Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto

Party Structure History Ariticles & Issues

Wag the dog
by Waqar Mehdi, The News - January 15, 2008

When this movie hit the cinemas in the US it was billed as political satire. But watch it more closely and you will understand that a lot of it was the actual reflection of how some people use propaganda to deflect attention from the real issues. This is more possible for the governments since it can withhold information and mix half truths and fictions to create false realities. In Pakistan, where the state controls huge advertising funds and can block much of the information under the pretext of security, things become worse.

The question the people of Pakistan are asking regarding the brutal assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto is, who needed to get Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto out of the way? The convenient fallback position that Baitullah Mehsud and Al Qaeda were involved has a number of flaws. If Gen (retired) Musharraf and his supporters accept this theory, then they are admitting that, rather than the military operation, democracy is considered more of a threat by the extremists. After all, democratic rebuilding of society was ms Bhutto's agenda.

Away from the real issue of the people behind the act, the ruling party is now picking on the new co-chairman of the Pakistan People's Party, Mr Asif Ali Zardari. He has been the target of rumours and accusations since the time he married Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Interestingly, none of the accusations and rumours has ever been empirically proved, despite an immense effort both by the state agencies and rival political parties. In contrast, a large number of Pakistanis have shown their trust in him by sending him twice to parliament, although he was in prison. The PPP has continued to receive the largest number of votes in every election since 1988, barring that of 1997.

The stories surrounding Mr Zardari fail to mention the battle between the PPP and state security apparatus that began with the creation of the IJI by the ISI in 1988. Both governments of the PPP were dismissed as a result of this covert war, documented by several independent scholars and publicly owned by former ISI heads. The stories and rumours against Mr. Zardari must be seen in this context.

Mr Zardari was arrested immediately after the dismissal of Ms Bhutto's first government in August 1990. Many charges were filed, including the preposterous and fantastic story of attempted extortion by "tying a bomb" to someone's leg. In May 1993, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan withdrew all the charges. Ms Bhutto returned to office after elections in November 1993. People wrongly say it was Ms Bhutto who dropped the charges.

Mr Zardari was arrested again in November 1997 after the dismissal of Ms Bhutto's second government. Special government machinery, first called Ehtesab (Accountability) Cell, then Ehtesab (Accountability) Bureau and, after the coup of 1999, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed 18 cases against Mr Zardari and Ms Bhutto. None of the cases resulted in a conviction after eleven years of trials. The few cases that were concluded absolved Mr Zardari of any wrongdoing.

There was the absolute lie that Mr Zardari was complicit in the tragic assassination of Mir Murtaza Bhutto in 1996. The charge has never been proven and the case has not proceeded even after eleven years. As prime minister Ms Bhutto invited Scotland Yard to help with the investigation. Ms Bhutto's government was dismissed and the day after the dismissal Scotland Yard team was sent back to London without completing its report. What could have been the purpose of stopping the Scotland Yard probe except to keep allegations against Mr Zardari alive without giving him a definitive opportunity to clear his name? Ms Bhutto used to call this, "killing a Bhutto to get another Bhutto." Mr Zardari was under arrest for eight long years. Why those governments failed to convict him? It was because they never had proofs about their accusations.

The appointment of Mr Zardari co-chairman of the PPP is not only in light of the will of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto but has also been fully endorsed by the CEC of the PPP, the workers of the party and a lot of supporters around the country and outside. If his opponents' theory that he derived benefit from his alleged hijacking of the party is true, then no benefit outweighs the windfall to Gen Musharraf, who is now telling the US that he is the only option against extremism. If the benefit theory is correct then Chaudhry Shujaat must be questioned about Chaudhry Zahoor Illahi's murder. And if a fellow writer in these august columns may know anyone walking into her house who can be accused of anything by someone standing outside her gate and not in knowledge of reality. She may also like to know that Chaudhry Shujaat and his family were accused of corruption by the NAB and only cleared after amendment of a few laws. The amended laws ensured that Mr Shujaat and his family were not asked about the source of money transferred from abroad for settling bank loans. Immediately after this concession they became darlings of Gen Musharaf. The Chaudhrys then delivered to Gen Musharaf what they are known for, a version of Pakistan Muslim League.

It is ironic that most people who are raising question about Mr Zardari today are those who have been following this agenda to taint the Bhutto name for the last thirty years.

Contrary to the widespread impression among journalists, the PPP sought the National Reconciliation Ordinance and demanded the dropping of charges not because Mr Zardari feared the cases against him. Any criminal lawyer will tell you that a case that was not successfully prosecuted in eleven years is unlikely to be proven later when the recollections of witnesses have become less reliable. The PPP sought reconciliation to bring to an end the trauma resulting from the venality of politically motivated charges. The dropping of charges was sought to pave the way for transition to democracy. Shaheed Benazir Bhutto had always been arguing that political parties needed space to operate and she was ready to engage with the general only to ensure that. In hindsight everyone can see that she created space for political activity and that the process of politics started through her efforts was what had started to give nightmares to some in the corridors of power.

The argument that the final will of Ms Bhutto should have been shown to the media and the public is fallacious and a creation of malignant minds. Yes, she was a public leader revered by a large majority of the people of Pakistan, and it will be the people of Pakistan who will judge whether her decision to leave the party to her husband and subsequently to her son was right or wrong. The people of Pakistan had an opportunity to do that on Jan 8, 2007, but they were denied that. Why? Because the corrupt could unleash a propaganda war against the mourners of Benazir Bhutto. Because some people had to raise the parochial and ethnic slogans to ensure that they continue to deprive people of flour, sugar and electricity. Such is the calibre of this so-called leadership that the prime ministerial candidate of the party PML (Q) has not held one public meeting so far outside the province of Punjab, because he is sure that outside Punjab his political worth is nothing to write home about.

The people of Pakistan and the PPP voters and workers have seen this game before and they are ready to counter these moves. Whatever the hate-mongers may say, the truth is the PPP inherits a very politically conscious worker and voter and he does not fall for falsehood that continues to be spread under the tutelage of state minions.


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