Purchased a FORA.tv video on another website? Login here with the temporary account credentials included in your receipt.
Sign up today to receive our weekly newsletter and special announcements.
Well, good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your patience with the weather. It's a great pleasure for me this afternoon to introduce our speaker; Benazir Bhutto of course has been Prime Minister of Pakistan twice. On neither occasion was it for a full term. Under Pakistan's much adapted constitution I think I am right in saying that the next elections have to take place no later than the end of January. And there are a couple of constitutional wrinkles also which are relevant before this occurs, a President must be elected. And I think there is a candidate for that position. There is another wrinkle which is that under the constitution as presently drafted I believe it's not possible for someone to be Prime Minister on three separate occasions. However, I think it's true to say that the challenges facing Pakistan at the moment are less these constitutional wrinkles than some really deep challenges about security, the nature of democracy and indeed the future of the country. So I think Benazir Bhutto will be talking about those aspects and thank you very much for coming. The floor is yours, it is on the record. It will be followed I was going to stay for the full hour if that's all right with you to give you the full hour, about half an hour talk and half an hour discussion afterwards. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for inviting me here this afternoon to share with you my views on the future of democracy in Pakistan. But first my deepest apologies for the delay, we got caught in a terrible traffic jam, due to the rain the traffic had all slowed down so my deepest apologies. As we meet here this afternoon, Pakistan is facing a deep crisis. It's a crisis that began almost 50 years ago when President Ayub Khan, the country's first military ruler, seized power in 1958. And 30 years ago, in 1977, another military coup d'etat against a democratically elected government further deepened the crisis. Four military dictatorships, most recently General Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf's have ruled my nation for the last 32 years alternating with elected civilian governments that have been summarily brought down by intervention by the military intelligence agencies. Democracy has never been given a chance to grow in Pakistan. As an example I was allowed only five of the ten years to which the people of Pakistan had elected me to govern. Today the crisis has not only continued. But it has dangerously accelerated not only in Pakistan but for the region and the world wider world community. And as we gather here on this rainy afternoon, much to the dismay of the people of Pakistan, Islamabad has been the site of a training and staging area for Al Qaeda. Tragically from our soil, from areas that were under the control of my government, but have now been seeded to the militants. Pro Taliban forces linked to Al Qaeda launch almost daily attacks on NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan. And they pose an internal threat to the 160 million people of Pakistan, killing members of the armed forces, political workers and innocent civilians across the length and breadth of Pakistan. Yesterday we had four suicide attacks and in the last suicide attack that took place in Islamabad, 18 people were killed, nine of them whom members of my party including an aspirant for the forthcoming not killed, deeply injured, clinically dead, deeply injured aspirant for the city of Islamabad. And from the Pakistani territory, from parts of the Pakistani territory that the present regime has termed ungovernable, those forces of militancy and extremism are planning further acts of terror and aggression against the West and against the people of Pakistan, threatening to match or exceed the scale of the September 11th atrocities. Ladies and gentlemen, I say to you today without hesitation or equivocation that future of democracy in South Asia and without exaggeration, the stability of the entire world lies in the balance directly as a result of the international communities acquiescence to military dictatorship in Pakistan. In the view of my party military dictatorship fuels the forces of extremism by in putting into place a government that is unaccountable, unrepresentative, undemocratic, and unable to fulfill the aspirations of the great and hard working people of Pakistan. Military dictatorship born from the power of the gun undermines the concept of the rule of law and gives birth to a culture of weapons, violence and intolerance. The suppression of democracy in my homeland has had profound institutional consequences; the major infrastructural building blocks of democracy have been weakened, political parties have been marginalized, NGOs dismantled, judges sacked and civil society undermined. Labor unions have seen great retrenchment weaken them and student unions too have been banned. So we don't have the emergence of a generation of leaders trained in the universities for the political art of debate, discussion, give and take and compromise. The free press has been attacked, including television stations, which were ransacked either by the police or by the goons of the governing party. The sacking of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan has acted as a catalyst for a lawyers movement aimed at restoring the independence of the judiciary. These are the democratic institutions that have been under assault and while the democratic and civilian institutions have been at the receiving end the militants have expanded their control building more militant headquarters equipped with suicide bombers, rocket launchers, Kalashnikov guns and irregular armies on payrolls which have thrived under the