A building for Bhutto: A monumental mistake

Published: September 15, 2010
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As million of flood survivors struggle to survive the government chooses to devote funds to a concrete monument

Is our leadership foolish or do they simply enjoy poking the nation every now and then? A monument for Benazir would have been a good idea, had there been no floods!

As the millions affected by the flood await help and support, our leaders have been going around gathering funds from around the globe. While the initial aid received will help the government support the affected people on an emergency basis, billions of dollars are required to get Pakistan up and running.

While we receive international money and continue to ask for more, there was an urgent need to pay our respects to the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto by building a monument that would ultimately cost somewhere around Rs. 1 billion. My question is, why now? Did the honorable Prime Minister think the people of Pakistan won’t notice? Or did he think the international media would ignore it? Or is it a twisted strategy to win the public? Or is it plain stupidity?

Benazir Bhutto was a great woman. Her global presence and charming personality will always be remembered. Would it not be a wise idea to help rehabilitate the flood affected people of Pakistan in Benazir’s name? In fact, the government could have spent twice the amount on setting up a small village for the poor in Benazir’s name or a shelter for the poor where free food would be distributed. No taxpayer would oppose such a gesture. However, the government chose to go with a concrete, heartless slab to remember a grand personality like Benazir’s. The government decided to tell the international community that Pakistan needs more aid from abroad because it has a better use for its own cash.

Such an amount does not drastically disturb the budget of the country. Everybody will continue living like they do, with or without the monument. However, it has a symbolic value. At a time when millions cry for a meal, creating a monument for Benazir is like throwing mud on her legacy. The woman represented the people of Pakistan. Even those who opposed her policy could not deny that she was the face of Pakistan’s public. Surely a person like that does not need a building to keep her place in the hearts and minds of people.

The post-Bhutto Peoples Party clearly has issues. The insecurity is such that they cannot let the people forget that they represent Benazir Bhutto. It is not their fault because it was Benazir’s vote bank that got them into power. It is Benazir’s memory that stands stronger than all these leaders combined. It is Benazir’s legacy that helps these incompetent individuals stay in power.

Former President Musharraf spent Rs700 million on a national monument. That money could have been spent elsewhere and put to better use. But millions of Pakistanis were not homeless during that time, hence, the level of criticism was relatively low.

Benazir Bhutto’s legacy must stand differently. There is a time for everything, and now is not the time for Benazir’s monument.

samir.butt

Samir Butt

A former Youth Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Fulbright undergraduate scholar, freelance writer, public speaking trainer, IT consultant and marketing professional. He blogs at samiranwar.net.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.