Interview of Mohtarma Bhutto
Saudi Gazette – 31 July 2001
Q. A former prime minister how do you see and what is your assessment of the present situation in Pakistan with regards to your possible participation in politics, Kashmir and CTBT?
Ans: Pakistan has been slowly sliding deeper into a political crisis since democracy was derailed in 1996. The government since have been on a collision course with the people of Pakistan. Their focus is less on the outstanding issues that need resolution and more on suppression and repression of the general aspirations of the people of Pakistan.
Q. So what is the way out?
Ans: .Well, until and unless Pakistan is able to set its house in order by adhering to the constitution of the country – to realize the dream of the founder to establish a democratic society – it is my considered opinion that the crisis political, social and economic – in the country will continue to deepen.
Q. Are you in favour of Pakistan signing the CTBT?
Ans. My party called upon Pakistan to sign the Comprehensive Test ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1998 when Pakistan made the detonation that it did. We thought that it was important for Pakistan to take the high moral ground and delink itself from what India did. India operates in a different set of circumstances – it has a larger economy, it has its certain systems and was able to absorb the shocks. In view of the inability of the Muslim world to subsidize Pakistan’s poor economic condition, we need to take decisions that could keep us as a strong and viable state.
Q. What in your opinion can be done to sort out the economic fallout of Pakistan’s nuclear test?
Ans. Nations disintegrate less due to external aggression and more due to internal implosion. The lessons of the Soviet Union and that of Yugoslavia are before us and if an Asian Yugoslavia is to be prevented then it is imperative that democracy be restored, elections be held which are fair that will return Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and myself to power.
Q. But one gets the ‘general impression” that things are fine in Pakistan, don’t you think so?
Ans. Some 140 million people are unable to lead and fulfil meaningful lives if they are only fed on spin-doctors and propaganda. The country’s needs are markets; people need laws, opportunities – all that is missing. As far as I can see – Pakistan is today slowly falling apart. Institutions with a lot of strength like rand corporation are predicting Pakistan’s disintegration. Things can be very different if only the people are allowed to run the country.
Q. But Pakistan has suffered economic crisis of this or that nature before and political leadership cannot be absolved of its role and responsibilities.
Ans: The imposition within Pakistan can have a very serious fallout and i say that what happens in Pakistan in the next three years will determine what will happen in Pakistan in the next 15 years.
Q. How is your relationship with the army and particularly the generals?
Ans: We have a lot of respect for the Pakistani army and i in particular recall the warmth and affection with which ordinary soldiers and junior officers would swamp me when i used to go and visit different corps. I have been all the way up to Siachen. I had inaugurated the Hyderabad cantonment. >From the south of Pakistan to the north i have met the brave men that make up the Pakistan army. I believe that ordinary soldiers want reform is the army as much as the non-soldiers.
Q. You talk of the sufferings of the ordinary Pakistanis but what about those who are not ordinary, like the political leaders. Have you suffered personally?
Ans: It has been very difficult for us to survive. I have watched my father killed. I have watched two of my brothers killed. I have seen my husband incarcerated. I have seen my mother – who is sick and ailing with Aalzheimer’s disease – mistreated. I have fought on, because we believe that you must fight for what you believe is the right cause. I love my country. I am saying that give the people of Pakistan the right to choose their own destiny, stop this collision. Because if this collision continues the economic fallout is before each one of us. Russia had an IMF program. What happened to the IMF program? Did things getting better? Things continued getting worse. The IMF is only one part. Economies prosper with this confidence.
Q. So do you think that the PPP can provide this confidence?
Ans: The leadership is needed to give confidence to the economy. I see a marginalized Pakistan. It has been marginalized to an extent that the middle classes are fleeing to Canada – buying their way out – by selling their houses and buying visas. This can stop. This is my faith. This is my conviction. I have the confidence from the support of the people and my experience that this can stop and must stop.
Q. Can you be more precise as to how the situation in Pakistan can be improved? Are there forces within and outside Pakistan out to strike at its integrity?
Ans: It’s important for us to work together because systems that work are systems that are based on a set of laws. In Pakistan there is an apparent system but the system is not operative. That’s why we are in a crisis. Yes, I am sure that there are many – inside the country and outside – who would like to see a break-up of Pakistan. I am sure, for instance some within the Taliban would like to move forward into Balochistan and into the frontier province. I am sure that there is a Sindhi nationalist movement and there is a Punjabi nationalist movement. A pluralistic society has many different points of view but the over-riding consensus of the people of Pakistan is that they would like to live together in a federation.
Q. A “Daughter of The East” a mother of three children and a wife whose husband is away in prison how do you manage your political and personal affairs with all the constraints?
Ans: It’s very difficult for me. I am almost like a single mother because eight out of the last 11 years my husband has been behind bars and i have been bringing up children on my own. I am also unlucky that my brothers are dead so my children don’t have uncles who could share the burden with me. It’s very difficult when a child turns round and asks: “when my father will be free?” There are times when children are ill and you want to be with them but I have contractual agreements and commitments and i have to go. These innocent little lives deserve to have the love of their father – they deserve to grow up in a family. I was so very close to my own father and i do feel for my children. I try to give them as normal a life as is possible. I have always been surrounded by lots of people and the good thing is that when you are out of power the people who are fortune hunters, self seekers and opportunist they disappear and so one has the chance to discover people who are dedicated and devoted, who are bright and talented so I feel I have gained a lot through every stage and every ordeal that i have faced and I say Alhamdolillah.