So a date has finally been set. Fireworks have crackled and mithai has been distributed among the more eager PPP stalwarts. It’s as if Eid were already here. Our ex-prime minister is finally on her way home.
Benazir Bhutto is a name that has done nothing short of creating waves across the media. Whether we love her or hate her, we can’t ignore her. That, and she has no qualms about making herself heard. Whether it was stridently announcing that Musharraf should make a public apology to the Chief Justice back in April, or recently denouncing the ban on Imran Khan’s return home, Benazir has never been afraid to express her opinion. Clearly, she doesn’t need to hold office of Prime Minister to make her presence felt.
And now, the ex-Prime Minister is homebound. But if we have learnt anything from recent events, we should know to be skeptical. How do we know Bhutto won’t be turned away by the Government once she arrives? Yes, the Government has pledged it won’t oppose her arrival. But it doesn’t take a cynic to know that that pledge has no guarantee. Zia-ul-Haq similarly ‘pledged’ to hold transparent elections within 90 days of imposing martial law back in the 70’s. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto ‘promised’ the poor food, clothing and shelter when he took power. Even President Nixon promised the people of America that he would end the Vietnam War upon his election in 1968. None of these promises were met.
“Politics,” minister Chuadhry Shujaat Hussein is quoted to have said, “is like a game of cards in which sometimes you have to call bluff.” Yes; politicians lie. Governments can lie. Are we to blindly trust the Government to hold back this time? Certainly not.
But what about the general populace of Pakistan? Do we want her back? Some do trust Bhutto’s shrewd insight. We admire her dedication to a true democracy. But in today’s day and age, democracy is a vague ideal. Our first democratic Constitution in 1973 has systematically been amended, clipped, chopped and refuted. In our third world country, we no longer know what democracy is. She says she will commit herself to restoring democracy. But let’s not be naive. The only thing Benazir seems keen to restore back to position is her self. In a ‘you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours’ political maneuver, Benazir pledged to support Musharaff’s re-election…if he promised to withdraw all cases against her. But if she upholds Democracy as she claims, why would she consider negotiating with a military dictator?
And then of course, are the allegations that she has been corrupt. But then corruption, like democracy, is yet another vague term. It is used so lavishly – and readily – with politicians that we’ve become desensitized to the word. What does it mean to be corrupt? As with democracy, we just don’t know anymore.
The return of Benazir may be a God-send for many factions of Pakistan. Musharaff’s time bomb is ticking and is set to explode any second. As his popularity decreases, hers rises. As he fails to keep his promises, the people look increasingly towards Benazir to grant them the ideals of democracy and freedom. Yes, the word ‘Bhutto’ seems almost to be synonymous with the word ‘corruption’. But that certainly hasn’t stopped them from being popular!
“Fashion is a bourgeoisie pastime.” Benazir once said icily to an Indian reporter. Yes, Benazir has given us her share of memorable quotes. But will she give us democracy? Only time will tell.