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Remembering Benazir Bhutto

December 27, 2016 marks the ninth death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto, the great visionary leader, who resisted with great courage the agenda of obscurantist forces that have been trying to push Pakistan to a theocratic State, incapable of progressing towards an egalitarian and democratic polity.

Dr. Ikramul Haq

The act of great courage demonstrated by Benazir Bhutto for resisting the agenda of forces of obscurantism, working as bogey for Late Neo-Colonialists, is still not recognized and appreciated in its true perspective. Unfortunately, after nine years of her sad removal from the political scene, Pakistan is still struggling to get rid of terrorism, fanaticism, bigotry and militancy—the maladies she fought valiantly.

Professor Amin Mughal, a doyen of progressive thinking, in his, After Benazir Bhutto: Some reflections, read at a meet organised by the Campaign against Martial Law, Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, London commented: “I confess, in the least uncharitable terms, that I was never fond of Benazir Bhutto. In fact, I was inimical to her politics. In death, however, she has redeemed herself. In the imagination of the masses she has acquired a mystical significance that is destined to be a never-ending source of inspiration in their struggles ahead. Most authentic martyrs in history were reluctant to die. All of them were, however, prepared to accept death. Benazir went further. Her detractors have accused her of being foolhardy. That is not true. She only embraced what she had in the last days of her life come to perceive to be her destiny. Hers was an act of courage steeled in deliberation and schooled in the imagination. It matters who killed her, but what matters more is that she knew she would be gunned down. Had she escaped death that day, the suicide bombers would have done her in sooner than later. Yet, she decided to take the risk. Again, it matters whether she died of the gun wound or was later levered down into death. But what matters more is that she was there, facing a possible killer. She did not flinch”.  This is perhaps the best tribute to Benazir Bhutto till today.

In the wake of brutal and ruthless assassination of Benazir—still shrouded in mystery—there was great euphoria among Pakistani liberals over the presumed ‘return to democracy’. Dr. Sachithanandam Sathananthan, in his paper, The Great Game Continues, noted with concern that “they are yet to discover ‘Late Neo-colonialism’ that installed sham democracy after removing the true leader of Pakistan.  He argues that removal of Benazir and thereafter, easily maneuvered victory for Asif Ali Zardari in the presidential election “brought to a high point the tortuous process of regime change in Pakistan. Anyone who has followed the ‘colour revolutions’ that installed pro-American rulers in Georgia (Rose Revolution, 2003), Ukraine (Orange Revolution, 2004) and Kyrgyzstan (Tulip Revolution, 2005) could surely not have missed the tell-tale signs”.

Benazir’s removal from scene was necessary for forces that wanted to keep Pakistan in permanent turmoil. This theory propounded by Dr. Sachithanandam got credence in the wake of events after assassination of Benazir. Dr. Sachithanandam aptly noted that “the earliest foreboding surfaced in the backroom manoeuvres by United States and British intelligence services to engineer panic about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets. It was a repeat of the duplicitous hysteria they generated over non-existent weapons of mass destruction that Iraq allegedly possessed.

Analyst and scholars have yet not examined assassination of Benazir Bhutto from the perspective of ‘New Great Game’. In her last book, Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy & the West, Benazir Bhutto tried to trace “the roots, causes, and potential solutions to the crisis within the Muslim world and the crisis between the Muslim World and the West”. Benazir, in this work unveiled the agenda of neo-colonialists and their proxy—the so-called Islamic militants. Quoting extensively from Al Qur’an that Islam is a religion of peace, she laments “it has been brutally abused by a handful of extremists throughout the Muslim history to create chaos and disorder.” She traces the factors behind militant Islam and exposes the colonial and neo-colonial forces promoting and encouraging it. These views must have annoyed the forces that want to keep the Muslim World in dark ages for their nefarious designs. These forces using their proxy—religious fanatics—thus got rid of her. It was not just a loss for Pakistan but a loss for the entire Muslim World.  

Benazir on return to Pakistan was fully aware of the fact that Bush Administration had been becoming increasingly hostile to Musharraf’s determination to prioritise Pakistan’s interests when steering the ship of the state through the choppy waters of the unfolding New Great Game, which the West—led by the US—had been manoeuvring to contain growing Russian and Chinese influences in Central and West Asia. She decided to resist this agenda of Pakistan-hostile forces. She became the prime target of these forces and was eliminated—interestingly the blame was shifted to Musharraf to hide the real hands. Since then events show and prove that under the “chosen” leadership, her assassination remains shrouded in mystery. The interior ministers, Rehman Malik and Nisar Chaudhry, have been promising to unveil the hidden hands behind her assassination but in the last nine years there is utter failure on this front.

Benazir became victim of this Great Game in which her own party stalwarts betrayed her.  Hers has been a legacy of continuous struggle. Pakistanis need to continue her legacy of resisting the ongoing Great Game of Late Neo-colonialism—controlling South Asian region through the bogey of Islamic militants and Hindu extremism with the ultimate aim of containing China and getting hold of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals.


The writer is Advocate Supreme Court and Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). Email: ikram@huzaimaikram.com; Twitter: @drikramulhaq

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