Benazir Bhutto — The Muslim Leader Who Saw Jihadis Coming- Farahnaz Ispahani

Two years after being elected, the world’s first female Muslim prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, received intelligence that a man called Osama bin Laden had given orders to kill her. The year was 1990. Al-Qaeda had not yet officially been formed, but the organizers of global jihad had already determined that Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they launched their first modern jihad against the Soviet Union, would be crucial to their plans for restoring the medieval caliphate across the Muslim world.

Shaheed Benazir Bhutto
Shaheed Benazir Bhutto

Bhutto narrated the bin Laden threat to her life in the second edition of her book The Daughter of the East. In the first edition, she had spoken of threats to her life at the time of her first return to Pakistan from exile, in 1986, while the jihadist dictator General Zia-ul-Haq still ruled the country. Bhutto conveyed her concerns about Zia to U.S. officials then as she did about bin Laden four years later. But before 9/11, warnings about radical Islamists were not taken seriously.

Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by the jihadis on December 27, 2007 after addressing a rally where she repeated her warnings about the Taliban and other extremist groups. Today, events such as the recent massacre of school children in Peshawar, reflect what Bhutto was warning against. Extremist Islamist ideologues opposed her because as a western-educated Muslim woman leader she symbolized all that the jihadis hate.

Bhutto was physically brave beyond comprehension. She had a commanding personality, was extremely intelligent and well read. Her charisma, combined with her compassion towards the poor of Pakistan, helped her win elections in a conservative Muslim majority country. Zia-ul-Haq, the brutal military dictator, rued that he had not “finished her off” along with her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — a former president and prime minister of Pakistan executed by Zia after a military coup.

The extremists and Pakistan’s conservative establishment that has backed them hated Benazir Bhutto with a passion and tried to thwart her in every way her entire adult life. Pakistan’s reputation as a terrorist incubator owes itself to the hyper-nationalist and Islamist ideology cultivated over the years by the country’s establishment. Bhutto saw this ideology, not as a cement that would bind Pakistan’s disparate ethnic groups, but as a deviation from the ideas of Pakistan’s secular founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Shaheed Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto had a vision and clarity about Pakistan, the Muslim world and the West after 9/11 that no Muslim leader today seems to have. In her book Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West, written just before her assassination and published right after it, she argued that Pakistan under military dictatorship had become an epicenter of an international terrorist movement that had two primary aims: “First, the extremists aim to reconstitute the concept of the caliphate, a political state encompassing the great Ummah (Muslim community) populations of the world,” she wrote. The second aim of the militants was “to provoke a clash of civilizations between the West and an interpretation of Islam that rejects pluralism and modernity.”

In 2007, before ISIS and its markedly escalated brutality had surfaced, Bhutto cautioned the world about the violent intentions of those hijacking her Islamic faith. “The attacks on September, 11, 2001, heralded the vanguard of the caliphate-inspired dream of bloody confrontation: the crusades in reverse,” she explained to a global audience that still does not always understand motives of groups like Daesh — or the Islamic State as the extremist murderers prefer to be called.

Shaheed Benazir Bhutto
Shaheed Benazir Bhutto

Bhutto explained that within the Muslim world, sectarianism was widespread and the Islamic dogma had been shaped into a propaganda tool justifying jihad against the West. She also took on rising western Islamophobia and argued that Islam and Muslims were not the negative and cartoonish caricatures often painted in the Western press and movies.

Bhutto offered an alternative vision of civic Islam, drawing on the Prophet Muhammad’s acceptance of “women as equal partners in society, in business and even in war. Islam codified the rights of women. It guarantees women, civil, economic and political rights.” She castigated those “who claim to speak for Islam who denigrate democracy and human rights, arguing that these values are western values and thus inconsistent with Islam. These are the same people who would deny basic education to girls, blatantly discriminate against women and minorities, ridicule other cultures and religions, rant against science and technology, and enforce brutal totalitarianism to enforce their medieval views.”

