A building for Bhutto: A monumental mistake

Published: September 15, 2010

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

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.

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/1534/welcoming-home-mr-musharraf/ Syed Nadir El-Edroos

    They are foolish! Rather than catching the criminals who murdered her, the best the government of her party and the president her husband can do is to make a concrete jungle in her name!They are probably hoping to make a symbolic shrine, where PPP activitists can mourn and congregate, show of power and this that. Recommend

  • http://sadaf-fayyaz.blogspot.com/ SadafFayyaz

    A hungry, empty handed, begging, asking for foreign aid nation can afford this monument…………I am sarcastic now……………….I am happy that some one wrote on it……..Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    Swindling comes naturally to PPP. Benazir Bhutto erected a shrine for her dad. The husband is doing it for the wife. Can’t they all move on? Benazir was the first lady PM, fine but during her reign there was corruption and lawlessness. It seems that everyone forgets that.Recommend

  • http://ykhan.wordpress.com Yasser

    Pervez Musharraf spent 700 million for national monument, your provided link contains no description for that subject whatsoever? please provide the right pointer !Recommend

  • Shahryar Ahmed

    This is plain stupidity, what else can you expect from these people. They do not give a damn about Pakistan or its people, neither their leaders did. All that matters to these people is their ill-gotten wealth, how to protect it & more over how to make milk more money out of us (Pakistanis).

    All Hail Democracy!!!!!!!!!

    PS By the way when Mushraff made whatever monument the writer was talking about, Pakistan was in one of its best, shall I say the best times ever. With the economy growing & millions of job creations, billions of precious foreign investment flowing in Pakistan.

    By the way, whatever happened to our crown jewels, the PSM’s & PIA’s of Pakistan? Why doesn’t even one asks the CJP, how stopped the privatization of Pak Steel on the argument that was being sold off cheaply? That episode derailed the precious FDI for the country.

    I say that is Treason. I say put on trial all those people who opposed selling off the Pak Steel at that time in about 500 million dollars. We lost that money, plus the over turning the deal totally scared off any investors stupid or bold enough to invest in Pakistan. Recommend

  • Kashif

    This is height of insensitivity for the poor nation who are deep down in floods…An mount of around 1 billion can easily be spent on Relief/Reconstruction of the flood affectees rather than on ‘Monument’ which will have no use at all but serve only as ‘Shrine’. Its a real shame for govt. for daring to announce such an idea.Recommend

  • http://www.geotauaisay.com Adeel | geotauaisay.com

    I dont know what present Government want to do??? Seemz like there in nothing in Pakistan except Benazir Bhutto….every road name, hospital name, project name, grave yard name, garden name….seemz like she is better than Quaid-E-AzamRecommend

  • Syed

    They should build schools or a power project with this or little more money in BB name … that would be a decent and impressive ‘sadqa e jaaria’ for her and poor us.Recommend

  • Patriot

    Your understnding of pakistan politics is flawed. Benazir was the worst personification of the feudo-political elite of pakistan who did zilch for the people of pakistan when in power and when deposed only bad-mouthed about Pakistan. Her return was only possible through a Condi Rice sponsored dirty law NRO enforced by a cornered military ruler. Even if there were no floods Pakistan was never in the position to waste money on a useless monument. Anyway i want this monument to be built as it would represent the true leagcy of failed ruler whose only positive was that she was a woman!Recommend

  • maheen usmani

    Good, timely post. However, I don’t agree with your opening sentence “A monument for Benazir would have been a good idea, had there been no floods!” Such a costly monument would be a bad idea at any time for a nearly bankrupt Pakistan. But, yes, at such a time when our Treasury is said to be as bare as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, it is also foolhardy and begs the question, why doesn’t Prez AZ dig into his deep pockets to fund this Memorial? This desire for immortality and profligacy reminds me of Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’:
    ‘I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
    And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    `My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
    Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.’ Recommend

  • Patriot

    @ Yasser, evem if 700 million were spent, Mr. Butt also needs to mention the fiscal space available when the Monument at Isloo was constructed. The author must understand that kilobytes must not be wasted for the sake of it, he must also provide the right context.Recommend

  • Patriot

    A couple of week old joke, for those who are yet to hear…”After the current floods, the central government has decided to change the name of Pakistan to Shaheed Benazir Water Park”Recommend

  • Morris

    Agree with Patriot and what was Mr. Butt thinking
    “A monument for Benazir would have been a good idea, had there been no floods!”
    Benazir…first Women Prime Minister in Islamic World ..Is this achievement big enough to even thinking of such a foolish act by the Government to waste tons of millions of taxpayer money…a women who cashed her dad’s popularity to become head of Government……I really want to know any one act of law, infrastructure, foreign policy, internal policy, system she have improved that she deserved to of such honor.

