Grand Trunk Road

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 It’s been replaced by the politics of the suicide bomb and the threat of the suicide bomb.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.