IN THE NEWS: BENAZIR’S MURDER MUST NOT GO UNPUNISHED (DECEMBER 27, 2017)

Written by admin on Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Benazir’s murder must not go unpunished
SOURCE: Daily Times
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
EDITORIAL

Today marks the tenth death anniversary of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. To say that her loss makes Pakistan a poorer place will be an understatement. Benazir was, and remains, a symbol of courage and hope. Notwithstanding what her critics had to say while she was in government and the opposition, few matched her will to fight and keep the torch of a democratic Pakistan alive. Solitary confinement, imprisonment, exile and relentless defamation could not subdue her. In her death, she leaves us with a huge challenge. Of not giving up. And not relinquishing the quest for justice and democracy.

Patriarchal political structures and the powerful institutions of the state wronged Benazir throughout her career. The generals jailed her, painted her as a villain, rigged elections and called her a security threat. The Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld her governments’ arbitrary dismissals in the 1990s. Whatever her failings were, and certainly there were quite a few, she did not deserve to die at the hands of assassins and the country did not deserve to lose her.

Her premeditated murder with the footprints of Al Qaeda, sections of the security establishment, police and others are all in the public domain. A United Nations Inquiry Commission presented damning findings but her own party had to distance itself from the mention of sacred cows to preserve short-term power. Instead, the conspiracy theory that her husband abetted her murder permeates the public mind. To add insult to a national injury, a recent verdict of the court freed those who allegedly killed her. Her party did not bother to show up in court.

Benazir’s murder is a test case for Pakistan’s so-called democrats who are yet to show their mettle in consolidating democracy. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promised that he would bring her killers to justice. Benazir’s husband Asif Ali Zardari kept on telling the public that he would identify the real killers. But he never did. Instead, her death anniversary has turned into a ritual of peddling power politics and mobilising the disenfranchised Sindhi peasantry that deserves at the very least a semblance of good governance. This is nothing less than a plot of a Greek tragedy.

There is much to celebrate in the eventful life that Benazir lived. She continues to be an inspiration for many women some of whom are now at the forefront of national and local politics. This is her formidable legacy. Twenty seven years ago, Benazir started the Lady Health Workers (LHW) programme at the village level which continues and demonstrates how state intervention is vital to achieving social development. LHWs help families, especially women, to access healthcare services, including immunisation. In addition, the cash transfer programme in Benazair’s name started by the (previous) PPP government is helping millions of households and is a crucial step to empower women.

But Benazir’s party remains under fire on charges of misgovernance and corruption in Sindh. PPP supporters view her son as the hope for the future; and as someone who can carry out her mission. Bilawal displays her idealism but is constrained by a father who places realpolitik before idealism, and a legacy of cronyism as well as the elite capture of a party that was once the torchbearer of redistribution and social justice. Ten years after his mother’s death, Bilawal faces even a more fractured polity and a fragmented party that has all but vanished from the largest province of Pakistan.

Those who eliminated Benazir had estimated with some precision that her exit would deprive her party of the anchor that it always had in her person and charisma. For Pakistan, the dwindling of the PPP undermines the federation for most political parties today lack a nationwide appeal. This compounds the gravity of the loss that Pakistan suffered on December 27, 2007.
It is imperative that Benazir’s assassination should not go unpunished. This ugly tradition of impunity has turned into an unwelcome norm. It must end. Perhaps only then Pakistan will be able to redeem itself. Otherwise Benazir’s murder will continue to haunt the direction of this country. *

 

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