Benazir Talks Of Party And The People

MAG April 24-30, 1986 (Last Part)

Your call for election by next autumn, appears to many as premature as you have yet to reorganise your party and mobilise further public opinion. Your comments?

There are two points here. The people who say that I should organise my party, who are they? You must look at their credibility. Gen. Zia says that I should organise my party, ministers of his cabinet, people opposed to me, have written editorials against the party. They all say this. May be, there are some neutral people who do not understand or who feel otherwise. Our party is highly organised. It is the most organised and efficient machine. That is why we have been able to keep our grass root strength. It does not come about easily. What we have witnessed as large out-pouring has not taken place in a vacuum. It has taken place through hard work, sweat and sacrifice. The people who give advice to organise, are the people who want to take part in a warfare that we are not organised. They want to launch a psychological warfare on our workers. They want to divert their attention as a deliberate policy. If you look at the credibility of these people, there is a cottage industry which has grown up with the sole purpose to give free advice to the PPP. And who is this cottage industry, it is all those who wrote against the PPP, who castigated the prime minister, who said that there should be elections later and accountability first. I don’t think that these people are true to democratic values; I think our party has been sincere to democratic values. But look who has given greater sacrifices for democratic order? It is the PPP – from our chairman to the worker. It is our party which has given it and it should be appreciated. Of course critics will say what they want and it is good. Why should they not say anything? I believe in criticism; the ability to give criticism and take criticism. So I hope my critics will also take criticism in the same spirit. Now, the second part of your question about the elected members: I don’t think that the destiny of the nation or the poor people should depend on the crores of a few individuals. You see I have never gone on the quality that one should think of individuals. I am thinking on historic roles, naturally. I am asking people not to think of personal welfare or to think of personal needs but to think beyond that; to think of the country and what the people of our country need; and I am not making this call in a vacuum. It is coming side by side with the endorsement of the masses. I am sure all those who love Pakistan will come out.

Some people say your present popularity is a team affair. After few more processions and meetings you would not be able to hold majority of the public for your advantage if it comes to going for a nonviolent movement against the present set-up. Do you think you will be able to dictate your terms to the Zia-Junejo administration?

It is not my popular support. That is the biggest misconception that is going on. It is the hopes and the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. It’s what the poor, the oppressed, the discriminated desire, they have been robbed of their rights. As my father said, it is not law of the God that people should live in poverty. So if those people who are ruling and the privileged class believe that they can continue to oppress the people, they are wrong. Strength of the Pakistan People’s Party or my strength today is not personal strength. It is the strength of the masses. Theirs’ is the expression of hopes and their aspirations. Those who think in terms of crushing us, they are going to be crushed. In nine years of worst oppression and persecution they could not break us. Now they are on the verge of collapse. Their decline is near. I say today, people want a peaceful change. Today we have set the ball rolling. We have been able to come up to the divisional level. Tomorrow we will go to the district level. We have been able to build the tempo and we will further enhance it. The change has become inevitable. Nobody can stop a change. It is not me or the PPP. It is the unemployment, poverty, oppression, persecution which will enable the masses to outclass this oppressive class shortly. This unjust socio-economic system will have to go. The PPP alone can bring the change.

Provincial autonomy was never implemented by Mr Bhutto as in the 1973 Constitution. Today in the fore is the newly formed confederation which is a result of this. What are your views?

I am proud to say that PPP was the first to give a federal and democratic constitution to Pakistan. I am proud to say that our martyred chairman was the first prime minister of this country to give provincial autonomy to federating units. Because of his bold stand Pakistan emerged a stronger country. In the past, there have been many calls for secessionism, but we were able to contain them by giving a sense of dignity – not to the individuals but to the federating units. As you know Balochistan was just an agency. It was the PPP government which gave it the status of a real province – a federating unit. We set up a high court in that province. It was not a favour; it was the implementation of our manifesto. Today our party is stronger than ever in that province. Why? Because we had done so much for that province. It is stronger in all the four federating provinces. Because we were the first to determine the quantum of provincial autonomy and we were the first to grant real autonomy. If we had not given provincial autonomy we would not have emerged as a stronger party. It is always the Martial Law high that endangers the country’s federal character. Martial Law this time again gave rise to separatist tendencies. The qualities of the Martial Law led to tremendous amount of disenchantment. We must recognise the causes of this disenchantment. The Front and some other organisations tried to exploit the genuine sentiments of the people. They do not look at a slogan that is just raised, they look at the people who raise the slogan. And they look at their credibility. I talk not of just the Front; I talk of all the individuals, who these days express their views. It is not that you just promise.

It is also the credibility who is making what promise. If certain individuals have no credibility how can people take their word seriously? At the same time I should say it was the Martial Law which has given rise to the separatist tendencies. It is the PPP which has the capacity to provide justice to the people in smaller provinces and to bring the nation together.