After the Judicial murder of ZAB, it was BB who was the life force for the young idealist activists of PPP. For these activists, often referred to as jiyalas, ZAB was a myth while BB was the current life force of the party. For the next 30 years after ZAB, it was BB who defined and lead the PPP.
Her journey starts under arrest by the Zia regime. The latter did his best to malign the young workers of the PPP who lead the MRD movement under the leadership of BB and Nusrat Bhutto. Towards this end, Zia used the political immaturity of the late Murtaza Bhutto and enlisted the help of ex-IJT activist, Salimullah Tipu in the staged hijacking of Peshawar-bound PIA plane from Karachi. The aim of this tyrant was to portray all jiyalas as terrorist and therefore de-legitimize the MRD movement and he used IJT activists like Tipu to penetrate the PSF.
Only Benazir stood in his way and exposed the dirty tactics of Zia and his coterie by ensuring that the MRD remained about democracy, federation and the aspirations of the masses. It was her genius to de-link the PPP/PSF and MRD from the staged hijacking master minded by Zia and it was this genious that allowed the party of young idealists to thrive.
After the MRD, Zia knew that the only way he could continue to take a hostage nation along his dark and bigoted path was to unleash the forces of fanaticism and fascism. He did the former by promoting sectarian elements starting from Jhang, Punjab. In Sindh, he cobbled together the MQM from prominent ex-IJT activists like Altaf Hussain and Farooq Satter.
Benazir is often accused of compromising on the ideology of the PPP; that much of this criticism comes from discredited traitor uncles who betrayed her father to the gallows speaks volumes. However, Benazir was a creative follower of her father and knew when to differentiate between relative and essential parts of Bhuttoism.
She proved herself on the Afghan issue where we can laud her creativity and foresight. The Afghan policy that she wanted was to respect the formation of an elected government and to end foreign interference in the affairs of Afghanistan. Even then, she could see the destructive effects of the Saudi Jihadism and wanted to save the youth from it. Benazir supported the UN peace initiatives in Afghanistan and in that regard; she ensured that the PPP would differentiate itself from the policies of the establishment.
Rare individuals have the ability to feel the pulse of emerging movements. Unlike many others on the Left, Benazir knew that the end of the Cold War would change the world radically. It was this ability that distinguished her from the rest of the civil society elites and other extensions of the Deep State. Similarly, it also distinguished her from compromised leftists like Tariq Ali whose support for the Taliban, Hamas and Hizbullah highlight that his thinking is still stuck in the Cold War while his purse is fed by the successors of Khomeini. Her education, travel and above all, her uncompromised intellect allowed her to see that the end of the Cold War dictated that a fresh political and economic approach was required. Liberal democracy, regional trade agreements and soft borders were the main features of this changed world and Benazir knew that Pakistan had to accept and adopt these new realities. When Benazir expressed that Pakistan needed a new political and economic vision, she was victimized by the PPP deserters and constrained by the perennial establishment after the 1988 elections.
The Presidency, Ministry of Finance and Foreign policy were off limits to her. Her efforts to initiate a lasting and transparent peace with India raised howls of protest from the Deep State; in their eyes this made her a traitor!
Nonetheless, Benazir realized that for Pakistan to emerge as a progressive, modern, enlightened and developed country, it had to be gently extricated from the clutches of the Deep State. Throughout her life, she actively and passively resisted the “Jihadi” adventurism of the security establishment, for whom this policy was a holy doctrine that the “bloody civilians” dare not change!
However, for Benazir, the end of the Cold War signaled the end of the “Crush India”, “Thousand Years War” and “Islamic Bloc” way of thinking. For her, it was about trade policies that would benefit the masses and not just the chattering elites. This was her vision when she presented the concept of Common Wealth of South Asian countries. Today, events have vindicated her progressive vision for which she was often derided as Pro West and Anti-Pakistan.
In espousing her progressive cause, she engaged in a decades-long struggle to campaign for the rights of women and minorities and provided tickets to minority members. Inspite of all the constraints placed on her by the establishment, she did her best to promote liberal change within the society and guide the electorate towards moderation and away from religious bigotry and fanaticism. She promoted the liberal and progressive sections within her party and did away with intransigent policies that alienated potential allies.
While the rest of Pakistan’s urban chattering elites are somnolent and awash in conspiracy theories, Benazir could see that 9/11 highlighted the growing cancer of extremism within the Muslims. Those who eulogize Hitler, Mawdodi and Khomeini can never be for peace and progress and Benazir did her best to promote a social justice agenda and guide people away from religious bigotry. In that regard, one can only appreciate the slogan:
“Bhutto-ism is our Destination and Benazir is our Leader”
Time has proved her right!