Embattled Bhutto Responds to Her Critics


IN a recent phone interview with MonitoRadio correspondent Pat Bodnar, Benazir Bhutto talked from Karachi about her plans for regaining power.

Frequent criticism has been voiced about the government's naivet'e and your making too many compromises with the military.

I don't know whether I would call it naivet'e or not, but I do believe that the experiences of other countries, such as Turkey, Thailand, Malaysia, indicate that once there is a military dictatorship, it cannot automatically be followed by a period of democracy. The generals may have physically gone back to the barracks, but the psychological return takes longer.

The [Pakistan People's Party] PPP was committed to the democratic process. And as such, I wanted to work out a via media with the generals so that there would be no pretext to dump the democratic process.... I see the dismissal of the PPP government as a serious setback for the democratic process in Pakistan.

Do you think your ideas and the idea of a modern woman leader came too soon for Pakistan?

I believe the people of Pakistan share with the PPP the vision of a new democratic Pakistan, where there is equality for women, where there is an effort to eradicate illiteracy. In the short period of 20 months, we electrified 4,000 villages, built 8,000 primary schools, cut inflation by half, and we had more investments ... than all the investment of the past four years put together.

I believe the people of Pakistan share this vision of a society which is free and based on the rule of law.... I had a progressive, modern vision of Pakistan. But I was not the first prime minister to be dismissed. In Pakistan's history, I'm the fifth prime minister to be arbitrarily sacked, and all these five prime ministers have been sacked on the same grounds of corruption and lawlessness. The real question is to work out a via media between the civilians and the military which permits the democratic process to start, and then, with the passage of time, gain strength.

What are your chances right now, given the opposition to your ever getting back into politics?

The chances depend on the type of election which will be held. If the elections are fair, free, and impartial, I have no doubt that the People's Party will win a majority. Our opposition is in a terrible state of disarray. They have been unable to decide on a common prime minister; they have been unable to decide on ticket distribution.... And one of the main contenders ... was beaten up.... So the alternative is a motley group of people with nothing in common but power, who cannot even come to terms with each other. So how will they come to terms with the people of Pakistan? If they can use violence and gunshots against each other, then how can they combat violence...?

If you could look ahead 50, 100 years from now and say what your legacy has been in Pakistan, what do you think it will be?

To have introduced freedom, and the rule of law, and to have given the nation confidence in itself; belief in itself, confidence in itself, and in having opened opportunities for men and women across Pakistan to shape their own destiny.

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