on 17 October 1991.

[2] Public opinion poll conducted by United States International Republican Institute (IRI) in June/July 2007.

[3] Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali, If I am Assassinated.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] The News, 1 February 2008.

[7] Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali, If I am Assassinated.

[8] Article 245 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

[9] Rasul Bakhsh Rais, “The Third Transitions, Daily Times, 25 March 2008.

[10] Text of “Charter of Democracy,” 14 May 2006.

[11] Sherry Rahman, “Enigma of the Defence Budget,” Dawn, 29 June 2005.

[12] Letter by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto “My dearest daughter,” to Benazir Bhutto/

[13] President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s address to the nation, 20 December 1971.

[14] Website of the Pakistan Peoples Party.

[15] Text of “Charter of Democracy,” 14 May 2006.

[16] Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, “Pakistan Builds Anew,” Foreign Affairs, April 1973.

[17] Speeches and Statements by President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, published by the government of Pakistan.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ms Benazir Bhutto’s address to the Council on Foreign Relations, New York, August 2007.

[20] Daily Times, 27 March 2008.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Daily Times, 28 March 2008.

[23] Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, “Pakistan Builds Anew,” Foreign Affairs, April 1973.

[24] Letter by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, My dearest daughter, to Benazir Bhutto.

[25] Address to the nation by President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, 20 December 1971.

[26] Ibid.