|n t e r v i e w o f
Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto
to ARY – TV – Translation (Urdu to English)
Q. Who is Benazir Bhutto, Who are you?
Ans: I am a mother, I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am a wife, I am a human being and like so may others in our country, I try to make the best of my life. I see life as a precious gift and must be lived for a cause higher than oneself.
Q. Being a daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and as an individual, how do you differentiate between the two?
Ans: Well, as a daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, I have certain responsibility. He was a great political leader, he had a mission and he gave his life for the economic prosperity of the people of Pakistan. I have great commitment to further that mission. In that respect, I am a very political person. As an individual, I am someone who gets tired, happy and angry.
Q. You spent most of your time in the West in younger days and then came to Pakistan. How did you adjust?
Ans: I was a bit shocked when I went to the West. I was spoiled daughter of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister who had become the most popular leader of Pakistan. I was used to a different life style, I had never cooked, never cleaned. Suddenly, I found myself in America where there are so many freedoms and learnt how to adjust. I learnt to stand on my own feet and I am grateful to that experience. I went back to Pakistan expecting to join the Foreign Service but the military coup took place. Tanks had surrounded our house. It was a very traumatic moment. My father was arrested and taken away. My life changed. I was plunged into politics and that is where I am since that fateful day.
Q. You are now living in exile. Is it by choice or were you forced into it?
Ans: I was forced. If our country had law, constitution, democracy, fair elections then why a Pakistani would have been forced to live in exile. There has been repeated military interference in our country and then there is no justice or law in the country. I am forced but I want to go back, I want to breath in Pakistani environment. My small children also get saddened by looking at me and want to go back to Pakistan.
Q. Why do you not go back and defend yourself in the several cases against yourself?
Ans: I want to defend and I stayed in Pakistan for the same purpose but I was thrown from one city to other. I used to wake up at night and I did not know where I got up, in what city. Judges used to work overtime in the courts against my case. I had no time to instruct my counsels. When I was convicted, I was out of the country. I thought, I could fight and we were able to tell the people of Pakistan the facts. The people are with us because they know that we were victimized. I want to go back to take part in the elections because people of Pakistan feel themselves hapless. Since the peoples’ government was toppled in 1996, the unemployment has increased, people have been thrown out of jobs on a big scale, utility bills have increased many folds and people have been forced to commit suicide because of price hike. I think that under my leadership the PPP can change the situation. Pakistan once again can enjoy respect and honour. Now the situation is that we are taking dictations from New Delhi and other places. I have got the experience to earn respect for the country and the poor people.
Q. You have been the Prime Minister for two terms but in that country your husband is imprisoned for the last seven years. Are the courts so incompetent that they can not give one decision in his case?
Ans: No one is kept in prison for that long without sentence in the UK or the USA. In we get a bail in one case then the regime makes another case. General Musharraf himself said to PPP delegation that he would not interfere in judiciary. Now why does he not accept Zardari’s bail? When Zardari got bail in all the cases, another fake BMW case was initiated and he was arrested in that case. On one hand they accuse us for corruption of 3 billion dollars and on the other hand they accuse us of importing second hand BMW.
Q. Why do you not decide to deal with all cases with the prosecutors because it has become a national issue?
Ans: Ask them to do it. I accuse them of corruption. They have no proof whatsoever in the cases against us. Dishonest Generals are prosecuting an innocent woman. They want to oust me from politics. My government worked for the people of Pakistan. Farooq Adam who was Prosecutor General asked the Judges to behave. General Maqbool was also in the NAB. He was involved in a case of counterfeit money and was arrested by the US official. Saifur Rehman was a defaulter himself—these kinds of people were appointed against us. If an honest officer is appointed then he would end all the cases against us because these are very weak cases. There are strong cases against the members of this regime. WAPDA is on record to complain about a sitting minister of this government of embezzling money but he is not caught. One hundred million dollars of Employees Old Age Benefit fund has been looted. It is unfortunate that corruption cases have always been initiated against civilians from Hussain Shaheed Suharwardi to Skiandar Mirza. But real looters and plunderers are Generals, who have not been touched. They carried out Genocide in Bangladesh and it is no more a secret now, but they are not hauled up. The one’s who spilled the blood of innocent young troops in Kargil, sent the troops there and then called back. You are talking of money here but the people who have taken precious lives and did not accept the corpses of these martyrs, when these Generals would be investigated? I think this is a conflict between civilian and military. Generals want to usurp the right of civilians. Generals want that civilians should not do politics, they themselves want to enter in politics. When Generals turn into politicians then the country breaks up and the economy of the country is destroyed—this has happened in Pakistan.