decoying of a political madrasa. Madrasa should be schools where children study with pens and books. Not militant headquarters where guns and hate flourish. The so called madrasa culture is best symbolized by the recent Red Mosque incident where a mosque which should be a place of prayer and of peace was turned into a military garrison by the militants. Even as the regime talked the talk of reforming the madrasas in the last five years and registering foreign students, the government appointed in these five years, a militant cleric to look after the Red Mosque. And when the militant was caught three years back smuggling weapons into Islamabad, he was released on the intervention of a Federal Cabinet Minister. And the same Federal Cabinet Minister has twice publicly justified suicide bombings. Thus the people of Pakistan have received conflicting signals by cabinet ministers and those at the highest level of government on the future direction of Pakistan and on what is right and what is wrong in the country's interests. The military and intelligence agencies have received an unprecedented $10 billion from the United States alone in overt and covert assistance since 9/11. And yet the security forces have been unable to tame the forces of extremism. The weapons, the guns was stacked in the Red Mosque complex. The suicide bombers brought the right under the nose of the security apparatus, a stone's throw away from the headquarters of our country's premier intelligence agency. By dismantling the infrastructure of democracy, the regime put into place after the 2002 flawed elections, the regime put into place with the assistance of the intelligence agencies, a phony political party. And that phony political party has been unable to address the real needs of the people of Pakistan. And that phony party has done everything in its power to disrupt peaceful public meetings by the citizens of Pakistan. And so they have left the mosques as the place to organize, to plan and unfortunately to plot. And the voices of moderation had been silenced. Our meetings are broken up by brute force. When my husband went back to Pakistan, to Lahore, in 2005, a brutal crack down took place and on May 12th of this year 48 people were killed in Karachi and their only crime was to go to the airport to receive the Chief Justice of Pakistan. And not one person has been arrested for those 48 people killed on May 12th. Although the killers were caught on publicly on television private television tape and shown, their faces were shown. My sister-in-law was the victim of an assassination attempt in the recent by-elections held in February of this year. She only survived because she was in a bullet proof car. The assailants were the bodyguards of a provincial minister and they roam free today. Thirteen members of my party were killed in (indiscernible) early this year and have not been brought to book. And on July 17th of this month as I mentioned earlier, the PPP camp at Islamabad set up to receive the Chief Justice of Pakistan was the victim of a suicide attack. These incidents which I narrate are a small glimpse into Pakistani society and into the threats that political activists and civil society face in just trying to conduct normal political activities and just trying to express their freedom of association, freedom of movement or freedom of expression. The Red Mosque incident that we saw earlier this month is the direct result of an eight year military regime's policy of the so-called Islamisation of my nation. Just as the military establishment of the 80s used the so-called Islamic card to promote military dictatorship while demonizing political parties so too has the military dictatorship of the 21st century used the so-called Islamic card to pressure the international community into backing military dictatorship in Pakistan. We in the PPP agree that the militants of the Red Mosque had to be stopped from taking over Islamabad and imposing their own brand of politics which they wrongly tried to justify in the name of Islam. But we believe that this incident should have been dealt with six months back when burqa clad people took over a government owned library. I used the word burqa clad with deliberation because the impression was given that there were a lot of women in the complex. But after the assault very few women bodies were actually found. And if you look at the pictures of the stick wielding burqa clad people that came out to kidnap women you will see they are very tall and broad shouldered. And we we don't know whether they were women or they were men. Because one of the clerics was arrested in a burqa and high heels, so we know the burqa has been used as a camouflage by the militants. Waiting six months to act, in our opinion wasn't the situation. It is sometimes argued in the West West traumatized by terrorism that a military regime is the only thing that stands in the way of a nuclear armed fundamentalist Pakistan. Ladies and gentlemen, nothing can be further from the truth. The military dictatorship needs the external crutch of a militant threat to justify its existence to the international community. Let us be clear whether in the east or whether in the west dictatorship fuels extremism rather than contains it. The Red Mosque siege has shown us how dangerous parts of Pakistan have become since democracy was derailed in the country in 1996. Back in 1996, Pakistan was one of the 10 emerging capital markets of the world. If the military regime and it's civilian allies are allowed to rig the upcoming election scheduled for later this year, I am in no doubt that it will give the Taliban sympathizers five more years to spread their tentacles across the nook and corners of our country. And if that is the case then we really could be facing an Islamist take over of Pakistan in five years' time. The choice of Pakistan is not really between military and the