Benazir Bhutto deserves accolades for her spectacular electoral triumph which almost compulsively elicits admiration even from her arch opponents, Ever since her father’s execution, she had been relentlessly crusading to avenge his death by capturing political power. She was angry and bitter. The humiliating treatment to which she was subjected during her intermittent internments had steeled her resolve and the jeans clad socialite was possessed with a singular obsession to settle the score with the powerful military ruler of the country, Gen Zia-Ul-Haq. She was impatient and impetuous. Some of her own party men considered her arrogant dictatorial and short tempered and her quest to rule Pakistan appeared too many laughable and beyond the realm of a possibility particularly at such a young age.
But all through the election campaign and while assuming the reigns of power, she surprised everyone with her mature, calm, conciliatory and dynamic approach. She was greeted by adoring crowds that thronged in thousands wherever she went. She electrified the nation sulking under a long military dictatorship and infused a new spirit—a yearning and a hope for democracy throughout the length and breadth of the country.
She can take legitimate pride in her inauguration as the Moslem world’s first woman Prime Minister but in the euphoria of her victory she must not forget that the confidence reposed in her by ‘the people of Pakistan have devolved a tremendous responsibility on her. She is faced with a tough task of regenerating the economy, fighting illiteracy and ensuring equality to women and she would do well to follow what she herself said while unveiling her Party’s manifesto. She had pledged not to involve in the politics of hate and revenge but to build a new social order based on goodwill, friendliness and forgiveness.
She has already talked about ‘healing the wounds’ and about ending an ‘era of tears, blood and darkness.’ Her success in addressing these challenges would depend upon the quality of her statesmanship. She must be careful and refrain from setting aside everything she inherited from the previous government but try to profit from the positive aspects of Gen Zia’s rule. Notwithstanding her personal revulsion against him, it cannot be denied that Pakistan owes a good deal to him in terms of political stability, military preparedness and pragmatic diplomacy. The credit for massive American aid, friendship with China and avoiding another war with India goes primarily to his shrewd handling of the foreign policy.
Benazir needs to proceed from this sound base instead of dissipating her energies in experimenting with half-baked ideas. Her abandoning of the adolescent anti-American rhetoric and pronouncedly left-wing policies reflect her growing awareness of the country’s vested interests. She has made a promising beginning and must sustain the pace with utmost caution. She is faced with ferocious tests particularly in view of the hostile administration in the powerful Punjab province. On the economic front agreements with the International Monetary Fund and desperate shortage of revenue will seriously restrict her options.
She has shown considerable far-sight in not making wild election promises; still the people of Pakistan expect a radical transformation in their economic well-being and look up to her for a better deal in respect of their basic needs.
If she succeeds in providing a comparative economic and political stability and in accommodating the concerns of the conservative Muslims who are not likely to easily reconcile with the idea of a woman Prime Minister, she will have accomplished a remarkable feat and will surely go down in history as the architect of yet another Glorious Revolution. But it will be a total disaster especially for the woman politicians of the Muslim world if she stumbles and falls. The democracy is on trial in Pakistan and the world is watching with interest and expectation for the promising prospect,
Article extracted from this publication >> December 9, 1988