Feb 12, 2009

Pakistan's Tipping Point

We cannot let my mother's sacrifice be in vain
By Bilawal Bhutto - January 6, 2008

You can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea. -- Benazir Bhutto

My country mourns. And as my countrymen join me in personal grief over the loss of my mother, I join them in national grief over the loss of something even greater: the loss of Pakistan's greatest voice for democracy.

Benazir Bhutto's death, however, shall not have been in vain. We will go forward, as she would have wanted, and bring freedom and democracy to Pakistan.

For those in my country who would find it easier to walk away from democracy and seek revenge through violence, I urge you to remember my mother's words: democracy is the sweetest revenge. To plunge the country into more violence and chaos would only play into the hands of those who hope for democracy's failure. The terrorists have no use for democracy, and the current government fears it. We must unite and rise above both.

And to those outside of my country, who support our fight for democracy, I urge you to consider this: We cannot oppose one form of tyranny while turning a blind eye to another. Together, we must stand against the violence of the terrorists on the one hand, while standing equally firm against Pervez Musharraf's use of it as an excuse to impose his own repressive will upon the people of Pakistan.

Musharraf has made a mockery of our constitution. The world watched in disbelief as he declared emergency rule and sent troops into the streets in November – not because of a terrorist threat to the government, but a constitutional threat to his autocratic grip on power. The men he threw into jails were not terrorists but Supreme Court judges and respected lawyers. The newspapers he intimidated were not organs of terrorists but of free and independent citizens of Pakistan.

My mother stood bravely against both the tyranny of terrorism as well as the tyranny of dictatorship. She has been martyred for her courage and pursuit of pursuit of freedom, but now that courage and pursuit has been bequeathed to the to the people of Pakistan. We shall carry on.

It will take the kind of courage my mother showed showed. It will take courage among her loyal followers to calm their anger and renounce violence or revenge. We must instead demand fair and open elections, free of government intimidation, and then make our show of force on election day.

It will also take courage on the part of Pervez Musharraf and those who have supported his government, including those outside of Pakistan.
With my country's judges and lawyers still in jail, its free media intimidated and silenced, and its political leaders unsafe to walk the streets, we cannot pretend to have free and open elections. There can be no legitimacy to elections held under such ominous conditions. Those who espouse the virtues of democracy cannot stand by idly and maintain their credibility while this repression continues.

Our free and independent Supreme Court must be restored; the justices jailed by Musharraf must released and returned to their proper seats, replacing the cronies with which Musharraf has packed the current court. Our other judges, lawyers and civic dissidents must be freed. The intimidation campaign waged against the free media must be halted. International election observers must be allowed to monitor our elections to ensure against government intimidation. And, finally, a credible international commission must be allowed to investigate the mysterious circumstances of my mother's assassination. Only after these steps are taken can we begin the honorable march to democracy and stability.

For those who think that by supporting dictatorship they are somehow securing stability in Pakistan, I can say only this: Where is that stability today? My country teeters on the precipice of anarchy not because of any actions by radicals or terrorists but because of the unchecked and power-mad actions of a military dictator.

Pakistanis will soon hold the most important election in our history. We have reached a tipping point. We will either unite behind democracy and the fight against radicalism and violence, or we will descend into the all-too-familiar cycles of despotism, terror and instability.

Those of us who will fight for democracy must make our stand now. Then, together, a united and democratic government can turn its attention to the extremists and terrorists who seek to undermine freedom in our country and throughout the world.

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