Q. General Mirza Asalm Baig in a programme recently, has said that politicians ask the military to interfere.
Ans: There is some truth in his assertion. We politicians have also been weak. The politicians are investigated but the Generals are not. If proof against a General is produced, he is appointed as an ambassador in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon. These Generals are made Generals despite murdering people by using violence. There has to be balance and politicians have been subjected to a lot. Investigation should be carried out of the people who gulp the entire budget.
Q. Recently, President Musharraf
Ans: He could be president for you, for me, he is General and I am not sure whether he is serving General or not, I would have to ask my lawyers.
Q. So you do not accept him?
Ans: Not at all. The people rejected him in the referendum. Eight years old children were casting votes in the farce referendum. General has become very weak after the fraud referendum. It is unfortunate that General Musharraf is not giving up the post of the Chief of Army Staff, he is doing politics, he is using the military for his own interests. He is on a collusion course with the people. He is president of no one. Mush is in Pakistan because Bush is in the US. The day Bush distances himself from Mush then Bush would nowhere to be seen.
Q. When he had removed Nawaz Sharif, you had welcomed him.
Ans: I supported him on conditions that he would form an interim government and hold elections within three months. But he did not do so then we opposed him and he started initiating cases against us.
Q. How long you would be against each other because country is suffering because of it. You both want Pakistan’s interests to be served. Do you not think that you have to compromise?
Ans: Compromise is necessary through negotiations. When he, ignoring me, invited a delegation of PPP to meet him, I said to my colleagues to go to that meeting. The delegation was told that it would get everything if Mohtarma Benazir leaves politics. The delegation asked to adopt the proposals of election reform given by the PPP and to respect the human rights but the General is not ready to do that. We cannot support dictatorship of a dictator but we can negotiate for democracy then a compromise could be reached. But General is on record to say that he does not want to share power. He wants one man’s rule and want to divide people. I pray for him that he sees the light. During the last three years poverty has increased, per capita income has reduced, miseries of people have increased.
Q. Is it necessary to go to the West and India especially, when Pakistan’s relations with India are very bad at the moment?
Ans: Many people including PPP supportive Generals send me messages that they are in a difficult situation when I went to India and held talks with Vajpayee. I told them whatever step I took was in Pakistan’s interests. I want the tension between India and Pakistan removed. If this tension is not removed then Pakistan would be at loss. I wanted to prove that political leaders can hold talks. Musharraf had also gone to India and negotiations were failed. Then I went to India and said that the people of Pakistan want a respected and just solution of the disputes. On Kashmir, both the countries have different point of view but if China and India have no tension at the border despite border disputes between them then why it could not be replicated in Kashmir? Why innocent people lose their lives?
Q. Do you think that Pakistan benefited by your visit?
Ans: Yes. The world has changed economically, socially, politically, after 11 September. I had asked the Pakistani regime to distance itself from Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, but the regime did not listen to me. I have been twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan and the World ask me of my views, but my views were not listened to, and just after two months the Indian Parliament was attacked. After that on the dictation of Vajpayee, the regime had to distance itself from those Jihadi Organisations. It is very unfortunate that the regime did not listen to me and had to act on Vajpayee’s dictation.
Q. What do you want to say about the accusation that Taliban are the product of your government?
Ans: Taliban came to the surface when I was Prime Minister. At that time there were two types of Taliban. One who wanted to share the power, talk to the UN, distanced themselves from Bin Ladin, did not allow training camps and the second type were those who wanted the entire Afghanistan for Taliban, they fought with other groups and killed Iranian diplomats, they invited Al-Qaeda to make Afghanistan their base camps, inducted fighters from all over the World and trained them. These were the ones who dropped bombs in the US. Taliban knew that under my leadership, Pakistan would not allow them to destroy places all over the World. When PPP government was removed then the second type of Taliban came to the fore. The same was the situation in Kashmir. During PPP government, APHC was marginalized, and other organisations were strengthened. I think that apples should be compared with apples and pears with pears.
Q. How would you have dealt with the situation after 11 September if you were in power?
Ans: I think that there would have been no attack on WTC if PPP government were in power. During PPP government never the attacks on WTC or Africa happened. Because of my policies the whole Muslim World was in peace. I went to Bosnia and talked to Clinton and John Major and the civil war ended in Bosnia. Our policies were for the Muslim World and entire World. After the removal of PPP government, Pakistan faced a set back in Kabu. WTC was other. It is the policies, which count that what benefit they can deliver to Muslims and the World.