mullahs. The choice of Pakistan is between dictatorship and democracy and it's not just the choice of Pakistan. In my view, humbly, I say that is the choice the world too faces with us. And at this critical time for Pakistan, as my nation stands at the crossroads I find myself once again at the center of this political battle. I once again stand ready to lead my party in a national campaign and once again I will return to Pakistan to fulfill my obligations to the people of my country. But to understand the present and to change the future we must understand how we came to this point. Thirty years ago in 1977, Pakistan's democratically elected government was toppled in a military coupe. Initially the international community demanded a restoration of democracy. But when elections were postponed the West expressed frustration. Shortly after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 the calls for a return to Pakistani democracy subsided. The West saw an opportunity to use the events in Afghanistan to hobble the Soviet Union. The western policy at that time was directed to only one goal, to use Afghanistan as the final nail in the coffin of the Soviet Union. And all other issues were put on the back burner. Short term advantages checkmated long term policy goals. The West funneled aid and training of the extremist Mujahideen through Pakistan's intelligence services which were then commanded by a military dictator with close ties to the Muslim brotherhood. He turned to the Muslim brotherhood within Pakistan and to the Muslim brotherhood outside Pakistan to put together the Afghan Mujahideen and thus the seeds of a global network of world terror were laid. The Mujahideen would later morph in to the Taliban. And the Taliban would morph in turn into Al Qaeda and the rest is ugly, painful history. But it was not necessarily unpredicted. A short term policy generates a short term policy decision has generated a long term crisis not just for South Asia but for the entire world. Decisions made in the early 1980s can be directly linked to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, to the attacks on Madrid, London, Glasgow, Peshawar, Islamabad and Quetta, and to the continuing plots emanating out of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, from the safe heaven that they have established in the tribal areas of Pakistan against my people and against yours. I remember when I visited England way back in 1989 as Prime Minister; I found myself the target of ugly street demonstrations outside the Dorchester Hotel denouncing me as a woman, denouncing me for promoting democracy which was ridiculed as a western value. I saw young Muslims from all classes being radicalized in these towns and cities. The war in Afghanistan in the 1980s has had the most immediate and direct impact on my own homeland Pakistan, on the people of Pakistan, on the Afghan refugees, on the three million afghan refugees and especially on the people of Pakistan in the north western frontier province. The ISI-CIA alliance brought weapons and technology to the Mujahideen. But it also converted Pakistan in to a violent society of Kalashnikovs, heroin users and radicalized Islam. Decisions made in the holy war in Afghanistan 20 years ago continue to ripple through my homeland. And as the military dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haq diverted funds from the social sector to military intelligence the government relinquished its responsibility in providing education, health, housing and social services to our people. And parents who were desperate desperate to house their children, feed them and cloth them, handed them over to the political madrasas. The political madrasas did house, cloth and feed the children but they also provided the poison of hatred and they provided paramilitary type training as well as turned the places of religious worship into a cover for training militants and promoting terror. The government I led understood the danger, for when I was elected Prime Minister for the second time in 1993 Pakistan was on the threshold of being declared a terrorist state. The world the first attack on the World Trade Towers had already taken place. My government understood the potential for the destabilization of the region and we moved against the militant madrasas. And when one of them balked we shut it down, I referred to the Islamic University in Peshawar, a very large complex and the others then realized that they were much smaller and if they didn't fall in line they too would be shut. And we built 48,000 primary schools so that our people had alternatives when they wished to educate their children. When I became Prime Minister there were 80,000 villages with no electricity, with no television, no telephone and no lights and only 126 will be electrified in a year. And I thought how people can enter the modern age if they cannot even have electricity. My government electrified the rural villages of the country and we established women's health centers throughout the country. We tried to help women with job opportunities because we looked upon women as moderating forces. We established a women's police force and police stations and appointed women judges to our superior judiciary. And so Pakistan under my leadership became a model to the half billion Muslim women that do not have to accept no for an answer; that every baby girl has the same rights to a future as every baby boy. Ten years ago, in 1996, Pakistan was moving into the 21st century. But modernity and progress was not what the military hardliners and groups that have fought the Afghan jihad could tolerate. My government was destabilized and overthrown. And as the leader of opposition in 1998 I stood up in Parliament and I called up on my country to review its policy of Strategic Depth in Afghanistan. I said that unless we go broke ties with the Taliban in 1998 the policy