by Mumtaz Ali Bhutto
Mind boggling bungling, among other more heinous faults, has come to be the identifying characteristic of the Zardari government. From the inept way administrative matters are handled to the fact that Zardari can not open his mouth without something startling pouring out of it, one gets an overwhelming sense of incompetence all around.
Not only the task of governance, but even that of running a party like the Peoples’ Party has proved to be far beyond the capabilities of the accidental Co-Chairman, who sneaked into power not on his own merits or public acclaim but on a tidal wave of emotions and subservience of those who were salivating at the prospect of memberships of assemblies, ministerships and all the other joys associated with winning an election in the current dispensation. All too soon, the whole set up has exploded and, as pointed out at the start, the lack of calibre and qualification of those who have occupied high offices has become starkly evident. It must be remembered that it was more or less this lot which twice before formed governments but were unable to run them even though Shaheed Benazir held the reins. They have landed the country in serious trouble internally and externally, such as bringing it to the brink of war with India by grossly mishandling the Bombay tragedy and reducing the much trumpeted reconciliation to a joke by violating all commitments. This government basically came into being through a deal with Musharaf and under protection of the cursed NRO. In return, the government does not only maintain him in presidential style, but also follows in his footsteps. The greatest letdown, however, has been in keeping the promise of roti, kapra makan to the people and freeing them from the curse of corruption, lawlessness, high cost of essential commodities and lack of basic amenities. The lure of jobs and handouts under the Benazir Income Support Scheme has proved to be a pipe dream and gone sour. The net result is that within a short period of nine months the government and the Peoples’ Party are not only in a chaotic state of disarray and collapse, but also the object of public discontent, which has manifest itself in a recent poll by placing Zardari’s popularity at nineteen percent. So much so that ministers and party office holders are unable to venture even into gatherings of party workers without risking harm and their leader can not step out despite the security provided by thousands of protectors at very high cost to the people.
On Benazir’s first death anniversary, it was announced that there would be a public meeting at Garhi Khuda Buksh Bhutto, addressed by Zardari. Later, this was cancelled due to security concerns. Then it was on again and Zardari was to address it by telephone from Naodero, a mile away. But on the morning of the anniversary, it was once again announced that the public meeting was off for the same security reasons, much to the anger of those who had been herded from across the country to be there. It is shocking that a man who professes to be a democrat and a leader of the masses, guarded by 9,000 policemen, 7,000 rangers and hundreds of commandos on this occasion, did not feel safe among the people in, of all places, Garhi Khuda Buksh Bhutto, the geographic epicenter of the Peoples’ Party’s.
While lack of any progress in apprehending and punishing Benazir’s assassins, indeed the failure to file an FIR even a year after the murder, falls like a yoke on the government’s neck, in his address to a small gathering of party office holders in Naodero, Zardari confessed that he knew the identity of the killers. This being so, the inexplicable twelve month delay in action against them is unpardonable and the façade of approaching the United Nations, at the potential cost of hundreds of millions of dollars for just an inquiry, nothing more than an escape. Knowing the identity of the killers yet allowing them to go free not only casts doubt on Zardari’s motives but also implicates him under section 216 of the Penal Code, thereby bringing Benazir’s murder at par with that of Mir Murtaza Bhutto.
This government’s failure has even greater and deeper effects than this: The world regards Pakistan as the factory of global terrorism. The Bush administration expressed apprehensions that any further terrorist attacks upon American soil or citizens are likely to originate from Pakistan. In the wake of any terrorist incident anywhere in the world, the tracks invariably lead back to Pakistan. Hence the finger pointing by India in the aftermath of the Mumbai tragedy. One fears that the time is not far off when, due to this government’s mishandling of the situation, foreign powers might find it unavoidable to intervene and directly attend to a situation that is a constant threat to their own security. Air space violation by India has already taken place and the only reaction from this panic stricken government is to cover it up by labeling it a mere ‘technical violation’. American troops have already made forays into Pakistani territory and their drone attacks are now a common occurrence. Only three days after President Barak Obama took oath of office, American drone attacks killed twenty people in Waziristan. The government’s token protests against these have become a bore. Obama has already been reported to have said that for the purpose of anti-terrorist action, Northwest Pakistan will be treated as a part of Afghanistan.
It has become routine for American Deputy or Assistant Secretaries and Ambassadors to barge into Aiwan-e-Sadar with objectionable frequency, obviously not just for a pleasant chat, while in India they are received at the secretary level. They even collect high awards from the Pakistani President while the Islamic world and freedom and justice loving people of the world condemn their war against Muslims and killing millions of innocent people.
The bottom line is that the people of Pakistan have to wake up before it is too late. The exercise of effective genuine democracy requires the participation of the people, not just at the polls but at all times as a correcting force. The main reasons why democracy has failed in Pakistan is because the people have abdicated their power of scrutiny, as a direct consequence of which forces antithetical to not only democracy but also effective, good governance have been unleashed. This government has broken every commitment but there is no one to hold it accountable. People are too busy flocking to ministers with applications in hand to worry about such a betrayal of mandate. Protests in small groups on limited demands and pursuit of individual gain has obviated the requirement of ideology, principles and programs in politics. This practice has dragged the country to the brink of economic collapse, backwardness and failed statehood in which unqualified and unworthy persons are directing the destiny of a hundred and seventy million people, a fate most alarming. It is no matter that young people, seeing no future, are driven to suicide while mothers are compelled to sell infants in bazaars to buy flour. Such will be the epithet of the Zardari era.