Democracy Is The Greatest Revenge

By Asif Ali Zardari (writing in the Wall Street Journal)

Two years ago the world stopped for me and for my children. Pakistan was shaken to its core and all but came apart. Women everywhere lost one of their greatest symbols of equality. And Islam, our great religion, lost its modern face.

On Dec. 27, 2007, my wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated. She was the bravest person I have ever known, and the second anniversary of her death is an appropriate occasion to reflect upon what she achieved for our country, and how her legacy must be preserved against those who would return Pakistan to darkness. Twice elected prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir had an immense impact. She stood up and defeated the forces of military dictatorship. She freed all political prisoners. She ended press censorship. She legalized trade and student unions, built 46,000 primary and secondary schools and appointed the first female judges in our history. And she showed the women of Pakistan and the world that they must accept no limits on their ability and opportunity to learn, to grow and to lead in modern society.

The target of two assassination attempts by Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, Benazir repeatedly warned a skeptical world of the impending danger from extremists and militants. In her last campaign—even on the very day of her death, by the hands of such extremists—she mobilized and rallied the people of Pakistan against the terrorist threat.  Benazir’s murderers didn’t kill her dreams. On the day we buried her, even as her supporters cried out for revenge, we reminded our party and country that, in her own words, “democracy is the greatest revenge.”

And then we led the Pakistan People’s Party to victory in the elections. Since then, fulfilling the electoral manifesto she wrote, the nation’s economy, which had been left in shambles by the priorities of a decade of dictatorship, has been stabilized and revitalized. Food shortages have ended. Power shortages have diminished. We have adopted a national curriculum for the first time in history to challenge the spread of political madrassas. Constitutional reforms are being finalized which will rid Pakistan of the undemocratic provisions inserted by military dictators that expanded the power of the presidency at the expense of parliament. Benazir Bhutto died confronting the forces of tyranny and terrorism, and Pakistan remains committed to the struggle that she led. We have reclaimed Swat and Malakand from the militants and rehabilitated the displaced persons back into their homes.

 We have taken the fight against militants to other areas, including South Waziristan in our Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and to our major cities, and we will win this war against them. We will not let militants violently impose their political agenda on the people. Political ownership of the war against terrorism rests with the people of Pakistan for the first time. We are in the front trenches of this war while the community of nations stands with us. Much has been accomplished, but it has not been easy for my nation, for my party or for my family. The forces in Pakistan that have resisted change, modernity and democracy for 30 years still attempt to derail progress. Some of these forces who were allied with dictatorship in the past now hope that the judicial process can undo the will of a democratic electorate and destabilize the country.

A litany of ancient charges of corruption—the modus operandi of past plots against every democratically elected government in Pakistan—now threatens to undermine the legitimacy of our government. Those that will not stand with us against terrorism stand against us in the media. I have spent almost 12 years in prison on trumped up charges never proven, even by a court system manipulated by dictators and despots. But like Benazir, I refuse to be intimidated. So let the legal process move forward. Those of us who have fought for democracy against dictatorship for decades do not fear justice; we embrace it. My ministers, my party, leaders of other parties and thousands of civil servants across our nation will defend themselves in the courts if necessary.

Democracy has come a long way in Pakistan, and the People’s Party has always been at the vanguard of the fight. In 1979 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir’s father and the elected prime minister of Pakistan was executed under a smokescreen that history now characterizes as a judicial murder. Two decades later Benazir was indicted on fabricated charges on the orders of her political enemies then in power. When tape recordings of these government officials ordering the courts to fabricate evidence and false witness against Benazir were made public, these trumped-up charges were dismissed. Those of us who have been victims of dictatorship in the past believe in the rule of law and have faith in the judicial process. We believe, in the words of my wife, that “time, justice and the forces of history are on our side.” We have not come this far in our democratic struggle to fail. In this struggle, I am inspired by my father-in-law, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who said that he “would rather die at the hands of dictators than be killed by history.”

Mr. Zardari is president of Pakistan.



Filed under Pakistan

32 responses to “Democracy Is The Greatest Revenge

  1. Junaid

    Well if Paki courts are shit then whats wrong with the Swiss ones?

