The Bhutto Dynasty Must End Now

S. Abbas Raza in Foreign Policy in Focus:

What becomes ever more clear in the aftermath of the tragic killing of Benazir Bhutto is that there is little if any internal democratic structure left in the Pakistan People’s Party, the one political party in Pakistan which was built on a populist grassroots foundation by Bhutto’s father in the late 60s.

Screenhunter_3Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was an intellectual who brought Western-style electioneering to Pakistan, campaigning up and down the country, holding political rallies in small villages and towns. But it was not all just fiery oratory and sloganeering (“Roti, kapra, aur Makan!”–Bread, clothing, and shelter!); there was a well-structured platform for poverty reduction, education, medical care, housing. And while campaigning, Bhutto also laid out his vision for an independent non-aligned foreign policy for Pakistan in his 1969 book The Myth of Independence. Though somewhat autocratic and manipulative, Bhutto showed himself as president and then prime minister from 1971-1977 to be the most effective civilian leader in Pakistan’s history.

Living up to his campaign promises, he changed labor policy to strengthen trade unions and increase workers’ rights. Despite severe opposition from powerful feudal landlords (of whom he himself was one), he managed to push through limits on land ownership. A proper constitution was adopted by the parliament under his leadership. He negotiated important treaties with India and China, particularly strengthening Sino-Pak relations and industrial cooperation. And he stepped up Pakistan’s nuclear program, foreseeing Pakistan’s need to counter a nuclear threat from India. But most importantly, by basing the foundation of his party on the poor and the illiterate, on farmers and peasants and laborers and the youth, he gave these groups not only a voice, but a dignity and hope they had never enjoyed.

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