According to her, these people have no more legitimate relationship with Islam than the people who bomb women’s health centers in America have to Christianity or the madmen who massacre innocent Arab children at the tomb of Abraham in Palestine have to Judaism.

Benazir Bhutto will be mourned on the anniversary of her assassination at her burial place in her family shrine in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in Sindh and all over Pakistan. This year, with the turmoil, strife and violence spreading all over Muslim lands by the extremists, it would be worthwhile to pay attention to her words, experience and recommendations for fighting the jihadi extremists.

Benazir-Bhutto

 

(Farahnaz Ispahani is a former member of the Pakistani parliament and Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. 2013-2014)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/farahnaz-ispahani/benazir-bhutto-jihadis_b_6373568.html

The Wronged Man

Husain Haqqani tells it like it is. Husain Haqqani, Islamabad’s former ambassador to Washington, is making waves with his latest book, Magnificent Delusions, which speaks hard truths about the arrant alliance between Pakistan and the United States. In 2011, Haqqani was forced to resign as envoy under Army pressure, and the Iftikhar Chaudhry-led Supreme Court, champion of the hypernationalist narrative, zealously moved against him and his wife, Farahnaz Ispahani. The court declared open season on Haqqani: it dubbed him a “traitor,” placing his life at risk. And Ispahani, one of the most widely-lauded voices for human rights in Pakistan’s previous National Assembly, was ousted from the legislature. Faced with injustice at home, Haqqani returned to academia abroad. He teaches international relations at Boston University and is a director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C. We spoke with Haqqani over email recently about his book and the delusions that continue to impair Pakistan’s relationship with the U.S. Excerpts:

You have been a consistent advocate of resetting Pakistan-America relations on the basis of pragmatism. What exactly does this entail?

For 66 years, Pakistan has sought close ties with the U.S. with the sole purpose of offsetting India’s size and military advantage. This has been a security relationship. But no nation can become a regional power while also being dependent on assistance from other countries. A better option for Pakistan would be to normalize relations with India and Afghanistan and then have a broader, nonsecurity relationship with the United States. Pakistanis resent the U.S. partly because we have been dependent on it. The United States had not been constant in its relations with Pakistan, but it was also wrong on Pakistan’s part to expect constancy. I have studied several models of partnership with the United States and wondered why most other U.S. allies since World War II have prospered while Pakistan has not. The answer came down to our unwillingness to have an honest relationship. South Korea and Taiwan aligned their security policies and perceptions with the Americans. Pakistan refused to accept U.S. advice, especially where its regional view was questioned. My vision, encouraged by [former prime minister] Benazir Bhutto, was for a strategic rather than tactical relationship. It would not be based on asking for military aid in return for providing some services to the Americans in their concerns. We need to build a self-confident Pakistan, free of the burdens of past blunders, especially jihadist misadventures. American assistance should be directed toward standing on our own feet. We need a relationship involving education, tourism, investment, and trade—like other countries have—not one that is all about seeking military equipment and aid in private and abusing America in public. But despite the mutual misgivings, Pakistan and the U.S. remain disenchanted allies.

Does the relationship lose relevance after NATO troops pull out from Afghanistan by the end of 2014?

I do not think Pakistan and the U.S. are allies. We just pretend to be allies. Each round of close engagement has been followed by disenchantment on both sides. This time I think the mistrust and disenchantment runs much deeper than before. A long-term relationship post-2014 is possible. But it would require a fundamental reorientation of Pakistani policies. Unlike the 1950s, when Afghanistan and India refused to be U.S. allies leaving Pakistan as the only partner in the region, this time the Americans have alternatives whereas Pakistan might not.

Can Pakistan and the U.S. avoid a bitter, perhaps inevitable, falling-out?

Both countries need to get past their one-sided narratives. Both have made mistakes, and both have raised expectations of the other that have not been fulfilled. Americans must understand that aid does not buy a people’s friendship. Pakistan must get out of the business of jihad and understand that spinning a narrative of victimhood at home is no way to ensure respect abroad. Above all, both countries must evolve a pragmatic relationship based on realistic expectations.

