Benazir Bhutto's Committment?
The Times, London, October 18, 2007
As I board the plane that takes me home to Pakistan today, I carry with me a manuscript of a book. It is a treatise on the reconciliation of the values of Islam and the West and a prescription for a moderate, modern Islam that marginalises extremists, returns the military from politics to their barracks, treats all citizens and especially women equally and selects its leaders by free and fair elections.
To me this is not just a book but a campaign manifesto, a guide to governing. If the people of Pakistan honour me again with an opportunity to lead, I intend to practise what I preach and to make Pakistan a positive model to one billion Muslims around the world for our future.
For 60 years my nation has lurched between dictatorships and democracy. Pakistan has been stifled by political oppression and economic stagnation. For almost a decade we have been ruled by a military dictatorship. For the past five years we have been challenged by an international terrorism movement that seems to have the tribal areas of Pakistan at its very epicentre. These are not ordinary times, and they require extraordinary solutions.
Over the past few months I have negotiated with General Pervez Musharraf to ensure a transition to democracy and to mobilise the moderate middle of our society to confront and contain fanatics and extremists. It has been difficult, made more so by the resistance of many who now enjoy power in Pakistan to accepting a democratic alternative. But the long discussions have born some fruit.
In September General Musharraf promised to Pakistan’s Supreme Court to retire from the post of Army Chief before taking the oath of office for President for a new term. This month the Government of Pakistan announced confidence-building measures to pave the way for a legitimate, accountable Parliament. It is not a perfect agreement, but it is an important beginning, bringing reform and political change closer without the chaos and bloodshed under which extremism and militancy thrive.
The supporters of the Taleban and al-Qaeda have threatened my assassination. The Taleban leader Baitullah Mehsud has said that his terrorists will “welcome” me on my return. And the men behind al-Qaeda have tried to assassinate me twice before. The Pakistan People’s Party and I represent everything they fear the most – moderation, democracy, equality for women, information and technology. We represent the future, a future that has no place in it for ignorance, intolerance and terrorism.
The forces of moderation and democracy must, and will, prevail against extremism and dictatorship. I will not be intimidated. I will step out on the tarmac in Karachi in a few hours not to complete a journey, but to begin one. Despite threats of death, I will not acquiesce to tyranny, but rather lead the fight against it.
Also See: Editorial: Who threatens Ms Bhutto?
Daily Times, October 18, 2007