    Did the Swiss courts also fabricate charges against Barbadi and Brothers?

    Isn’t Switzerland the beacon of democracy where justice and rule of law reigns supreme?

    As usual progressive liberal bull shit from the ruling autocratic elite classes unwilling to give up the hold on feudalism and cronyism.

  2. mohammad

    Is zardari convicted by any swiss court? In my view a worst democracy is better than islamic fascism.

  3. Milind Kher

    Whatever his failings or weak points, as of now Zardari appears to be the best bet for democracy, and hopefully, for secularism.

    However, the violent attacks in Muzzaffarabad and Karachi should make him realize that the terrorists are yet to be defeated on many fronts.

    For this, every right thinking Pakistani will need to unite as a man against the nihilists.

  4. bushra naqi

    It is true Zardari’s motivation in fighting the terrorists comes mostly from Benazir’s assassination and his determination is based on this conviction. We need to appreciate his focus on terrorism over all other issues because it is a question of the survival of the state. The Balochistan reconciliation package is another salutary effort to save the federation.

    The problem is with his lack of credibility that his opponents exploit ruthelessly. As Shakespeare says in Macbeth,’All the oceans cannot wash the sin from my hands.’ In a country where perception is valued over facts, where fabrications are taken for actual, where scandals go uninvestigated, where stories are circulated with relish and swallowed with naive gullibility. Where beliefs take precedence over rational discourse, the state is forever in danger of slipping into discord. It is difficult to tackle too many critical issues simultaneously. .

  5. Vijay Goel

    @Bushra Naqi Bushraji whereas you have aptly quoted Shakespeare you are no less lyrical in your description.Compliments !!

  6. Milind Kher

    People keep talking about Zardari’s corruption. I doubt whether Nawaz Sharif or Musharraf are any better..

    @Bushra Naqi,

    I am quite in agreement with your observations.

  7. Qazi

    “Democracy is the greatest revenge!” What does this nonsensical statement mean anyway? I have been trying to figure this one out ever since Zardari Jr. uttered that sentence a while ago. Not only does it not make sense, it reeks of negativity to the core.

    If anyone cares to remember the Confucius quote, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves”.

  8. Milind Kher


    I think that what he is trying to say is that since democracy is the last setup that the dictators and terrorists want, the best revenge against their act of assassinating Benazir would be to make democracy work.

    What is being said is right, the problem is that Zardari does not have any credibility.

  9. aliarqam

    The problem is Zardari have no credibility…….
    then who else in Pakistan has any credibility…??
    The problem with Zardari is his source of fascination is eithe from his wife or his fathe in law…..
    And it is unbearable in a man chauvinist society…..
    And what we have done to Benazir Bhutto in her life….Media response to her was the as today with Zardari….
    JI wallahs sang the song condemning her….
    “jis ne gulon ko noch K penkha
    Wo Gulshan Ka Waali Hai”
    Aur Abba Se Talwar Na Uthee
    Yeh kia Teer Chalay Gee etc etc….

    It reminds me of Qasmi Sb

    Umr Bhar Taana Zani Karte Rahe Ehle Watan
    yeh Alag Baat Hai Dafnain Gey Eizaaz K Sath..

  10. Bloody Civilian


    Isn’t Switzerland the beacon of democracy where justice and rule of law reigns supreme?

    and according to the swiss justice and rule of law, the conviction stands revoked the day the appeal commenced. or would you rather pick and choose as per your own preferences from what you like and do not like about swiss “justice and rule of law”? in that case, call it junaid’s justice and not swiss justice.

  11. Junaid

    and according to the swiss justice and rule of law, the conviction stands revoked the day the appeal commenced.

    Source and proof please.

    Just remembered an Urdu couplet of Master Imamdeen

    It does not behove a person
    To praise himself with his own tongue
    What does a woman beget
    With her own hands; when she rubs her breast.

