“Let Some other now must tend the garden of sacrifice”
Three years ago Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. Though her party is in power the conspirators behind this assassination which shook the country, and it would not be an exaggeration, the region, are still at large.
Now on every anniversary of BB’s assassination the media tries to probe what actually happened and who did what. But all the efforts of the media have not been able to push the case investigations further. Interestingly, this time a week before the anniversary the government gathered the courage, perhaps to pacify its workers, and got two senior police officials arrested. They have now reportedly implicated some top intelligence officials. Will the investigation now gain momentum? There are not many takers for this because cynicism rules in this country and the feelings are that like all the past political assassinations the truth will never come out.
Last week Express TV anchor Luqman grilled Senator Safdar Abbasi, perhaps much more harshly than the investigators of the case did. But he raised a pertinent question that who opened the sunroof of the bullet proof jeep? Surprisingly, Senator Abbasi said he does not remember. Now that is hard to believe, may be is afraid to point out the person. Abbasi said that Khalid Shahanshah, who was BB’s security in-charge, was sitting facing him. Was he the person who opened the heavy sunroof? Intriguingly, Shahanshah was also killed in Karachi reminding us of the Kennedy case. The whole saga is like a Hollywood thriller.
The fact remains that Benazir Bhutto’s death was a great tragedy for this blighted country. There is no other leader who has countrywide support, from the snowcapped mountains of Karakoram to the seashores of Karachi and Balochistan. With all her past follies, it is accepted even by her foes that she led a party which is an adhesive for the Federation of Pakistan. It is also acknowledged that her understanding of domestic and international politics was far better than her political peers.
Most importantly, I think she was the only popular leader of the country (President Musharraf does not fall in her league) who understood that the fundamental contradiction of the Muslim polities is between the forces of modernity, liberalism, democracy and the fascist militant Islamic forces. In fact it is not only the issue of Muslim societies, the Christian, Jews and Hindu societies are also seeing vehement and violent resistance to the flood of globalised secular culture and values. The traditionalists and those who fear change are fighting everywhere to insulate their societies from the liberal democratic value system. The information flow and global interaction is now cutting through all national, ethnic and religious boundaries.
It is the fear of being swept away by the changing relations of production that heralds changed social relations and pattern of thinking. It is the challenge posed by scientific rational thinking that has made extremists of all major religions in the world to come out vigorously against the rationality. It is this fear that has made these forces intolerant and noisy. It is this inevitable progress of mankind that is being resisted by the likes of Al-Qaeda in Muslim societies, by Hindutva in India, by evangelists in America and by extremists Jews in Israel.
Those who undermine the importance of this political formulation have lots of disconnected arguments. They blamed Benazir Bhutto for supporting an American agenda when she boldly said: “We can sacrifice our lives but not the future of our children to the militants.” They brushed aside this as an American agenda to polarize the Muslim societies.
Sweeping statements that this not an issue of the poor people of Pakistan and it is raised by the westernized elite is a lack of understanding of the ecology of development. A society cannot prosper economically if it is dragged back to an undemocratic medieval political and social system. The instability created by militancy is already taking a toll and the economic progress has slowed down. This in turn hurts the people on the lowest rung of the income ladder as they are the first ones to fall back below the poverty line.
The issue is can any country now afford not to challenge religious extremism? Nobody grudges the right of the religious parties who remain within the democratic norms, but it is the fascist and violent means of subjugating the people that has to be resisted. And Benazir Bhutto was the only national leader who had the courage to rise to the call of history on her own soil. She was in a position to provide people’s support to this cause, which Musharraf had tried to fight without any political backing. On the contrary all through he was sleeping with the politicians who support the obscurantist. To add further to his misery he isolated himself by picking a fight with the judiciary and civil society.
The PPP leadership which has taken over the power has not been able to give confidence to the people, that they would lead the country out of the crises. Perplexed people of Pakistan are once again asking, what next? Is there any hope of coming out of the present turmoil? Would the ruling coalition fall? Will that lead to fresh elections? Or the Khakis will impose some technocrats’ government for a few years? And so on and so forth.
Though PPP has managed to survive politically so far under the leadership of the street-smart Co-chairman, it has not been successful in managing the economy well. Unfortunately one weakness of BB was that she never allowed other leaders to grow under her shadow and did not give importance to having a good economic team. With all her faults she was the best among the flock of Pakistan’s leaders. Her assassination has left the message best said in the words of the great poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz:
Some other now must tend the garden of sacrifice;
The dew these eyes of mine have shed, friends, is used up,
The passionate faith is stilled; the hail of stones is over.
Dust underfoot today is the hue of the loved one’s lips,
In her dear street is unfurled the pennant of my blood,
To whom, will the summons come, now I am gone –
Who dares the challenge now of the deadly wine of love?
Again and again, now I am gone, this cry on the lips of her who pours,…
(Translated by Victor Kiernan) (firstname.lastname@example.org)