Why Bhutto Needed to Go
VOTERS usually register one of two types of sentiments: an ideological belief or a judgment on the record of the incumbent. Pakistan's recent elections largely reflect the same results as the vote two years ago in the sense that building democracy has been endorsed. The difference, however, reflects dissatisfaction with Bhutto's efforts to deepen Pakistan's democracy. Benazir Bhutto asked Pakistani voters to believe that the only reason her government was dissolved on Aug. 6 was the antidemocratic establishment's desire to return to power. Her statement was true enough since her efforts to restructure the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the CIA-developed security apparatus that managed the Afghan counter-insurgency, earned her the military's unforgiving enmity.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Her electoral opponent, the Islamic Democratic Alliance (IDA) included some of Zia's opponents, but is mainly a political alliance created and supported by the ISI.
Bhutto's assertion was still incomplete. In parliamentary democracies of the Indian Subcontinent, the president is supposed to defend the country's interests and order elections when the Prime Minister's government has lost the people's confidence.
Bhutto corrupted the process of no-confidence voting a year ago by bribing opposition politicians. A parliamentary system relies on this mechanism to avoid crises which can lead to military intervention in response to uncontrollable lawlessness. The Aug. 6 dissolution was indeed taken at the army's behest because Bhutto was acting above the law, and the courts could not stop her.
Voters, offered a referendum on reelecting Bhutto, demurred. She had failed to deliver the very democracy she had embodied in her romantic struggle against General Zia and then the ``Zia League,'' which she termed the IDA in the 1988 election that put her in power. Bhutto lost the election; the IDA did not win it.
Ultimately, the election was a one-woman show, and Pakistanis grew to dislike her arrogance, ineptitude, and corruption. Her government, in twenty months, was the most scandalous in a very corrupt country's history. Bhutto's utter inattention to the blatant stealing of her ministers was galling, even to the mass of tenant farmers, for whom politics has never had more relevance than the act of voting.
Crooks in prior governments acted in semi-secrecy while the Bhutto government brazenly stole in full public view.
When Bhutto also ignored the poor for whom she pledged her government, her narrow base of support did not grow. Bhutto was much more interested in personal power than in trying to help people. Instead of trying to develop desperately needed infrastructure, she created a ``Peoples Programme,'' a public works program that was a patronage dumping ground for PPP cronies.
Furthermore, the very traits that made her a formidable adversary to Zia - her confrontational ego, was unable to compromise with the myriad forces in the Pakistani minefield.
In its system of divided government, with federal funding, cooperation is the chief requirement of a prime minister.
She placed her family in control of key positions; her mother Nusrat as deputy prime minister; her father-in-law, Hakim Ali Zadari, as chief comptroller, arguably the most important job in a country plagued by corruption. And her husband, Asif, became in effect, troublemaker without portfolio, an organizer of an array of bag-men who collected fees on loans, contracts, or licenses that he had arranged. The rest of the cabinet, uninterested in governing, followed suit, without even a hand-slapping by Bhutto.
Urbanization and uneven economic development has pitted one ethnic group against another, while rural poor have gravitated toward Islamic fundamentalism. Punjabis voted overwhelmingly for IDA candidates in order to get even with the Sindhis who voted for no IDA candidates in Sindh two years ago. Mohajirs have sought greater influence in the southern cities and towns and have become the most organized ethnic force in the country.
Ethnonationalism was not the main reason for her defeat, but it represents the greatest danger to the country's future.
Bhutto has a great opportunity, as a responsible opposition, to attempt to alleviate these tensions. Hopefully, she will recover quickly and use her dogged determination to check the excesses of the alliance whose turn it is to face Pakistan's problems.