Saturday, January 26, 2008
Who gets a profit out of it? Nobody but a parcel of usurping little monarchs and nobilities who despise you; would feel defiled if you touched them; would shut the door in your face if you proposed to call; whom you slave for, fight for, die for, and are not ashamed of it, but proud; whose existence is a perpetual insult to you and you are afraid to resent it; who are mendicants supported by your alms, yet assume toward you the airs of benefactor toward beggar; who address you in the language of master to slave, and are answered in the language of slave to master; who are worshiped by you with your mouth, while in your heart -- if you have one -- you despise yourselves for it.
-- Mark Twain in Mysterious Stranger
Benazir Bhutto's life can be regarded as a microcosm of Third World liberal aristocracy's betrayal of their Countries. The sordid record liberal aristocracy which she represented can be summed up as follows.
(1) Gain power promising people liberation from their sorry state of affairs and outright destitution.
(2) When in power , simply betray people who believed them and elected them, Indulge in obscene levels of corruption, behave as if the people who elected you simply doesn't exist.Build a cult of personality which may make even Stalin green with envy.
(3) Get kicked out of power, sometimes by rightwing political parties , sometimes the military.
(4) Start all over again.
The vicious cycle continues, Ad Nauseum.
This has been the story, more or less, of the South Asian nations like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. If anyone is responsible for driving the people of these countries into the hands of diabolical religious fundamentalists of all sorts, then it should be the Liberal Aristocrats like Bhutto of these countries. In India, this role is played by Congress Party, the family heirloom of Nehru Gandhi Family. In Pakistan It is Pakistan People's Party(PPP), the family heirloom of Bhutto Family.
Third world Aristocrats are the kind who helped the Westerners of a bygone era to loot their countries and then simply took over when the Westerners shuffled home.
Benazir and her fellow Aristocrats of every country have only contempt for the masses. We are fooling ourselves if we think they really care for us. For them, the masses are simply raw materials for their boundless ambitions. They are egomaniacs with a sense of entitlement. I have seen quite a few aristocrats in my life. Whatever difference they may have there are some things which are surprisingly consistent. It is their contempt for the masses. Of course they wouldn't talk down to people like they do to their servants in public. It would be suicidal to do so. But now and again, there is some story about them which gives an insight into the mindset of these elites.
A couple of examples would suffice to show the nature of Benazir's relationship with the masses she claimed to represent.
(1) Fawzia Afzal Khan who teaches at Montclair State University was a student in Radcliffe College when Benazir came there to give a speech. After listening to a particularly unimpressive speech Fawzia and others stayed in the lecture hall to ask her some questions. When her turn came Fawzia asked a rather innocuous question "what was her election platform or manifesto by which one could gauge the sincerity and depth of her commitment to a truly democratic agenda?" Fawzia describes Benazir's reaction.
"I thought she was about to have an epileptic seizure by the way her eyes glazed over, then started to turn bloodshot, and the foam began forming at the corners of her bright red lips ... She virtually spat out her answer, anger and arrogance on display in every word she uttered. 'Do you know who I am?' incredulity at my naivete hissing through her words. 'Cassettes of my speeches sell like hotcakes in every market in Pakistan,' and when my expression must have betrayed some level of incomprehension, she lashed out, 'that means the people of Pakistan love me, they know how I have suffered for them when I was jailed following my father's execution, just because as his daughter and the one groomed to be a future leader of Pakistan, the army just could not take the chance of my being free to assume that mantle.' Her final comment to me-which led to a young man standing next to me pulling me away and advising me to leave before things got really ugly-was something to the effect that she would 'see me outside.' Was that a veiled threat, in the manner of a feudal lord to a servant who has spoken out of line, or an invitation to speak to her 'outside' after the evening was over?" (Fawzia Afzal Khan, Counterpunch, 29/20 December 2007)
(2) Owen Bennet Jones, a BBC Journalist, once visited Benazir's ancestral Home in Larkana, Sindh. After having the dinner with 40 people, Benazir moved into a large hall. Read what happened later in his own words, "On the outer fringes of the throng around Benazir Bhutto that night in Larkana eight years ago were the local villagers who had somehow blagged their way in. They were welcome enough - as long as they stayed in their place. But one had a camera and took a picture. The flash had not even faded away before - with a ferocious imperious expression - Benazir Bhutto pointed in his general direction. Her minders, who had obviously been mingling in the crowd for just such an eventuality, wrestled him to the ground, grabbed his camera, ripped out the film and hurled him out of the door into the courtyard. I looked at her surprised, shocked." (Owen Bennett Jones, 'Face to Face with Benazir Bhutto', 29 December 2007)
Thus the so called saviour of democracy treated her alleged equals. It is not much different from what a Feudal lord in Europe might have done in his heyday. She was simply a pathetic woman who had no concern for the millions of her countrymen and women who live a life of destitution. She proved it again and again. Life is too short. We wouldn't give a benefit of doubt to a used car salesman or a conman who has already deceived us once. Why not do the same in politics, a far more important arena than personal finance? Benazir got two chances. That was one too many in my books. She screwed up both times.