of Strategic Depth will turn into one of Strategic Threat. Unfortunately in Afghanistan the remnants of Taliban and Al-Qaeda have taken advantage to regroup. And so I believe that under yet another military dictatorship my country has now stepped backwards. And today I fear for the very unity and integrity of Pakistan as I see the suicide bombers unleash the campaign of terror against the people of Pakistan. These militant groups want the present unrepresentative climate to continue because they have flourished during these years. As education in Pakistan deteriorates 20,000 political madrasas grow to breed the successive generation of international terrorism for the future. And tragically two decades after the 1977 coup against democracy in my country we have still another military regime that has relinquished our tribal areas claiming that they are ungovernable to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, agreements fort ceasefires and peace treaties in my view have simply emboldened the forces of fanaticism who now administer the area collecting taxes and dispensing their own form of justice. A new threat a threat assessment from the US Counter Terrorism Analyst say that Al-Qaeda has used the safe heaven along the afghan Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities to a level unseen since the months before September 11. The assessment goes on to state and I quote that "Al-Qaeda and Taliban seem to be fairly well settled into the safe heaven spaces of Pakistan. We see more training, we see more money, we see more communications, we see that activity rising." And that's not the only assessment; I remember back in January 2007, The New York Times wrote a story in excruciating detail explaining the support for the Taliban in Afghanistan from Quetta. And that reporter, who wrote the story Carlotta Gall, was arrested and beaten. A Pakistan led by a military dictatorship will only increase the frustration and anger. The people of Pakistan and indeed the people of the Muslim world question how the international community can support democracy in Afghanistan while supporting dictatorship in Pakistan. And I find it's strange that any one can believe that Kabul will stabilize before the changes occur in Pakistan, because the roots of problem in Afghanistan lead back to Islamabad. So ladies and gentlemen during both my tenures as Prime Minister, my government, obviously led by a woman established the right of the government in tribal areas. And it pains me and I know it pains every Pakistani when we read in the press, stories about the latest terrorist attacks and how the terrorist trail always seems to lead back to Islamabad. It pains us that Islamabad is at the center of terrorist blocks from Leeds to London whether it's John Reid the Shoe Bomber or whether it's Tanveer the tube bomber or whether its people in the Trans Atlantic attack. Even my 14 year old daughter sits bind to the television every time there is a terrorist attack for fear that the tracks will lead back to Pakistan and she will be feeling like every other child, humiliated and embarrassed and besieged. The people of Pakistan think that the West is propping up a military dictatorship. And the military dictatorship in turn needs an Islamist threat to stay in power. So the military dictatorship turns a blind eye towards the militants unless there is international pressure. And when the pressure comes it dose out a spoonful of cooperation to take the attention away. And then the problem is neglected once again till it sparks up and the pressure comes again and then it is taken off with yet another spoonful of cooperation. I suggest that the West sadly and inadvertently has become the enablers of Pakistani military dictatorship's suppression of the democratic aspirations of the people of Pakistan. The use of religious institution superficially to address some social needs is the key to understanding the increasingly clear pattern that links Islamabad to terror. For 25 of the 30 years form 1977 to 2007 Pakistan has been ruled directly or indirectly by the military and this quarter century military and quasi military rule has resulted in the rise of religious parties, the growth of political madrasas, the formation of militant groups, the fueling of extremism and the emergence of global terrorism. Sadly Islamabad has become a heaven for terrorists who thrive in the military dictatorship while the people of the country yearn from democracy. And the harsh reality is that the people of Pakistan can only get opportunities to progress when they have a democratic government that builds schools for them, that builds hospitals for them, that upgrades the quality of teaching that the students receive, that upgrades the hospital and that provides jobs to the vast army of unemployed. And the harsh reality is that both attacks on World Trade Centers, which took place after 1990 took place when the PPP and I were in opposition. The attacks on the Cole Ship in the Yemen, the attacks on the American Embassy, the Bombay blasts, the Indian Parliament attacks all took place when the PPP and I were in opposition, because in our government the terrorists were on the run. Today, there is resentment and anger against the military dictatorship and the international community has rightly called upon General Musharraf to hold fair elections. The Pak opposition parties in turn have called for the formation of a caretaker government of national consensus, an independent Election Commission, the suspension of the local bodies for the duration of the elections. It's with a heavy heart that I say that the outlook for fair elections does not look good at the moment. The Election Commission has produced an electoral list in which 30 percent of the voters have not been enrolled, have simply been struck off the roles and cannot cast their ballots. And if they can't cast their ballots the