The death of politics

Since it is Benazir Bhutto’s death anniversary I thought I would post my favourite youtube clip of her’s

It’s from the 1993 elections when BB was campaigning for the NA-1 seat for Zafar Ali Shah of the PPP. In the 1990 election, BB had contested this seat and she was defeated by Ghulam Ahmed Bilour. In 1993, Zafar Ali Shah would actually go on to win the seat for the PPP.

To me this clip shows BB at her very best as a pure politician. The best part is the bit right at the end where she says (addressing Bilour): “Aap dekhain ge ke 6 October ke baad Zafar Ali Shah, People’s Party aur teer tumhe aise shikast daygi ke aap apne cinema hall me chhup kar ke purani filmon dekhne par majboor ho jayenge”.


She was referring to Ghulam Ahmed Bilour’s ownership of various cinema houses where movies of questionable taste are shown.

I really like this clip because it shows what an unbelievable phenomenon BB was. Her urdu was so bad and yet she was really able to work a crowd just through the sheer force of her personality. One can only imagine what a formidable politician she would have been had her urdu been a bit better. There are a bunch of clips of BB saying far more politically correct things about ending terrorism etc but this is BB the politician, not above playing dirty and doing what she did best.

It’s a very sad clip, for another reason. If someone had told me that we would look back at the 90s as a period of relative political stability and civility I would have laughed. Living through that decade it felt like democracy was something that was perpetually on the verge of being replaced. But in retrospect, consider the fact that in 1993, both ANP and PPP were free to campaign against each other, out in the open without fear of being blown up by a suicide bomber the way that Ghulam Ahmad Bilour’s brother was just a few days ago and the way that BB was 5 years ago.

Politics, in any traditional understanding of the word, and certainly politics as we see in the clip above, is dead. It’s been replaced by the politics of the suicide bomb and the threat of the suicide bomb. As Khaled Ahmed bluntly puts it terror works better than any ideology. At this point it doesn’t really matter what fiery debates go on in the senate or the national assembly or in the English or Urdu press and even on the talk shows. All that matters is that politicians of a certain inclination – and their supporters – are more likely to get blown up every time they step out of doors. And that is how a debate is won.


4 responses to “The death of politics

  1. ali

    You missed the part where BB accused Bilour of murdering people

  2. grandtrunkroad

    lol. I did say “relative” civility

  3. Great post. Two things that struck me.

    Firstly, what you say about her Urdu and her personality reveals something very interesting. Pakistanis always respond to personalities far more than anything else. Which in itself tell us burger types that the accent or the shades or whatever we have doesn’t cause the alienation from the rest, its how we are able to convey ourself in spite of those things that matters. I know someone who does that every day, getting across to the [quote] common man [unquote] even with the standard burger repertoire of Urdu.

    With regards to what you say about the end of a kind of politics, I wonder if there is an alternative reading. Like a case of separating the science from the technology. IMO the suicide bombings are the latest technology, but the science of violence as politics is pretty much the same as always. Micro level pe target killings, partition violence, the killings of the Baloch, Sindhi, Pakhtoon, Muhajir nationalists as well as the alleged religious fundo, or even the feudal’s son killing someone and getting away with it. Aur macro level ya leaders ki level per Liaquat, Jinnah, Zia, Bhutto(s).

    Of course I’m not trying to rationalise or downplay BB’s tragedy. It was the first time my generation had experienced this rite of passage of being a Pakistani. But at some point, perhaps many months later, the realisation that the place was called Liaquat Bagh was a reminder of how the more things change etc.

  4. grandtrunkroad

    it’s true what you say – I mean, it’s not like politics in Pakistan have ever been non violent. I mean, as ali correctly pointed out, this clip isn’t exactly the lincoln-douglas debates or anything.

    Somehow it feels like this current round of violence is worse and the reason I think so is that the people doing the violence are so unreasonable and maximalist in their demands. there doesn’t seem to be any kind of compromise that any sane people can reach with them.

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