06 December 2011

Reconciliation: An Overview

Date: 10th August 2011

“Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the west” is the title of last book authored by Benazir Bhutto. She completed this book days before her assassination which occurred on 27th December 2007. This book is the collection of last words written by her. She was a charismatic leader who was denied another chance to rule Pakistan by hidden hands and she was removed from political scene forever.

Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan on 18th October 2007 after an eight year exile. Upon her return she was greeted with two bomb blasts which struck her welcoming procession, which resulted in deaths of 179 People. She continued her political campaign for PPP. She was assassinated in Rawalpindi after addressing a gathering in Liaquat Bagh. A suicide blast occurred near blast proof vehicle but she died because of a sniper bullet. She received warnings and threats from all corners that she will be targeted in Pakistan. She took a bold move and returned to Pakistan ignoring security threats. Unfortunately for her the threats proved to be real. She was a brave woman and took a bold decision. Her book is a reflection of brave thoughts harboring her mind. The book let the people know that what she was thinking about future of Pakistan and that of entire Muslim world. It’s evident from the book that she was in a mood of reconciliation. She has thoroughly discussed her philosophy in this book.

Benazir’s long time friend in Washington, Mark Siegel helped her in writing this book. This book contains ample historical facts and references. Mark Siegel did the research to find all these facts. Although Mr. Siegel helped in research book was wholly and solely authored by Benazir Bhutto. This book has six chapters. In first chapter Benazir throws same light on her path back to Pakistan. She describes the happening, days before her return and she describes the 19th October attack in graphical detail. Her observations establish that she was a keen observer.

In the second chapter she explains the linkages between extremism and dictatorship. She also tries to prove that Islam is compatible with democracy by referring to historical Islamic events. She rejects the premise that Islam and democracy are mutually exclusive. Third chapter presents a brief history of government system in Islamic world. She has emphasized the fact that western super power’s undue interference has not allowed democracy to flourish in Islamic countries. She has described the history of almost every significant Muslim country. Some non-Muslim countries of west and Africa have also been used by her to further strengthen her point. A very short but comprehensive history of every country is defined in this chapter. If someone wants to be aware about the history of almost all Muslim countries from one source then this chapter is the best solution. It contains treasure of information for students of history.

Most interesting part of the book is the fourth chapter. It’s about the history of Pakistan. She starts from Mughal Era and ends till the end of 2007. She has discussed all the political happenings in Pakistan in great detail. She has unveiled many secrets such as; she met President Musharraf twice, in January and July for political negotiations. This chapter is a very intelligent political case study of Pakistan. She was a politician so naturally whatever she has written is based on her philosophy which results in praising her father Z.A Bhutto and criticizing her opponents specially PML-N and Jamaat-i-Islami. Generally in the entire book and particularly in this chapter she has hit hard on Jamaat-i-Islami and its founding Ameer Moulana Mohdoodi. Benazir has criticized the Jamaat for declaring Quaid-e-Azam, Z.A Bhutto and herself a Kafir. She has also held Pml-N responsible for increase in extremism of Taliban.

Fifth chapter contains Benazir’s thesis which rejects the hypothesis of Samuel Huntington about the inevitability of clash of civilizations. Samuel Huntington wrote in 1993 in foreign affairs magazine about clash between Islam and west. Samuel stated that western civilization should contain Islamic civilization from developing, if it developed then there will be clash with west for sure. Benazir has termed herself as a reconciliationist and has rejected this theory. She has given reference to many historical events to justify her stance. She has also quoted other scholars who have written against Clash theory. She has stressed that an intra-Civilization clash amongst Muslims may be necessary which will be between extremists and moderates. She has written about her belief that democratic Islamic civilization will never clash with west.

In six and last chapter Benazir writes about what steps should be taken for reconciliation. She urges the west, to support democratic governments in Islamic countries and condemn dictators. She wants the developed west to start social development projects in Islamic countries. She has particularly written about a plan like “Marshall Plan” of post world war II period. She wrote that then USA invested 20 Billion dollars to develop war torn economies of Europe and Japan so that they don’t fall to communism. She believes that similar plan is required to prevent Muslim countries from falling to extremists. The last chapter is the essence of the book. The primary reason to write this book was to tell the world about the resolve of Benazir for solving contemporary problems. I think that she was successful in this motive but life didn’t give her time to practice her theory of reconciliation.

This book was well written in a very articulate and intelligent manner. The text of the book is of such high caliber that only a western educated person like Benazir can write it. This book was published and made available in market in March 2008, three months after the assassination of Benazir. If one tries to find shortcomings in the book then he can find a few. First, this book is written from the perspective of PPP. PPP and its founder have been praised and its opponents have been criticized. Especially Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman and Moulana Mohdoodi have been singled out for criticism. Benazir has given her father a clean chit for East Pakistan debacle. In this book, Benazir has also not accepted the mandate of Awami league, by saying that it alone couldn’t draft the constitution of Pakistan. Moreover this book lacks acknowledgement of mistakes on part of Benazir and PPP. In fact, PPP and its leaders have been over glorified in the book. Lastly, in this book apparently Benazir is addressing the west only. This gives an impression that this book is only for west not for everyone including people of Pakistan.

The last verdict about this book is that shortcomings are outweighed by its strengths. It has lived up to the expectations of the readers. Through this book Benazir has been successful in conveying his message to the world, west in particular. She is no more with us in the world. Through this book one can remember her will and determination for reconciliation and betterment of Pakistan. Indeed “Reconciliation” will be one factor among many others which will make people remember the Daughter of the East, late Benazir Bhutto.

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