    Well in the contrary I would like such a monument be made ….only to remind the future generations that when you the people have lost all honesty and conscience these are the kind of leaders u produce and the harm they can imply on you, your family and your country.Recommend

  • Zain

    I say let them build the monument so it can be brought down when people take to the streetsRecommend

  • Samir


    I am being criticized for saying some good words about Bhutto. First off, I am not a big fan of Benazir Bhutto, but she certainly deserves a degree of respect. She was well aware of the risks to her life, yet she came back to Pakistan and went to places where no other leader would dare go. Whether I like her or not, she was easily the most popular person in the country.

    Moreover, what I write is an opinion. There is no right or wrong.

    The monument may not be acceptable to those reading this article, but do not forget that it was approved by the parliament. There are people who want Benazir’s monument and they have the right to it. We need to become more tolerant towards others feelings. If you all think that Benazir has been forgotten to the masses, you need to to connect to the masses.

    The major issue is the timing of the approval.

    Somebody pointed out that Pakistan was in its ‘best’ position when Musharraf made the monument. I would like to differ on that. Musharraf’s regime saw the death of Pakistan’s middle class. There was no industrialization, just a temporary bubble because of the international attention Pakistan was receiving.

    If a group wants a monument, they should be allowed to (obviously keeping in mind the financial situation).Nobody is forcing anyone to pay respects. Recommend

  • parvez

    A monument is fine as long as the people don’t pay for it. The only way this stupidity will stop is by a call from Kayani – and that’s how it is.Recommend

  • Erfan

    Seriously, it’s like making fun of Pakistan and Pakistani people. Feel like banging my head against the wall. Recommend

  • http://sadaf-fayyaz.blogspot.com/ SadafFayyaz

    Chalo its good to give respect,,,,,,,,lets come to another point…..BB was a great lady….I would never say bad about a dead person…let me know if Status making is allowed in Islamic Republic of Pakistan? why? I am not very religious. But still what about this:

    Muslim scholars have unanimously agreed on the prohibition of making statues with the purpose of worshipping or revering them. If this is the case, the sin of making statues involves the sculptor, the buyer, the worshipper and deifiers.
    Ther…e is also an agreement among scholars that the statues made to be an object for training and children toys, i.e. dolls of animals and humans are not included in the prohibition.
    However, scholars have differed regarding some other points as follows:
    The majority of scholars are of the opinion that defaced or incomplete statues are not prohibited so long as they are not worshipped. However, some scholars prohibit the use of statues under any circumstances whatsoever.
    On the other hand, the full-figured statues are, according to the majority of scholars, prohibited, even if they are not worshipped or revered. By the passage of time, there is a possibility of people turning such statutes into objects of worship as did the people of Noah (peace be upon him) who made statues of their pious ancestors in order to remember them, and they ended up worshipping such statues.
    Some scholars, however, hold the view that making statues is permissible if they are not deemed to be worshipped.
    Islam prohibits statues and three-dimensional figures of the living creatures. The prohibition is even more stressed in case the statue is for a being already dignified i.e. Angels, prophets, the Virgin, or idols like cows for Hindus.Recommend

  • Wally

    It is important to look at timelines to understand this situation.

    This monument was planned and approved before these floods took place. At that time I think it was a good idea to honor the legacy of Benazir Bhutto, who gave her life for this country.

