What’s the big deal about Benazir Bhutto?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Ms Bhutto and the PPP fail to run Pakistan. Twice? Where is the glory in that?

Nadya V December 27, 2010

I’m watching the thousands of doting followers streaming into Naudero. I’m listening to soundbytes of Benazir devotees describing how she changed their lives forever. I’m reading all the comments flowing into this site, but I just don’t get it: what’s the big deal about Benazir Bhutto?

I'd sworn off writing for The Express Tribune blogs after the negative criticism, but really, has everyone taken off their critical thinking hats today?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Ms Bhutto and the PPP fail to run Pakistan. Twice? Where is the glory in that?

Okay fine – so people tell me it’s not Benazir Bhutto the individual who is such a big deal, but it is the "Bhutto legacy" and the "PPP ideology" which make Benazir (the individual) so precious. But Wikipedia tells me that it was the PPP which lost fair and square against the Awami League in 1970. So technically, it is the same party that (in some part) played a role in us losing East Pakistan and altered the course of the nation forever, not to mention added in a historic chapter so heinous that it does not even appear in our history books. Not much of a legacy there.

Wait, wait I know – Benazir is a big deal because she is Pakistan’s first and only female prime minister. But really, what’s the big deal in that, given that her father was a big-shot landlord, who also happened to be prime minister of Pakistan? Last I checked, no one gets credit for stuff they inherit.

No wait. She was killed by the Taliban, and that’s what the whole fuss is really about people tell me - its a tragedy. Well last I checked, there are thousands who have been killed off by the Taliban, sometimes dozens in a single day. What makes Benazir’s death at the hands of terrorists more special? That she was born rich and lucky enough to get an education abroad and offered the role of leading Pakistan on a silver platter? Her death is horrific and tragic, but I’m simply not convinced guys.

Then there are some arguments based on the (pathetic few) programs and schemes set up by Benazir. Is the First Women’s Bank really that big an accomplishment? What did she actually do for women (or men) anyway? Let’s not even look at a national level; the plight of women in Sindh, and Larkana, her home-town, is just pitiful.

Did she deliver a lot of lectures on women’s right?


Did she repeal the Hudood laws when she had a chance?


Did she yell “roti kapra makaan” a lot?


Did that have any impact on poverty in Pakistan today?


I could continue like this for pages and pages, but it all comes back to the same thing. Loving Benazir Bhutto is fine, but let’s not toss in all these (misguided) slogans regarding her ‘guts and glory’ as a leader. She was a human, just like the rest of us. Got a few things right, got a lot of things wrong, but mostly, got lucky (or unlucky?) in inheriting a political dynasty. And just like her father, she has seen to it that the dynasty continues via Bilawal (Bhutto) Zardari.

May she rest in peace.

Nadya V Social critic and part-time gossip monger
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Ali | 12 years ago | Reply Well written, I also used to think why Benazir Bhutto is considered a hero by so many when she failed to deliver most of her promises. But may her soul rest in peace
Saad | 12 years ago | Reply There are the books and written history and then there is the truth, especially when the generation which saw everything happened is still alive. Here's what Benazir Bhutto did for this country, She held the beacon of democracy while all the leftist stalwarts and many among PPP left the PPP helpless and leaderless after Bhutto's arrest. She fought a tyrant so Pakistan can be saved of some sanity and it was solely due to her vigil and effort that Pakistan is not North Korea or Burma today. While most of Pakistani middle class rhetorically suggests that her jails were luxury jails with air conditioning. Neither Zia nor Nawaz Shariff and neither the Judiciary including Iftikhar Chaudhry so nice to offer class A jails to her or her husband even though they had confidence of significant population. In her first tenure her efforts to do anything were thoroughly stalled by ISI, army and the Presidency, please read Operation Midnight Jackal and findout the facts. In her second tenure though, she put the economy on straight path. While Pakistani press lambasted her for accords with independent power producers, the records were sited as an example around South Asia as she got Pakistan a better deal than India, Bangladesh and other neighboring countries. Similarly we devalued our Rupee virtually half the amount by which India did, India being our major competitor in exports. But the media went into a frenzy. On both these accounts she expressed her disappointemnet in the hypocrisy and yellow journalism of Pakistani media in the national assembly. She derugalrised the Telecom, aviation and shipping sector effectively leading to three small airlines in the privatised sector. She removed all restrictions on the import of print material put in place by Zia so anyone can import print material as much as they want. She did this for a media which was massively hostile to everything she did. In fact even this act to get the media out of the clutches of establishment was declared a conspiracy by a media group which has failed to mend it ways still. On similar media opposition she had to abandon a far better MOU than the current contract on Gwadar in which the same media group launched a campaign stating Gwadar bech diya. In a similar way she had to scrap another project namely the Thar Coal project after signing of MOU. When the media declared it a conspiracy to choke Karachi by setting a coal power plant in the out skirts of the city. Upon this hue and cry for environmental concerns the government transferred the site of power plant away from Karachi, and the next day headlines of the most read urdu daily were 'Karachi ko mehroom ker diya gaya'. She increased the minimum wages and the support prices for cash crops along with the massive electrification and gassification of villages through Pakistan at an unprecedented scale. Resulting in improved conditions in villages throughout Pakistan. Last but not least while we slept during the military regime of Zia never bothering to start a missle program it was her that realised the need for it and launched Pakistan's missle program, even though she was disallowed by army to visit Kahuta. She was a beacon of hope which was effectively murdered by the same people who dismissed her governments and put her in jail, even though today they are all praise for her.
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