Peace is not just between governments: Bhutto
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Peace is not just between governments: Bhutto

Former Pakistan PM Benazir Bhutto believes that even out of power, she has a role to play in the peace process. "After all, peace is not just between govts," she told Yashwant Raj.

india Updated: Dec 14, 2003 02:29 IST

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been away from her country for a long time. She wants to return to her country, but is looking for an opportune time. Benazir believes that even out of power, she has a role to play in the peace process. "After all, peace is not just between governments," she told Yashwant Raj.

Good to have you back in India again.

Good to be back here. So much has changed since my visit in 2001; that visit was quite controversial. I gave an interview in which I said it was time for Pakistan to ban groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba. That statement of mine was criticised in Islamabad. Subsequently General (Pervez) Musharraf adopted that policy and banned Lashkar. On a personal level, it gives me happiness to be here. I walked into the hall and I found I knew so many people from my last visit. I met a Pakistani politician (Asfandyar Wali Khan, who is also here for the HT Leadership Initiative's conference) and I told him here I am a Pakistani leader meeting another Pakistani leader in India. I hope we can all meet in Islamabad.

When is that going to happen?

I hope it happens soon. The politics of exile and imprisonment has been divisive for Pakistan. I believe that this politics of confrontation is leading to instability in the country. Politics of pluralism where dissent is valued and respected gives much more strength to a nation.

You have asked the government of Pakistan to let to you return for the SAARC summit in January. Have you heard from them yet?

I am waiting to hear from the regime. There have been many newspaper articles and intellectuals believe that if peace is truly to be achieved, it needs political legitimacy. I believe I have a role to play. After all, peace is not just between governments; it is between people at large. To create that consensus and domestic legitimacy for the peace process, my return and that of Nawaz Sharif is important.

Is peace possible without democracy in Pakistan?

History tells us that whenever there has been a military dictatorship, India and Pakistan have gone to war. All the three wars we have fought were during military dictatorship in Pakistan. Since my government was overthrown in 1996 and democracy was destabilised, India and Pakistan have come close to three conflicts. Yet, I ask myself should I be influenced by history or should I put my hope in the present and the future. Here is an opportunity for dialogue and I think it's important to keep the dialogue process open. It is important to test what the rulers in Islamabad are prepared to do. If they are positive towards peace, then all of us in South Asia will win.

Is the military in Pakistan prepared for peace?

This is a very tough question to answer. If you look at General Musharraf's statements, he is saying he is ready for peace. Whenever the army has been in power, there has always been tension. Even if General Musharraf is sincere in what he says, we have seen that in the last four years, our countries have come near to conflict. It's been Washington that has kept us apart. But can we always rely on Washington to keep us apart?

First Published: Dec 14, 2003 00:00 IST