Political turmoil

Since the declaration of independence in 1947, Pakistan is overshadowed with political turmoil and bloodshed. The conflicts begin with political leaders’ dispute over Pakistan’s Constitution. The founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanted to create Pakistan as secular state, while the other groups, led by Abul Ala Maududi insisted to establish Islamic state of Pakistan. After nine years after the Independence Day, the leaders still did not find resolution; in fact, the scale of conflict is escalating. The military then came in to complicate constitution processes.

The military’s involvement in the constitution process did not make the whole situation improved, in fact was the opposite. Military took over the leadership and took away civil authority. The peak of this political crisis was 1956, when Iskander Ali Mirza from military, appointed as the first president of Pakistan. And yet, during the whole tenured of Ali Mirza, Pakistan became extremely violent. The overpowering military presence in politic did not give the opportunity to this new state to exercise its potency to develop civil power, such as legal process was stagnant and other social institutions also became militarize. Ali Mirza leadership ended with coup d’etat. He died when he was in exile in England and his corps was not allowed to be buried in Pakistan by the new military power.

The political tragedy has overshadowed Bhutto’s family, since Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took leadership in 1971. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto hanged by the junta military, Zia ul Haq in 1979. After nine years in power, Zia ul Haq’s plane was exploded in air, along with the US Ambassador and his highest rank generals.  In 1985, Shahnawaz Bhutto, the youngest son of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who actively criticized the junta military, found dead in his apartment in France. In 1996, the first son of Bhutto, Murtaza Bhutto, died in the hand of police after he returned from exile in Afghanistan. The peak of the Bhuttos’ tragedy was the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, two months after she returned from self imposed exile in London. The official report says Benazir was killed by al-Qaeda, but there are many speculations over her assassination.


Ms. Bhutto’s assassination

Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan arranged by the US and President Musharaf. As result, Musharaf granted amnesty to Benazir Bhutto from all corruption charges against her before she left Pakistan in 1999. The amnesty was given with the condition that Ms.Bhutto has to share power over Pakistan’s leadership with Musharaf. But soon after Ms. Bhutto arrived in Pakistan, she refused to work with Musharaf. Ms. Bhutto’s assassination leaving big puzzle on who involved and what is the real reason of the assassination. Benazir Bhutto was the fourth political victim in the Bhutto’s family.

During Benazir Bhutto’s tenured, her leadership and personality is controversial. She gave optimism and pessimist at the same on the future of Pakistan. Her popularity goes beyond Pakistan, across many Islamic and Asian countries. Her death is symbol of demolishing democracy of Pakistan. However, some scholars say that during her tenure, Ms. Bhutto did not do much, especially in removing the most controversial law against women, hudud and zina (law on unlawful intimate encounter), established during general Zia ul Haq. The abolition the law would not necessarily enhance the condition of Pakistan women. Ms. Bhutto was trying to avoid controversy and trying to appeal many groups, including Islamist groups, to support her leadership. Besides, the background of this law was to create fear and to enforce control on women, did not intent to provide protection for women. But certainly Benazir Bhutto has ended the fear of millions Pakistani women because she never performed this law. Abolition of the law could create controversy and diminish the popularity of Ms. Bhutto’s government, when there were still many influential religious leaders believe in the essence of this law.

The deterioration of Ms. Bhutto’s popularity mostly causes by her husband misdemeanor. Asif Ali Zardari was known for “Mister Ten Percent”. His bad reputation has caused political turmoil and internal conflict, and then, Benazir Bhutto’s government lost its popularity. In 1996 she was dismissed from office for second time on corruption charges, and lost to Sharif a second time in elections the following year. Two years later, facing conviction on what she insisted were political charges, she again went into exile. Corrupt civilian’s government has always excited the military to interfere and finally take over civilian’s leadership. Similarly, in 1999, Musharaf took away Nawaz Sharif’s power with similar excuse. Pakistan military always appears to be the power that can bring justice, although Pakistan history has proven repeatedly that the cost of militaristic government is much higher than civilian government.