Q. Who do you blame for the attack on WTC?
Ans: I think that it was Usama Bin Ladins doing. He has supporters all over the World including Pakistan.
Q. Whose product is Usama Bin Ladin?
Ans: It is a long story. CIA gave money to ISI of Pakistan in the war against Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. ISI recruited extremists. Zia-ul-Haq was against PPP so he recruited the most extreme people. He was a sectarianist as well. You can say that Usama Bin Ladin is a product of Zia era. In 1988 during my government the Madarassas were privatised and taken away from ISI control. There is a group of retired Generals of Zia era who work as a mafia. They brought Nawaz Sharif, Farooq Leghari, Musharraf as they wanted. They pull the strings and they have their own hard-line policies and oppose the policies of PPP and Musharraf fears them and is confronting the PPP.
Q. You have been a rival to Nawaz Sharif, now according to reports you are with Nawaz Sharif against Mian Azhar.
Ans: PPP and PML(N) are members of ARD. Politics is not done on liking and disliking. Politics does not draw lines. It is based on common ideologies and interests. PPP politics is based on democracy and federalism. If someone agrees with our principles then we are with them, if they do not share our principle then we do not take them with us. We regard supreme our own principles, ideology, policies, programme and mission.
Q. Have you struck any deal with Nawaz Sharif?
Ans: PPP and PML(N) are part of ARD, they had combined public meetings, we have been struggling together for the last two years.
Q. Why have there been tussle between the two parties while one of them was in power and the other in opposition?
Ans: I have never made any law to victimise any opponent neither I ordered to arrest anyone. I did not appoint any friend of mine as special prosecutor. Mian Nawaz Sharif’s father was arrested but not on my orders but he was arrested for not paying his bank loans. When Nawaz Sharif was Prime Minister to same issue surfaced in Al-Taufeek case and the newspapers reported about Qazi’s of Alford, but I did not personally do anything against Nawaz’s father or brothers.
Q. Recently the Secretary General of Commonwealth has criticised General Musharraf of concentrating all powers in his hands. What are your comments?
Ans: He is very correct. We have written to Mr. McKinnon several times asking him to raise his voice for democracy. The laws are made by the representatives of the people and this is not Generals’ job. There are few good Generals in the army as well but when I refer to Generals, I talk about the ruling Generals. These good Generals realize that General Musharraf is doing wrong and tell him so also. But General Musharraf does not listen to anyone.
Q. Do you agree with the constitutional changes by General Musharraf?
Ans: To some of them like joint electorate, restoration of women seats in the assemblies but we do not agree that one individual should have the power to decide the fate of 140 million people. President should not have the power to dismiss elected government. Five governments were dismissed by the president since Jonejo’s dismissal in this way. The country could not get stability. I think that General Waheed Kakar’s formula was the best that if President dismisses the Prime Minister then he should also go like Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Nawaz Sharif both were dismissed in 1993. The elections then be held under the judiciary as it is done in Bangladesh. If this is so then the President would try his best to work with the Prime Minister. Then there is National Security Council. We do not agree with its role. For what we need this? In the past the military hardliners supported Taliban, they retreated unceremoniously from Kargil and then went to Agra to greet Vajpayee then these Generals arrested Taliban officials and handed them over to the US and sent to Cuba. These all wrong policies were carried out by the Generals. The politicians had the wisdom, the thinking and the vision to carry out all good policies. National Security Council must not interfere with the foreign policy. Foreign policy should be with the Prime Minister and Parliament. If the General wants to keep clean the army and intelligence of the fundamentalist and needs Security Council then it is fine. He should clearly define the role of National Security Council. If it is to carry out the agenda of hardliners and to remove the civilian government because of differences on foreign policy then I think it is wrong. Role of National Security Council could be to investigate the army.
Q. What do you think of condition of being Graduate to be a candidate for the assemblies?
Ans: I think it is totally wrong to exclude over 90 percent population from their rights to contest elections. It is un-Islamic, unethical and politically incorrect.
Q. Musharraf would remain President for the next five years and political government?
Ans: General Musharraf would have to beg for votes. If the elections are held free and fair then he will have to ask for votes from the PPP and if elections are rigged even then he would have to go to his puppet Mian Azhar and beg for votes. He has to get elected to be President. This is possible that the politicians get together and get rid of military dictator.
Q. You want to say that to remain President, he has to take his uniform off?
Ans: Definitely, he will have to do that, but he knows that if he gives up uniform then who would fear him? The military should not be made disputed and partial.