  12. Ashraf Siddiqui

    Benazir’s son Bilawal Zardari postualted at the first post-assasination interview, sitting beside his father Asif, ‘My mother said democrasy is best revenge’. He then went on to say that his mother’s last wish was for him to succeed her as PPP chaiperson but for the time being this post would be shared with his father. A little later when the press were asking many questions of Bilawal his father intervened to say that it was too much for a child to be facing so many questions at such a public occassion. Niether Bilawal nor his father squared the too mutually contradictory statements i.e. they would have their revenge for the assasination through democracy and being ‘chosen by the grand dame herself to be her successor, being old enough to be named as joint-chairperson but too young to answer questions. Am I the only person to have noticed this apparent and paradoxical phenomenon that was broadcast globally and still graces the U-Tube screen.

    Is it democratic to choose your own successor or should the party hold elections after a leader’s resignation or death – a temporary care-taker is quite correct procedure but not a monarchical succession. In order to benefit from his maternal grandfather’s name Zardari junior creates a double barrelled moniker i.e. Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. How convincing. Can someone please explain to me how democratic are the ‘democratic’ political parties in Pakistan. MQM, PPP, PML (N), JUI F, ANP etc. are all led by leaders who were not elected by their members. The same goes for many other parties too. Although I am no fan of religious parties it seems that Jamaat e Islami is the only political group that seems to have internal democratic processes. Its leaders step down when they make a strategic errors or feel they are too old and a new regime is needed. Their opponents call them fascist but they do not have the guts to exercise democracy – they do though like to preach it.

  13. vajra

    @bushra naqi
    @vijay goel

    Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
    Clean from my hand?

    and not as cited.

    Apologies for the pedantry; the allusion itself was apt, and as Vijay Goel put it, the rest of the description was no less lyrical.

  14. Vijay Goel

    @Vajra I think Bushraji did a service to illiterates like me otherwise maybe i would not have been able to understand the quote.To my dismay my only brush with Shakespeare has been while reading the Brutus and Mark Antony speeches during my intermediate at (You will be glad to know) St. Xaviers Kolkata.Of course Shakespeare is ‘Advitiya’.

  15. wajid

    Only if he stops bitching about his “wife” and get serious.
    She was a hope and a leader for this country – more than his wife – and this is what he’s unable to understand.

  16. Milind Kher

    There is no doubt that Benazir’s role as a leader of Pakistan was far more important than as Zardari’s wife. Zardari, for sure, cannot even hold a candle to Benazir in terms of achievements or personality.

    However, when one sees who are the others involved in the fray, he may be, at the moment, the best bet Pakistan has.

  17. wajid

    Yes, but he should stop rubbing this – and take charge when he has a chance.

  18. Waleed

    How dumb is this quote: “Democracy is the greatest revenge.” All this is is an offshoot of this french proverb: “Success is the best revenge.” All she did was change it into something that makes no sense! wowwww……. I doubt Zardari wrote this all by himself……

  19. vajra

    @Vijay Goel

    Oh no! Another from San Jaybhiar!! The barbarians are at the gates!!!

    This emergency demands another quotation:
    Tell it not in Gath! Publish it not in Ashkelon!

    Just kidding!

    Vajra, Class of 71, History,
    Presidency College

  20. Milind Kher

    “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
    Clean from my hand?”

    This originated with Macbeth, but when we see bloodthirsty leaders/politicians who have cropped up in the past decade, this question becomes increasingly relevant.

  21. Vijay Goel

    @Vajra I am much older to you.I passed intermediate from San Jhabier in 1956 as could not get admission in Presidency.Probably thats why cant match you in trading quotes and I was a science student. My e-mail id is can correspond so we dont bore others.

  22. Natasha

    Which Pakistan does he talk about when talks about the end of food and electricity shortage?

    //Whatever his failings or weak points, as of now Zardari appears to be the best bet for democracy, and hopefully, for secularism.//

    Milind ,

    Just because he uses the word ‘democracy’ in every other sentence he uses doesnt make him the ‘best’ for democracy.He’s a civil dictator.A failure.There’s no progress of any sort in ANY significant field under his control.We’ve just been given a negative rating by the Moody’s.Talk about economic progress!

    An article to show how he and the Bhuttos have always been victimised.Remember his speech on the 27th of this month -‘Mera yeh qasoor hai , mera yeh qasoor hai’ – he’s trying to equate himself with ZAB and trying to win sympathies of the awam especially the Sindhis .He’s not even close but the emotional fools would fall for his ‘qasoori’ speeches.

