Benazir Bhutto was daughter of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. She was a descendant of one of the oldest feudal families of Sindh. She graduated from Oxford University. She inherited the leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party from her father. She was the chair person of Pakistan people party. She was the first woman prime minister of Islamic world. She was elected twice as prime minister of Pakistan.
Benazir Bhutto spent only 20 months as prime minister the first time she was elected. Pakistan’s president dismissed her government over charges of dysfunction and corruption. She had few legislative accomplishments during those years, and her second term in office, from 1993 to 1996, was also largely unsuccessful. She was assassinated on December 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi.
About the Book
The book was written at such a critical phase of Pakistan’s development that it was confronted with several simultaneous problems such as terrorism and frustration at the national level and pressure of the international community at global level to ‘do more’. In other words, Pakistan that was itself victim of terrorism was conceived as a terrorist country which fosters and protects terrorism. She presented the true picture about ‘war on terror’ and proved that the West should take onus of responsibility for terrorism that was/is the outcome of their policies and games.
Chapter Wise Summary
Ch 01: The Path Back
The first chapter deals with the feelings that Benazir Bhutto (Author) went through while returning home to Pakistan from exile, she writes about the threats that the extremist elements in Pakistan posed to her and their hostile intentions towards the west in general. Then she has spoken about the rifts prevailing between the different Muslim sects and ideologies. She also mentioned that elements from with the Pakistani Intelligence Service had created and supported the Taliban.
Ch 02: The Battle within Islam
The chapter explains with various conflicts and rifts between democracy and dictatorship and between moderation and extremism. She writes that Islam is a religion built upon the democratic principles of consultation (Shura), building consensus (ijman) and independent judgment (Ijtihad). The author also tried to clear some of the misconceptions relating to the concept of jihad prevailing in the western society by quoting various versus and hadith. She has also quoted Quranic versus to clarify the status of Jews and Christians in the eyes of Islam, the author has emphasized the point that Islam has taught its follower’s tolerance and respect for others religions and religious persecution is strictly forbidden. She then states that it was unfortunate that the Muslim Umma after its decline closed the gates of Ijtihad and research upon themselves.
Ch 03: Islam and Democracy
In this chapter the author states there is a common misperception that democracy has failed to take root in Muslim countries due to Islam itself, while the fact of the matter is that the notion of incompatibility between Islam and democracy is used to divert attention from the actual cause, which is the western political intervention in the affairs of the Muslim countries and remains to be the biggest impediment in the evolution and growth of democratic institutions in Islamic states. She asserts that Muslim countries are fundamentally different then western states in the practice of democracy due to the core role that Islamic law plays in public affairs and government; either it is a secular Islamic state or a religiously ideological state. She than discusses the development of democracy spanning two centuries in major Muslim countries viz-a-viz some Non-Muslim with special reference to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Colonialism and imperialism had extreme negative impacts on the development of democracy in Muslim countries, since the west was dependent on their colonies for their raw material and wealth of natural resources, they most conveniently forgot and did not take the risk of introducing democracy in their imperial domains. She is of the view that the present day world would have been totally different had the west committed itself to the economic and socio-political building of the Muslim states instead of only being preoccupied with draining their material and human resources.
Ch 04: The Case of Pakistan
The author starts this chapter with a detailed description of the demographic differences prevailing in Pakistan, she than goes on to describe the coming of the Mughals to the subcontinent and then of the Europeans, afterwards she sheds light on the political developments that occurred during the British Raj, finally coming to the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. The author also discussed the democratic evolution in both Pakistan and India after coming into being, in her opinion the fundamental difference between both the countries was the vacuum of leadership which unfortunately only Pakistan got to suffer and India at the same time leaped and thrived under sincere and mature political leadership. The dismemberment of the country was also a direct result of the lack of democracy in the country up to 1970, when the first ever free and fair elections took place, however by then it was too late to save East Pakistan from slipping away. Then again in 1977 the military took over under Gen Zia-ul-Haq, who in order to strengthen and legitimize his regime weakened liberal and political segments of the society and shifted the political power balance into the hands of the mullahs, theocrats and extremists, moreover he took the country on the path of Islamization which in turn gave rise to intolerance, fundamentalism and radicalization in the society. She stated that once in power in the 1990’s the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) got very limited time to redirect state policy, as both times their government was ousted in about two years and the party (PML-N) which replaced them was led by a person (Nawaz Sharif) who himself was the product of the military establishment and hence was not able to influence and change the Pakistani policy related to Afghanistan. In the end she concludes the chapter by stating that the regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf is not able to take adequate steps to eliminate extremism from Pakistan due to the fact that he is a dictator and his regime is undemocratic and authoritative.
Ch 05: Is the Clash of Civilizations Inevitable
In this chapter the author comments on Samuel Huntington’s essay “Clash of Civilization” in which he stated that during the cold war the clash was between capitalism and communism, the east and west, however with the advent of the unipolar world the dynamics have changed, now the threat of conflict exists between civilizations, the world is now bifurcated on the lines of civilization. Civilizations are based on religion, language, customs and institution. Future conflicts will occur where civilizations will meet and their cultural fault lines intersect, furthermore there are two groups within each civilization one being the “clashers” and the other being the “reconciliationists”. The author states that she is a ‘reconciliationist’ and also has a definitive plan in her mind for reconciliation, the fundamental points of which are democracy, a civilian controlled military, educational exchange, free flow of modern technology and communication, such a program if properly implemented would isolate and marginalize the extremists and fanatics.
Ch 06: Reconciliation
In the final chapter the author comments that there are two conflicts prevailing in the Muslim world, one the internal conflict between extremists and moderates and secondly the external conflict between the east and west at large, which she also stated in the first chapter. In her opinion dictatorship chokes the oxygen of innovation, even Iqbal called for looking beyond the traditional Islamic schools of jurisprudence and reviving Ijtihad. She stated that the democratic political systems would provide protection to reformist and modernizing theologians and philosophers, she was of the view that the teachings of writers such as Iqbal and other moderate philosophers should be included in the curriculum from the primary level up, so that there is no room for extremist thoughts to breed and expand in the minds of the upcoming generations, moreover to eliminate extremist trends in the Pakistani society the middle class needs to be empowered and strengthened. The author has highlighted the need to bridge the internal and external divides in the Muslim world, without which there can be no progress in any direction.
Benazir Bhutto has touched upon a subject which is critical to Pakistan and has been much written about in the last two decades. The author has used simple language, which is easy to understand and comprehend. The author has given a very well structured account and logically built up the arguments, leaving out nothing which may be considered detrimental to the vital points of the subject, giving a complete and well sequenced picture. The book touches a subject which probably most of us are unaware of, although having knowledge of the importance of the subject matter and the historical events that have taken place from time to time, I doubt if most of us or at least myself did not perceive of its scope, with the origins of the subject going as far back as the Mughal empire and bringing to light the slow and steady increase of extremism and radicalism in the Muslim world. The end of the cold war and revolutionary struggles in the old bi-polar world has led to the new world order. I would conclude that it is a well written book on a very important subject which touches the life of the Muslims of the world, moreover the ideas explained in the book if implemented might contribute to make this world a better place to live for us and our future generations, by bringing reconciliation and avoiding a clash of the civilizations.
I would recommend the book for individuals who have an interest in Pakistan’s history and politics. Those who are interested in political thought processes and thinking of Pakistani leadership will find the book worth reading. It must be kept in mind while reading the book that the author has strong political affiliation which sometimes hinders an objective study.