All parties are looking towards establishment today, says Raza Rabbani

Published November 27, 2023
Former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani (L) and others at a book launch on the concluding day of the two-day Adab Festival in Karachi on Sunday. — Picture via Zahid Hussain/X
Former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani (L) and others at a book launch on the concluding day of the two-day Adab Festival in Karachi on Sunday. — Picture via Zahid Hussain/X

KARACHI: The establishment’s supremacy has overshadowed civilian structure, to the point that questions are being raised on its entire existence, said former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani.

Speaking at a book launch on the concluding day of the two-day Adab Festival at Habitt City here on Sunday, the veteran PPP politician said that while the military establishment was also part of the political scene back in the 80s and 90s, its presence wasn’t as ‘open’ as it is today.

Seasoned journalist Zahid Hussain’s book Face To Face With Benazir Bhutto, which is a compilation of her interviews, was launched at one of the sessions, where the author and senior PPP leaders Raza Rabbani and Sherry Rehman participated in a panel discussion that was moderated by journalist Ghazi Salahuddin.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Rabbani recalled that during the 80s and 90s, Ms Bhutto struggled for democracy and did politics on the basis of principles and ideology. “Over time, politics in Pakistan has parted ways from politics of struggle and ideology.”

Says role of military in politics ‘more open’ than in the past

He said that back in those times, the military establishment was involved in politics, but not as openly as it was these days. He believed that it was because the politicians didn’t remain transparent, so they started compromising and compromise knows no limits.

“Ziaul Haq tried to make corruption cases on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his cabinet, but he failed to do so,” he said, adding: “Unfortunately, all the political parties are looking towards establishment today, one way or another. They [establishment] are acceptable if they support their party.”

He believed that if Ms Bhutto had not been assassinated, the politics of Pakistan would have been in a better situation. “The last time she came to Pakistan, she was a changed person,” he said.

He added that the kind of politics she wanted to do, there would not be any place for the politics of extremism and hatred, but principles.

Senior PPP leader Sherry Rehman also informed the audience about what she called Ms Bhutto’s ‘emotional generosity’.

She said that it was her policy to stay away from political victimisation as she wanted negativity out of her life and focus only on the positives which also gave her the power to be resilient in hard times and they witnessed that.

‘Benazir changed political dynamics of Pakistan’

Highlighting how difficult it was for Ms Bhutto to be a female leader and first woman prime minister in the Muslim world, Ms Rehman recalled: “There was a conference in Cairo and I went with her as a journalist when she was the PM. When the plan was being made to travel for the conference, the religio-political factions started issuing fatwas against her. They also said that they will not accept female leadership.”

But, she said, Ms Bhutto took a brave decision and still went for the conference.

She maintained that from a gender point of view, she changed the political dynamics of Pakistan.

Zahid Hussain shared that in her first interview, she established that her politics and policies would be as per the situation, but a huge change was witnessed in her over a period of time.

He shared that after Ms Bhutto was removed from the prime minister’s office the first time, she in an interview had talked about the challenges she faced and also accepted the mistakes she made during her ruling days.

He told the audience about another incident after 1999 when he met the former PM in London. “I criticised her strongly over her economic decisions and also [having a] clash with then chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah, and she listened to all the criticism very openly.”

He said that the current situation of Pakistan was depressing. It was like this earlier as well, but the difference was there was some hope back then, he added.

He said that only politicians couldn’t be blamed for the current situation. “Pakistan is going through a systematic collapse and that can’t be fixed by a single person. We can’t wait for the messiah. We too have a responsibility to fix that.”

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2023

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