Musharraf exploiting war on Terror
Ms Benazir Bhutto
Global Institute for Leadership
Palm Desert, California
It is amazing to be in America two weeks before a Presidential election. It is welcome to be in a democracy where there are actually real elections taking place, where people can freely vote. I wish someday we will be able to say the same thing about my homeland, Pakistan. That is the goal on which I focus all my energies. That is the drive that keeps me going every day.
That is the commitment that brings me to California today. Throughout the world, these are times of uncertainty, tension, conflict and great danger. The era of peace for which we prayed, and which after the collapse of communism was within our grasp, has now tragically become a time of war. Stability has been replaced by chaos. The world has changed dramatically since the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
America is the oldest and greatest democracy of the world. As a teenager, I learnt about modernity, diversity, and democracy here in your country. I returned to Pakistan with the dream to help my country prosper on these democratic principles, and on the empowering and revolutionary concept of equal rights for women in society.
But tragically, I found that the fanatics and the dictators dread modernity, diversity and democracy. They fear the empowerment of the People of Pakistan -- they fear literacy, equality and above all they desperately fear the spread of information in society. They use religion to justify their politics, to justify dictatorship and to manipulate a clash of civilizations under which they thrive.
I do not believe that such a clash of civilizations is inevitable. Contrary to what some people believe, Islam is a monotheistic religion very much part of the Judeo Christian heritage. Abraham, Moses and Jesus are the prophets of Islam as much as they are revered in Judaism and Christianity. It is ignorance and fanaticism that seeks to create a clash of civilization amongst East and West, amongst Islam and the rest of the world. Terrorists who use commercial airliners as bombs aim at much more than the death of thousands -- they aim to provoke a global, deadly confrontation between continents, nations, and religions.
I know the terrorists of Al Qaeda. I battled with many of them. Across Pakistan, exploiting our religion, they preached a message that teaches hate and hopelessness.
As a woman, I was a threat, a clear and present danger to their designs.
As a democrat, I was their opposite. But above all, as someone who offered hope to our people -- education, jobs, communication and modernity -- I was a dangerous obstacle to the forces of hate. Under my government Pakistan integrated into the global economy that the fanatics so fear. We became one of the ten emerging capital markets of the world, attracting billions of dollars in foreign investment, particularly in power generation. We eradicated polio in our country. We dramatically reduced infant mortality. The WHO awarded me a Gold Medal for our assault on polio. Despite the constraints of a political system rigged against democrats, and a social system biased against women, as Prime Minister of Pakistan I used my office to reverse centuries of discrimination against women.
We increased literacy by one-third, most dramatically amongst young girls.
We built over 48,000 primary and secondary schools during my two terms in office. It pains me that this education program targeting girls was dismantled by my successors who cut the education budget. We brought down the population growth rate by establishing women's health clinics across our Nation.
We outlawed domestic violence and established special women's police forces to protect and defend the women of Pakistan. We appointed women judges to our nation's benches for the first time in our history. That affirmative action program for women in the judiciary has been undermined. A female judge was denied promotion to Pakistan's High Court in a major reversal for female leadership in the judiciary. She was retired when she should, under the law, have gone on to become the first female judge on the Bench of Pakistan's Supreme Court.
We instituted a new program of hiring women police officers to investigate crimes of domestic violence against the women of Pakistan. That special police force has been dismantled.
My government condemned honor killing, the murder of women who chose to marry without their guardian's permission. And now my party has moved a bill in Parliament making these honor killings illegal. Sadly but not unsurprisingly, Pakistan's military junta has tried to jettison the bill with a counter proposal that does not effectively address the issue. The Government I led lifted the ban on women taking part in sports—nationally and internationally.
This year a Pakistani woman took part in the Olympics in Greece bringing pride to all the people of Pakistan and to women everywhere. We persuaded the armed forces and security services to hire women in their institutions.
A special Women's Development Bank was created to guarantee small business loans to women entrepreneurs, because I firmly believed that economic justice would build political justice. It was a bank run by women for women- although men were allowed to keep their money in it. There is a moral crisis in Pakistan today. Social and economic inequality is a ticking bomb. The stakes could not be higher. To Islam at the crossroads, a modern Pakistan was one fork
in the road, fanaticism and ignorance the other.
