A Quiet Revolution
November 3, 1998
Prime Minister of a country is a political leader, not a celebrity. Unfortunately, in my case, charisma and youth and a living legend of triumph and tragedy have blurred the edges of this distinction and I have often been portrayed in the mirror of the media as a celebrity and not as stateswoman.
During the last ten years- 1988-1998 – politics of Pakistan has been dominated by swings of the pendulum between Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League, both of which have been in power twice.
In and out of office, I had been subjected to a relentless media trial. None of the References that relate to my first government could be proved even while I was in the wilderness. Once again a media trial is taking place. I am the target of scandal mongering and character assassination. I am portrayed as a witch from a wicked tale.
As yet there has been no assessment of the performance of Benazir Bhutto as a government leader in statistical and analytical terms.
I twice held the office of Prime Minister – between 1996 and 1990. During these two stints in office, the government of my Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) greatly enhanced the standing of Pakistan both internally and in the eyes of the world. Among other accomplishments, my government projected Islam as a religion of moderation. My speeches at major international conferences – on population planning Cairo and on women’s rights in Beijing – united women in the East and the West. I galvanized the economy by encouraging foreign investment and actually paid off some of the principal on the country’s huge foreign debts. My programs to eliminate polio and reduce the population growth rate from a staggering 3.1% to 2.6% earned the gratitude of my countrymen. I restored the writ of government in Pakistan, giving the country stability, peace and prosperity, with an economic growth rate that hit 6%. All of this is now forgotten.
The main emphasis of my government was on social sector i.e. supply of gas and electricity, primary education and health.
Give me light:
Pakistan has 80,000 villages. When my government was elected in 1993, the number of villages with electricity was 45,000 that is about 1000 villages per year. It would have taken another 50 years to bring electricity to the remaining villages. During my 2nd government the rate of village electrification was raised to 5000 villages per year with the result that by the end of the expected tenure of my government in 1998, all the villages of Pakistan would have received the electricity. I quote from the Economic Survey of Pakistan, published by the present government:
ANNUAL TARGET AND ACHIEVEMENTS OF VILLAGE ELECTRIFICATION
(upto February, 1997)
I was the only Muslim Prime Minister to attend the Population Conference held at Cairo, where Vice President Algore represented the USA.
Population of Pakistan had quadrupled in 50 years. This is a great strain on our natural resources and environment. The more schools and hospitals which were built can not keep pace with the population explosion. During my government, the rate of population growth declined from 3.1% to 2.6%, the intention was to bring it down to 2% at the end of the tenure of my government.
At the time my government was elected, Karachi was in a state of anarchy and was caught in a vicious circle of violence, flight of capital, and unemployment amongst the educated youth – leading to more violence. My government turned the tide by a mixture of anti terrorism measures and a package for the development of Karachi infrastructure. If it was not for the “Mai Kulachi” Bye-pass, Karachi today would be faced with a massive traffic jam.
The fiscal deficit was brought down during my term in office. At the same time a rate of growth of 6% of GDP was achieved through prudent economic management. In my experience, you cannot defy the iron laws of economic except at its own peril. This is what precisely the present government is doing.
Role of Islam:
I am a believing and practicing Muslim. It is my faith that there is no conflict between Islam and modern technology, modern science, and modern economy. Islam is a religion of moderation, not extremism.
We restored peace to Karachi for a continuous period of six months and, at the time my government was dismissed, an investment of 2 billion dollars was taking place in the Port Qasim Industrial Area alone.
During 1997-98 the system of Checks and Balance in Pakistan has collapsed and the country has witnessed the emergence of a personal absolutism. At the same time the economy is at the verge of meltdown exacerbated by the crises in East Asia. The spectre of Balkanization looms over the horizon. Fifty years after birth, Pakistan is a state but not a nation. A growing sense of disenchantment and despair pervades the country, as power is increasingly concentrated in a one-man rule.
There are two scenarios: The path of Benazir Bhutto is the forging together of a nation state as in the case of Italy after Mazzini while the PML road leads to Balkanization following the collapse of the institutions, including judiciary.