Ms Benazir Bhutto Interview to ‘The NewsPaper Today’
August 27, 2001
Many generals came and were dethroned – Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq, Ayub Khan. Today, Musharraf saheb is in power. But ultimately Pakistan as envisioned by Mohammed Ali Jinnah will succeed, which is democratic Pakistan, a Pakistan in which the poor will be treated with respect.
Is it a question of credibility or of a consensus which did not evolve? In India there are opposing groups, there are serious differences among political leaders but all the political groups and some well-meaning people do agree that India should have democracy, an independent election commission, free judiciary and a free press. But it is the opposite in Pakistan. For example, when my government was removed undemocratically, no one raised a voice to say the president should not have such powers.
Yes, we have two regimes. One which is visible and the other which is not. This has been our misfortune and has caused much damage to our country because the political interests of the invisible regime have been opposed to those of the people. Hence Pakistan also broke up. Now it is said that there should be a legal structure for these invisible forces so that they act within the limits of law and refrain from unlawful activities.
This is one perception but the other perception is that Sharif was himself the product of the invisible regime. So the majority which he had was not of the people but of the invisible regime. If a group of democratic parties gets a majority then I think changes can be brought in the structure so that there is revolution in the country.
It seems so and it has been so until now. But we are not ready to bow before arms and are fighting to strengthen the politics of vote. This is not easy but if one has conviction and commitment, as the PPP and its supporters have for democracy, then we have to fight.
There are many issues in Pakistan. One is lack of democracy. Then, religious groups have been given a free hand. And after the Afghan jehad, a new jehad has started. When I say jehad, I mean a political movement. In the Islamic world there are some groups which say that they have to resort to arms to rule over the world. On the other hand there also are those who say that the meaning of Mussalman is that you to your own religion and I to my own, a policy of coexistence.
I believe that Islam is a call for peace, for tolerance.
The movement for Kashmir is of two types. One is a political movement which is under the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). We support them. The other is of Lashkar-e-Toiba and armed groups which cropped up after our regime. We oppose them.
No solution has come up in the past 50 years and it will not come up in the coming 50 years if the people of India, Pakistan and Kashmir follow the path they are following. India calls Kashmir is an integral part, Pakistan speaks of self-determination.
To the people of Kashmir.
Pakistan’s intention is that one Kashmir should be given this right. But if you people exert pressure then both Kashmirs can be included.
If India proposes this, Pakistan will definitely agree.
I think you people are not ready for this.
That is the Indian interpretation. Pakistan’s view is that it will be resolved bilaterally. If it fails we will go to the UN.
I think India wants that the LoC should be made the international border. And Pakistan wants to give political support to insurgency so that referendum is done there. There can be no agreement in the wake of these opposing views. We should acknowledge that there are differing viewpoints. But we should build consensus for a peaceful, politically negotiated settlement. One should undertake confidence building for that.
We had talked about Siachen and East Punjab. At that time East Punjab was a big problem for your people.
There are perceptions. There is a perception that you people were doing the same in Karachi, only God knows who was doing what. Maybe we were doing that but we should now talk about whatever differences we have. These should be solved politically. We should build confidence for a safe and open border. Then the new generation will distance itself from bloodshed and hatred.
It was wrong. But he was dealing with an undemocratic leadership.
How? People had boycotted the 1997 elections. Farooque Leghari established a biased regime and said, ‘I will not allow Benazir to come back’. So we said that the election was a farce and boycotted it. Only 16 per cent people voted. But the Election Commission of Pakistan claimed that 50 per cent had voted. All your newspapers said rightly that 16 per cent voted.
Yes, it is so. There are all sorts of rigging. So there was an insecure leadership. It wanted to please India, please the world, please the army. In Lahore Vajpayee was being felicitated and the army was being told to take positions. And I know that General Musharraf has said recently that he would go anywhere and talk to India. I think if a military ruler says he is ready to talk then you can understand that our people really want peace.
I have differences with him. He has said that he will use the Army against me and will stop me.
Yes, during Zia-ul-Haq’s rule, the Afghan jehad was started in Pakistan. Madarsas were established and the children of the poor were recruited and promised clothes etc. In 1989, there was no confidence vote against me. Bin Laden gave $10 million to remove my government.
Certainly. Members of the PPP are not allowed to take to arms. Then why should the mullahs be permitted? This dual law is against the Constitution.
Certainly. I did try.
This is wrong. I had a split mandate. Two provinces were with Sharif who was in the Opposition, two provinces were with us. The National Assembly was with us and the senate with them. So we had no votes. We accepted Ishaque due to compulsions. If we had votes, we would have had our own man. Like the case of Leghari. It is another thing that he changed after occupying the chair.
America has given too much money – $4.5 billion-and F-16s. So obviously it has a leverage.
When did we want to put democracy on a lease? There was martial law. There were strategic concerns. You ask those who did that.
Obviously. America is a super power. It has too much clout. We want their diplomatic support because if we go to the UN, we have support. In the past we were in the American bloc or the free world bloc. You were closer to the Soviets. Now you are opening up your markets. Ten years hence, Insha Allah, we will talk.
This is all propaganda. During my first term, Islam, not in religious terms, was used against me. When that failed, the bogey of corruption was raised. But the reality is that India copied my energy policy and software policy. Recently, a tape has surfaced in which a trial judge asks the regime what punishment should be inflicted upon “madam”.
There are many good men in the judiciary.
What properties? What have they listed? I have challenged them. I am entitled to have properties. What law is there against it? It is against illegal properties.
They have kept my husband in jail and you think so?
You know, the whole thing is run by Zia’s men.
No. I do not have to make compromises with him. I have deputed the vice-chairman of the party and said that if there are talks he should join in. But dialogues have led us nowhere. Because they don’t want the return of Benazir. They want to use the army against me.
I, however, do not have personal problems with Musharraf. He was my DGMO. I do have personal problems with Sharif.
I will any day choose Musharraf.
The way Sharif acted, even animals do not act in such a brutal manner.
The perception that Sharif was extradited is wrong.
I am hearing it from you. If they want such a face, they have not come to me. And let me tell you, I am not only a democratic face. I am a person with her own base.
This is a challenge. In my life, I have accepted challenges. I want change in my country, in this region.
After Rajiv, Vajpayee is the first leader with farsightedness. What he did with leaders of the All Party Hurriyat Conference was right. I welcomed that. He allowed them to go out for treatment. He declared a cease-fire, told them that he was ready for unilateral talks. I think he has taken courageous steps. This is a window of opportunity for Pakistan which we are missing.
I think if a positive step is taken, a second positive step should also follow.
You want that I call for a delink? Then your people will be happy and my people angry.
A trend has set in in which accepting the other’s view is considered wrong. Let us respect that any country has a right to its own opinion. Let us agree to disagree. Even if there are some disagreements, there are parameters on which we wish to live – peace, friendship, amity.
Fundamentalism is our internal problem. The Kashmir issue has two dimensions. One, Kashmiris have a political right. Second, the export of the fundamentalist movement. In my days, the Hurriyat was prominent there. Now Lashkar-e-Toiba has come in. We also have personal reservations about that. But the Kashmir problem does not go away because of Lashkar. We can sit and talk about how to manage this. We understand that violence should end and our countries should live in peace. I am prepared to play my role.
I would like to see people in India also play a role so that Kashmiris also get something.
My personal wish is to make somebody the Prime Minister and I run the party so that I give more time to my children. After 10 years they will be in colleges, get married. So this is the time that I can sit with them, help in their homework, give them a life, emotional strength and substance.