There is a lot of talk about Benazir's courage. Even some leftist commentators are saying she was a woman of great personal courage. For them I can only quote Gore Vidal who said "There is something strangely infantile in this obsession with dice-loaded physical courage when the only courage that matters in political or even 'real' life is moral." Benazir and courage. The word courage is disgraced and degraded by such uses. Actually they are misdiagnosing her. It was not courage but a gambler taking his or her chances. Politics, especially in a country like India and Pakistan, is a dangerous business. If you win you will rule like a Roman Emperor or Empress. If you lose there is a high probability of going bust.
Now the word comes Benazir has appointed her 19 year old son as her heir to Pakistan People's Party(PPP) in her will. Just like her father gave her the PPP. Kind Reader, when I see this I am reminded of Karl Marx's aphorism about History repeating itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. If Bill Clinton or George Bush did such things in their will I am sure there will be howls of derision across America.
The people of India, Pakistan or for that matter any other nation must wise up quickly. They should not degrade themselves by giving free rein to discredited autocrats who treat their parties as their personal property. At least Musharraf, that megalomaniac general, gave his country a whole new crop of leaders, albeit unintentionally. Musharraf sacked the Chief Justice of Pakistan in March 2007. But the Judge didn't simply walk away. He decided to fight his unjust dismissal. His rather extraordinary courage in resisting the dreaded Generals inspired an entire nation to wake up from it's slumber. The lawyers were at the forefront of the movement. There were pitched battles between Musharraf's goons aka Army and Police on one side and the Lawyers on the other.
It was possibly the most extraordinary movement of people in that country's history. The lawyers actually won the battle. Emboldened by the resistance of lawyers the supreme court judges threw out Musharraf's case against the Chief Justice. Never before in history the Supreme Court of Pakistan dared to disobey the Military Masters. The Lawyers movement threw up a number of potential leaders who offer a real alternative to the Bhutto clan. Aitzaz Ahsan (he was actually Benazir's lawyer), Ali Ahmad Kurd, Munir Malik all of them played major role in resisting the Generals. Nobody in Pakistan's history has addressed the military overlords in such belligerent tone on live TV as Ali Ahmad Kurd. Kurd is the man who literally held the audience spellbound with his oratorical skills.
"He is not a man who has no passion, and that passion is useless that does not challenge general Pervez Musharraf. Enough of this fooling around! Enough of this fooling around! Today a man on the basis of his arrogance! Today a man on the basis of his haughtiness has dared to challenge the Chief Justice of Pakistan. If you are men you'll stay in the battlefield and not turn your back."
“Today, Pervez Musharraf has again said that no reference (against Chief Justice of Pakistan) will be withdrawn. When did we ask you to withdraw the reference? We say it is a war! It is a war! If you (Pervez Musharraf) are in your uniform, then so are we (the lawyers). Come fight us! Come fight us! No power in this world can defend this reference." (Read more about this extraordinary man).
Any society should be proud of people like Kurd. It takes guts to challenge the Generals of Pakistan who have time and again proved they have no compunction in shedding the blood of their own countrymen.
It is true Musharraf quickly hit back within a couple of months. And sacked the reinstated Chief Justice , purged the Supreme Court and imprisoned his Lawyers. But it is more like the final desperate attempt by a cornered crook to hang on to power. The Lawyers and others will definitely fight back. And what did Benazir do for her country's most extraordinary movement against the Rulers? Well, She didn't even lift her pinkie to support the lawyers' movement. She actually was busy cutting deals with Musharraf at that time.