ballots can't be counted. Twenty six percent of those who have actually been enrolled are either duplicates or fakes. The National Democratic Institute has conducted a survey of 19 districts of Pakistan with the help of two NGOs and confirms that 30 % of the electorate is not enrolled and 26 % of those enrolled are duplicates or fakes. And so without the single ballot being cast the election results are already predetermined. And most of those left out by the way, in terms of proportion are women. And again as I said women are the moderating forces. And so where do we go from here? Another rigged election? It is expected that the opposition will unite if the elections are rigged and copy the Ukraine and its Orange Revolution. But can Pakistan afford a non facilitated transfer to democracy? Can Pakistan afford to see a popular movement where the extremists might seize to control as they fought to control of the popular movement against Shah of Iran in neighboring Iran, in 1979? No one knows. And I hope that day won't come. I hope that together we can work for the holding of the fair, free and impartial elections so that there can be a facilitated transfer of power. The PPP has kept its doors of dialogue open with the military regim despite much criticism in the present amongst other political parties, to facilitate the transfer of democracy through the holding of fair elections. However without the progress on fair elections those talks will flounder. And therefore I would urge all those who have an interest in the stability of Pakistan to use their influence to see that there can be a smooth transition to democracy by ensuring that elections are fair, free and impartial, open to all political parties and to all political leaders. Let the people of Pakistan decide, trust the people of Pakistan. I urge you to trust the people of Pakistan. I recall that the great Quaid-e-Azam who founded Pakistan was opposed by the religious parties. He was called the great unbeliever, Kafir-i-Azam. But the Muslim masses supported him, not the religious parties. My father Quaid-e-Avam Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was called Quaid-e-Avam means the leader of the people, was called the leader of the non believers. But he won because people of the country supported him and did not support the religious parties. And in 1988 when I ran for Prime Minister of Pakistan, the religious parties said anybody voting for a woman would have their marriages declared null and void in eyes of God. But people of Pakistan still chose to vote for me. They have never voted for the religious parties because the people of Pakistan realized that being a Muslim does not depend on state laws, being a Muslim depends on the acquiescence to God's laws and god's laws are universal. A person can be a Muslim in England, in America or anywhere in the world because being a Muslim is not contingent on laws but uncontingent on submission to God's will. And therefore I say trust the people of Pakistan. I have dedicated my life fighting for the democratic rights of the people of Pakistan. And I have signed a Charter of Democracy with Mr. Nawaz Sherif and his party. Both of us want to signal to the world that we will support each other on certain crucial elements irrespective of which one of us wins the election and which one of us did not does not. My party did not sign the recently formed Grand Alliance. We did not we chose not to sit with the religious parties known as the MMA because they still happen to be members of the government. And we said before we can consider including them or sitting with them we need to have them resigned. Further they are the ones who have who worked for dictatorship and we didn't want to whitewash them just on the eve of a general election. And while we disagree with General Musharraf on the issue of dictatorship versus democracy, as and when General Musharraf has taken the right decisions on the issues of extremism versus moderation, we have supported him. For the example on the issue of women rights, better relations with India as well as the need for the moderate forces to speak with one voice when moderation is under attack, as it was during the Red Mosque siege, we spoke from principle, not from narrow minded and self serving interests. It is not easy fighting a military dictatorship. But the PPP and I have never chosen the easy path. Ladies and gentlemen, we believe, every PPP worker from the smallest village of Pakistan to our great cities, we believe that democracy means development and we believe that democracy undermines extremism. And so we fight for democracies and we know that democracies do not go to war against other democracies. The restoring of democracy through fair elections is a giant step not only for the internal development of the people of Pakistan, for the progress pf the people of Pakistan but also for regional peace and stability. And so I would urge all of you here who are intellectuals and diplomats and people of influence in your own right, to promote democracy in Pakistan and use Britain's leverage to facilitate the return of the moderate exile leaders to contest and campaign in the forthcoming general elections, to ensure fair elections through implementation of the APC points on how a fair election can be held. To fund a robust election observer team to observe not just the voting places but the counting and reporting of the votes at Election Commission's Computed Data Entry Points. And to prevent the military regime from using politically motivated litigation to compromise and hobble the democratic forces. And so as a plan my return to Pakistan I put my fate in the hands of the people of Pakistan and my faith in God. And I thank you for inviting me here today. I have just run five times over my speech time which is better than 30 minutes late for my arrival time. Please excuse me again for being late.