What steps can Pakistan take to right past wrongs?

Pakistan’s foreign policy is based on a psyche of insecurity. After acquiring nuclear weapons we should have felt secure. Instead, we act like the man who keeps buying guns to protect himself and his family and then stays up all night fearing that someone will steal his guns. Just as staying up all night would likely give high blood pressure to our imaginary gun-buying man, Pakistan is suffering internally from its insecurity-driven policies. Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin had suggested just this in his address to Pakistan’s Parliament in December 1996 that Pakistan should shelve issues that cannot be resolved for the time being. We should apply that advice and normalize relations with Afghanistan and India. Just as China did not give up its rights over Taiwan, Pakistan need not give up its claim on Kashmir. But it should start trade with India, which would enhance Pakistan’s economic growth. It would also ensure peace, which is a precondition for development. In the case of Afghanistan, Pakistan should befriend the government in Kabul instead of trying to impose one of its own choosing. Pakistan should put all terrorist groups out of action, come clean on its nuclear program, and develop a comprehensive program of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration for the jihadists. Denial of the terrorists’ presence on Pakistani soil is no longer an option. We must become a trading nation instead of being a “warrior” state.

Is the warrior-state mentality, derived from Pakistan’s creation in the name of Islam, something that can be so easily refashioned?

Pakistan may have needed an Islamo-nationalist raison d’être for its creation; it does not need one for its evolution into a functional state. Most nations and countries have evolved through a process of history, not through propagated ideology. Some 95 percent of Pakistan’s population was born after 1947. We are Pakistanis because we were born Pakistani; we need to stop insisting on being an ideological nation. We just need to figure out how to make the nation we were born into secure and prosperous. We need to debate policies, not ideology. As long as we keep feeling the need to ideologically justify our existence, we will be psychologically insecure. Changing the ideological paradigm is the key to changing things for the better.

What did you discover about Pakistan-America relations while ambassador, and what’s your advice to the ambassador-designate?

Magnificent Delusions, with its 32 pages of endnotes, is my answer to the first part of your question. My advice to the incoming ambassador is to make sure he is seen by his interlocutors as credible. Playing to the gallery back home does not enhance an ambassador’s ability to influence events in his host country, particularly a place like the United States. I may have been burnt at the stake by the [national-security] establishment at home, but I still have my integrity internationally. That enables me to speak for my country even without any office.

What do you say to detractors who allege you have been “unkind” to Pakistan?

Just because I refuse to accept myths circulated for public consumption throughout our history does not mean I am unkind to Pakistan. Vibrant nations encourage self-criticism and adjust policies based on different ideas. Honest debate is not possible without facing facts. Don’t forget, on Dec. 17, 1971, a day after thousands of our troops had surrendered at Dhaka, the headline in Dawn was “Victory on All Fronts.” If that was being kind to Pakistan, it did not change the fact that we had lost half our country’s territory and more than half its population. I would rather be accused of being unkind while marshaling facts than being guilty of deception that results in an irreversible loss to my country.

Link to original piece Newsweek Pakistan December 21st, 2013 edition: http://newsweekpakistan.com/the-wronged-man/

The Zardari legacy By Farahnaz Ispahani

On Sunday, September 8, 2013, Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stepped down as the president of Pakistan. Many will write about this historic day as it represents the first time a democratically elected president completed a five-year term, followed by a peaceful transition to another democratically elected government. Most of Pakistan’s leaders have been removed from office in coups d’état or have been forced to resign. Zardari is the only one to leave office with a formal lunch hosted by his political rivals.

Although Zardari’s tenure in office was characterized by judicial activism and media opposition that often bordered on hatred, it will be remembered for its tolerance of that criticism. Since Pakistan’s independence 66 years ago, its politics have been intensely polarized. Opponents of the subsequent governments have been routinely jailed and even killed after being labeled “enemies of the state.” Zardari, however, chose to take the criticism, preferring the noise of a fledgling democracy to the enforced silence of superficial stability.