    However once the floods took place, this monument should be scrapped and the allocated budget should be diverted to the flood victims. I agree. Recommend

  • Samir

    thanks for the different angle Sadaf… Recommend

  • Isfand

    @Patriot I totally agree with you abt Bhtto,a completly misleading figure like her father a ruin for Pakistan,wrongly loved by millions around the world

    “Shaheed Benazir Water Park” heheheRecommend

  • Tayyab

    Its a case of Stupid vs Evil!Recommend

  • Usman

    Another valid point to criticize this inept, incompetent, inefficient, and ineffective ‘awami’ government. The only reason these ‘jiyalas’ want to erect this monument is to bask in the past (and over-rated) glory of Benazir and cash-in on the much-used Bhutto brand name. The government understands that it needs to continue playing the Bhutto ‘shahadat’ card to retain and return to power. A fancy paid-for-by-the-poor-masses monument will serve its purposes of reminding us that ‘zinda hai bibi’ and ensuring that PPP always remains in power. If these ‘jiyalas’ are dying for such a monument, perhaps their rich colleagues can pitch in and spare the taxpayers’ money. Why can’t Zardari for pay it himself? I, for one, do not want to pay for this unwanted spontaneous monument building binge. Benazir did not die for me and neither did I benefit from her death.
    This episode reminds me of Saddam’s obsession of building epic statues of himself and naming everything after himself. PPP should learn from Saddam’s mistakes and save this money for a rainy day (pun not intended). Recommend

  • Isfand

    @Usman nice comment,totaly agree with youRecommend

  • nevermind

    I see you have chosen an apt pseudonym, because two years ago we were rolling in cash. It’s a good thing they came up with the idea of honouring a kleptomaniac with the spare billion rupees we had lying around.Recommend

  • Ghausia

    What can you expect when the country is run by a bunch of moronic halfwits?Recommend

  • Patriot

    @ Samir…death of middle calss during Musharraf times?? Dont go on opinions, i suggest you to do some readings on WB and IMF publications for the time in question. Recommend

  • kns

    dubo maro khape – Nincompoops; either they or we or both Recommend

  • Quddus jan

    No, No , No,
    Even if we could afford it, a monument on her name was not right. A very very arrogant, selfish, unfair and undemocratic lady who actively encouraged corruption. The airports, roads, hospitals etc named after her wrongfully, should be reverted to their original names as she had no role in building or establishing them.Recommend

  • Isfand

    @Quddus jan i totally agree with you,but unfortunatly tht’s simply not going to happen atleast not the reveerrding of the names to the original onesRecommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/pracker S. Ali Raza

    and when someone attacks this statue, what will happen? Recommend

  • Imran

    This is a story that has already been proven false. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/farahnaz-ispahani/post852b_718234.html

    This project was announced two years ago. No money has been diverted. In fact, all non-essential projects are being held back and the moneys are being transferred to flood relief.

    Please stop trying to mislead the people and tell the truth for God’s sake!Recommend

  • Samir

    @Imran… your link does not work. Secondly, the parliament approved this last week only. If they have changed their mind, that is good. But no such news has come to my attention so far. Recommend

  • Silent Spectator

    @ Samir – here’s the link that Imran was trying to post. It’s a post by Farahnaz Ispahani and of course she’s trying to deny this story. We all know the disconnect between PPP’s words and actions, so go figure!Recommend

  • jamshed jutt

    its is very unfortunate that jung group mixed the BB monument and Flood tragedy together.Govt decided to build BB monument in june 2008 .On her first birthday after her assassination and it was headline news. It is obvious the govt will shift all development fund to flood relief and reconstruction . And secondly , the figure of 1 billion is highly exaggerated .

    i was not expecting Tribune to follow jang group yellow journalism. Recommend

  • samsha @london

    the question is why zardari needs government n parliament to build his beloved wife’s monument. with so much money that she left for ‘him’, can’t he just return some thing to BB by building the monument on his own….. Recommend

  • Sasha Barcohen

    “Benazir Bhutto was a great woman. Her global presence and charming personality will always be remembered.” I am seriously doubting your personality now. She must be around your moms age.Recommend

  • Desi

    was there a flood then?Recommend

  • Desi

    @Saad Durrani:
    the husband all of a sudden feel love over pouring for a dead wife – how very bollywood!Recommend

  • Desi

    page not found :S

    let me update your link