In Islam dictatorship is never condoned, nor is cruelty. Beating, torturing and humiliating women is un-Islamic. Denying education to girls violates the very first word of the Holy Book: "Read." According to our religion, those who commit cruel acts are condemned to destruction.
Afghanistan is an example of how abandoning the principles of human rights and democracy can have the most tragic consequences.
The overall policy of standing against Soviet aggression in Afghanistan was right. Yet the early decisions to arm, train, supply and legitimize the most extreme fanatics gave birth to the 21st century terrorism now swirling around us. Ironically and tragically, these militant elements gave birth to Al Qaeda, and the US Stinger missiles are now pointed at US commercial jetliners.
If the elections that were held in Afghanistan last week were held in Afghanistan in 1990, there would have been no Taliban, no Al Qaeda and no 911. Just as democracies do not make war against other democracies, democracies also do not sponsor international terrorism. The goal of the international community's foreign policy agenda must always be to simultaneously promote stability and to strengthen democratic values.
Not selectively but universally.
General Musharraf is exploiting the war on terror to solidify his junta. The world must remember that until he found it expedient to align with the US against terrorism, his regime was supporting the Taliban. Even as he bans militant groups to demonstrate good faith to the rest of the world, those same groups spring up under another name. It seems that the writ of the state has failed.
The United States and the rest of the world must remember that Pakistan has an extra-constitutional military government with no democratic legitimacy. So-called elections that took place in Pakistan in October 2002 were exercises in fraud; The EU described them as "a deeply flawed exercise ".
There were banners and balloons. But like a Potemkin village, it was all an illusion. There was never any intention on allowing the will of the people to be expressed.
This is tragic, for two distinct reasons. First, a democratic Pakistan is the best guarantee
of the triumph of moderation and modernity among one billion Muslims at the crossroads of our history. And second, the alternative of a long-term nuclear-armed Pakistani dictatorship has consequences that could make September 11th look like a mere prelude to an even more horrific future for the civilized world.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Mine is not the simple life I dreamed of growing up in Pakistan and going to school at Harvard,and Oxford.
I am asked how as a Muslim woman in a traditional society, I became Prime Minister of Pakistan.
In fact, circumstances propelled me on to the road of leadership. The gauntlet of leadership was thrown down before me and I had no choice but to pick it up. And once I picked it up, I focused my life and energy like a laser-beam on bringing democracy and human rights to my people.
I found that leadership is demanding. Life often demands difficult decisions. I had to choose between family and duty, and I had no real choice. The stakes were too high to allow any obstacles to success. Often personal happiness was sacrificed in pursuit of national and political goals.
Sad, but necessary, leadership is a commitment to an idea, to principles, to fundamental human values. My commitment to democracy, to fundamental human rights, to modernity, helped me walk the high mountains of success as well as the low valleys of imprisonment and exile. Leadership demands a price from the individual and it also demands a price from the family.
I was in America during the Watergate crisis and the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon. Above all, in America during the Watergate crises I saw the awesome power of the people to change policies, change leaders, and change history. I marveled at how a people could bring down a government. I lived in a dictatorship. Those criticizing the President ended up in prison or ended up facing assassination attempts.
At Oxford, I became the first female foreigner to be elected as President of the Oxford Union.
The Oxford Union reflects the British Parliament. It was there that I learned to debate, slowly gaining confidence before an audience. It was there that I learned to further focus my energy into attaining specific and definable goals.
It was there that I learned that I could beat the odds. It was there that I learned not to accept "no" for an answer, and in the words of Bobby Kennedy, to ask, why not?
I returned to Pakistan in 1977 hoping to join the Foreign Service. I dreamt of becoming the Ambassador to Washington.
Within a week, my life changed dramatically. A military coup took place. My Mother awakened me in the early hours. Army tanks had surrounded the Prime Minister's House.
My Father was taken away by the military to an unknown destination.
He was released and returned to our family home in Karachi. But then the army raided the house again and took him away. He was released again and then rearrested. He was finally hanged amidst international outrage.
A few hours before his murder, my Mother and I went to the death cell to see him and bid him farewell. It was then in that final meeting that I decided that come what may, I would fight for democracy and fundamental rights in Pakistan. During the long night of military dictatorship, which lasted eleven years, my Mother and I were imprisoned time and again. My Mother was baton charged and denied proper treatment.
Today she suffers from a form of Alzheimer's her doctors claim was brought on by that head wound.
|Copyright © 2004 PPP California. All rights reserved|