Polarization in Pakistan has not ended but it has diminished, at least among the major electable national leaders and parties. Much of what it took to achieve this historic moment is publicly known, but there are many stressful and difficult moments known to just a few. Perhaps one day the entirety of the struggle to deliver democracy and strengthen Pakistan’s parliamentary roots will become public knowledge.

What most people do know is that since the February 2008 parliamentary election, and especially after the resignation of former president and military strongman Pervez Musharraf, there has been a powerful lobby in Pakistan hankering for the “good old days” when the reins of authority were held solely by the country’s powerful generals, bureaucrats, and judges, who were assisted by powerful media barons and urban industrialists.

When Zardari took office, many politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, and citizens had very little idea of who he was. The picture painted by the country’s intelligence agencies and the permanent establishment thrived in a nation obsessed by rumors and hungry for conspiracy theories.

Pakistan’s urban elite have often been more comfortable with military rule and historically, elected leaders have been denigrated as incompetent and corrupt. It was not always easy to muddy and blacken the image of democratic leader Benazir Bhutto, especially on the international stage or with her party members, who stood by her like a rock. But it was very easy to scapegoat Zardari, the businessman-consort of the leading pro-democracy politician. He was accused of many things over the past two and a half decades without any charge ever being proved in any court. Anyone who has spent time in political life knows well that once your public image has been defined for you, it is often impossible to change that image.

As such, Zardari took little interest in restoring his personal image once he became president. He did not care that analysts and journalists tied to Pakistan’s establishment described him as an “accidental president” and repeated unproved past allegations against him. Instead, his focus was to redress the imbalance in Pakistan’s power structure.

Unelected presidents and military dictators had, in the past, accumulated power in that office at the expense of Pakistan’s parliament and its provincial governments, the constituting units of the Pakistani federation. Zardari worked with the various parties in parliament to shape amendmentsthat restored the constitution to its original form. Because of his efforts, Pakistan can now be a functional parliamentary democracy and a proper federation, with real authority in the hands of its provinces.

Hardline opponents constantly claimed that Zardari and the PPP government, led by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, would be gone in three months. This was then consistently repeated by the sages on Pakistani cable television and by print columnists. The entire effort was to destabilize the government itself, but it didn’t work. Instead, it undermined the effectiveness of the government and deferred tough economic decisions.

The relentless pressure from many quarters, including the Supreme Court of Pakistan, eventually resulted in Gilani’s removal over a contempt of court charge, something unheard of in any democracy. This judicial activism and the discretionary use of the court’s Suo Moto powersparalyzed the executive branch of government. PPP cabinet ministers and administrative heads of government departments and agencies spent a lot more time answering frivolous petitions in court than they did in their offices governing the country. But with the May 2013 elections, which resulted in a new government led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, the question of the PPP government’s performance is now history.

Zardari’s legacy will instead be the strengthening of the democratic process. Out of office, he can now work on rebuilding the PPP so that the party can seek a mandate from the people during the next election to actually govern and deliver — something it was not allowed to do last time.

While Pakistan’s constitution bars the outgoing president from running for elective office for two years, Zardari is not prohibited from generating ideas and direction for his party. Hopefully, he will reform the party by bringing in new blood not associated with allegations of corruption and inefficiency. The PPP remains a mass political party that needs to be rejuvenated to make the case for a liberal, tolerant, pluralist and fair Pakistan. Zardari’s son, Bilawal Bhutto, who is co-leader of the party, has already spoken of that need publicly on social media.

If the democratic environment, free of excessive polarization, which Zardari sought to create in the last five years, lasts for the next five, there will be room for Pakistani politicians to debate the country’s fundamental issues: terrorism, international isolation and economic reform.

Farahnaz Ispahani is a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., and a former Pakistan Peoples Party member of Pakistan’s parliament.

The article is originally published in Foreign Policy AfPak channel with Link http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/09/09/the_zardari_legacy#.Ui5HAHB_6nA.twitter