Benazir Bhutto’s tenure

Benazir was born in Juni 21, 1953 in Karachi. She pursued her education in the two most prominent institutions in the world, Harvard and Oxford universities.  Benazir Bhutto graduated from Political Science Department of Harvard University and then continued to Oxford University in 1973. She was elected as honor member at the Oxford Union Debating Society and President of Oxford Union at Oxford University. In 1977, she went back to Pakistan and joined the Foreign Affair Ministry, but her father wanted her to contest for the election. Benazir Bhutto was too young at that time; she then opted to be her father advisor. As the eldest, Ms. Bhutto often accompanied her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in many state’s ceremonial. She had the most opportunity to learn from her father as compared to other siblings, including her younger brother, Murtaza Bhutto.

Ms. Bhutto’s popularity was sky rocketing when the President Zia ul-Haq killed. A couple months after the President was killed, Ms. Bhutto elected as Prime Minister and re-elected in 1993-1996. Her marriage with Asif Ali Zardari was bitter-sweet for Ms. Bhutto’s family. One of the intentions Ms. Bhutto married to Asif Zardari was to boost Ms. Bhutto’s political carrier to the top. Asif Zardari was known for his outstanding ability in negotiation and diplomacy. Ironically, when Ms. Bhutto acquired the power, Zardari acquired more. Some say Zardari had become too greedy more than Ms. Bhutto. Hence, Ms. Bhutto kept stood beside her husband, event against her own brother. Bhutto’s government ended with scandal and controversy and charged her husband with eight years to prison. He was found guilty on 18 counts of corruption.


Pakistan and Bhutto

Ms. Bhutto  was not only the symbol of civilian power, but she also the symbol of woman, embraces with enormous hope of millions of Pakistani people to challenge the dictator, general Musharaf. Until today, official report on the cause of Bhutto’s death is still puzzling. The official report says that she was not killed from bullet shot but from smacking her head against the sun roof of her car. The denial of the government to reveal the assassination plot could forever conceal the detail and accuracy of parties who involve in the assassination.

Her death was result of compromise of many interests of many parties who threaten by her popularity; because there is great probability she might win the election and oust General Musharaf from his power. At least, there are two groups who are threatening by Benazir’s popularity, al-Qaeda and the military. Al-Qaeda sees Benazir as representation of the West’s power. Meanwhile, Musharaf was deceived by Ms. Bhutto’s political maneuver.

The main concern post the assassination is that the party will repeat the same blunder they made when Benazir Bhutto was in power, and could be worse because Zardari was in total control. It requires miracle to change Zardari from ignorant political figure into something else better. Zardari is not only corrupt leader, but he is also authoritarian leader. The dead of Murtaza Bhutto alleged to be designed by Asif Ali Zardari. Before Murtaza Bhutto was killed, he openly criticized the involvement of Zardari in Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Transparently, Murtaza Bhutto expressed his intention to dismiss Zardari from the party.

Zardari could jeopardize the future of PPP and lose PPP’s popularity during Zardari’s “unofficial” tenure. The day after Benazir Bhutto’s burial ceremony, Zardari appointed his young son, Bilawal Zardari-Bhutto as the party leader. Certainly, this is bad dream for Pakistan and PPP. Zardari admitted that the inauguration of his son was just a matter to keep Bhutto’s symbol in the party. A day after the inauguration, Bilawal left Pakistan to continue his study in London. The party is fully under Asif Zardari’s control.

Although Benazir Bhutto has gone, the new Bhutto will appear soon. Today, Bilawal Zardari-Bhutto is only 19 years old. Certainly, he must have wonderful dream for the future of Pakistani, to create political stability and prosperity. We hope that one day he could end the tragedy of Bhutto’s family and create better future for Pakistan. Would Bilawal improve the lives of Pakistani or would he just going to extent the political tragedy of Bhutto’s family? We have to wait until his time comes.


Author details: Siti Nurjanah is Direktur Eksekutif of CRCS