    He forgot to mention his ‘efforts’ for an independent judiciary in the article by the way.No boasting about how ‘he’ restored the CJ and made the courts independent or am I missing something?

  23. Milind Kher


    I can see what you mean. But then, who would you prefer as an alternative. There are four:

    1 > Imran Khan

    2 > Nawaz Sharif

    3 > Kayani

    4 > Taliban

    No 3 means no democracy, number 4 means women cease to be human beings. IK does not have that large a following. So, by process of elimination, are we saying that Mian Nawaz Sharif is the best bet? With his JI connections?

    Do respond to this. Maybe I could have the analysis wrong..

  24. Natasha

    There’s no ‘best’ leader for Pakistan.It’s about choosing the lesser evil.

    Im not a fan of NS but what is this supposed to mean :

    ‘ number 4 means women cease to be human beings.’?

    JI connections are possible with every govt.They were with Musharraf the last time though they got against him later when he refused to take off his uniform.They remained in the coalition govt in the NWFP though.They didnt contest elections this time so you see them out of the scene.Maulana fazlur-Rehman (Better known as Maulana Diesel) is a coalition partner of the PPP for your information.

    And just because the present alliance seems ‘secular’ does not in any way mean that they are the ‘best’.It’s the ‘governance’ that will eventually determine who’s good and who’s not.

    I’ve still not decided who’s going to get my vote this time but I will not repeat PPP again – for sure.

  25. vajra


    The last line of your post sums up what it’s all about. It really was good to read it.

    We don’t always – I am tempted to say, ever – get the choices we want in a democracy. Sometimes at local level, the top candidates are all t**ds of different degree; sometimes the parties they represent have streaks of corruption approximately the size of the Thar Desert running through them; sometimes, the manifestos the parties put out are so delusional that even a Disney cartoon seems statesmanlike next to it.

    But we get a choice. Bad choices, maybe, but a choice.

    It’s a good feeling. Try to get used to it. 😉

  26. rex minor

    As long as he stays in the chair and allows the transfer of power to the parliment and restrict the military to Barracks, he will have served the country well. Pakistan main concern shoud be to engage with its neighbours and disengage from the cold war strategy of the former military dictator. The publication of the article in the new york times is not very helpful. He needs to talk to his own citizens in the language that they understand him. Bon courage mr Zardari.

  27. Natasha


    I would WANT to get used to it.It is important to restrict GHQ to Pindi.

  28. Bloody Civilian


    re. Junaid
    December 30, 2009 at 3:34 am

    Source and proof please.

    only just saw your post. the ‘decision’ against the couple was a result of a geneva investigative magistrate using his discretionary powers. once the accused appealed it, the order could no longer hold unless the swiss prosecutor decided to either take it to court or defend it in the appeal, or do both.

    you can ask some other ‘personal assistant’ to do the research for you. otherwise, if you are so convinced that the conviction stands, all you need to do is move the Election Commission to declare Zardari’s candidancy, and therefore his election, as null and void. or you can carry on proving imamdin right, post after post.

  29. Anwar

    Must he not institute democracy in his party?

    Ghost writers who wrote this Op-Ed are perhaps not aware of Zardari’s contradictions.

    Zardari needs to grow up to manhood and stop pimping for himself using a woman’s corpse…

  30. wajid

    Good one Anwar- but I think they are very much aware and in some cases actually advice him so..

  31. ali

    @anwar, ”zardari needs to grow up to manhood and stop pimping 4 himself using a women’s corpse.” Well,bro, zardari is just trying to take 4ward the legacy of his leader(benazir bhutto),who happens to be a ‘woman’ and his wife.unfortunately, your view on zardari’s political approach reflect a conservative and male chauvinist mindset present in our society regarding women.

  32. Moosa

    I wonder if anybody thinks perhaps the available leadership in Pakistan reflects the general condition of the population? ie the people get the leader they deserve?

    What i mean to say is, perhaps the leaders aren’t the problem, perhaps the problem runs much deeper than that.

    Just a thought.