by LaShanda D. Maze
Receiving a warm welcome from the University of La Verne, the former prime minister of Pakistan, Benezir Bhutto, spoke to a crowded room of students as well as administrators on Monday, May 12, in the Howell Board Room.
She is the first prime minister to visit ULV and she opened by expressing her feelings of nostalgia when she walked through the University remembering her days at Cambridge.
President Stephen Morgan, Dr. William Relf, dean of the School of Business and Global Studies, and Dr. John Jang, professor of history and government, were among those who sat before her, welcoming her to the University.
Bhutto was introduced by her cousin, Dr. Ahmed Ispahani, professor of business administration and economics, who spoke excitedly about his admiration for her. “She’s the first in almost everything,” he said recounting all of her accomplishments.
She attended Harvard Radcliffe and Oxford, where she became the first woman on the debate team and the first woman student body president. Bhutto was elected twice as the Pakistan prime minister by popular vote.
She chose to speak on her experiences with the Pakistan government because she said it “is also the example of a new democracy and what a new democracy faces.”
Pakistan, she said, was formed in 1947 and “only one government in Pakistan has completed an office.” That office, she remarked, was the government of her father. There have been four presidents in the last eight years who have not served full terms.
Bhutto said that this causes the people of a nation to no longer trust the government and without political stability nations cannot grow.
Feeling that she had been cheated out of two elections Bhutto told numerous stories of when she knew poll stuffing was apparent. “The rigging takes place after the polls closes,”she said.
If there are no fair elections, she said, the people will seek alternative ways of change.
“The heart of democracy is fair elections,” Bhutto said. For fair elections to occur there must be an immediate count. In the 1990 elections in Pakistan she said it was hours before the votes were even counted.
According to Bhutto, voters’ lists need to also be typed out and available for everyone so there is no confusion over who can vote.
A firm believer in “natural justice,” Bhutto did not let the poll rigging disturb her quest to create a government that would be successful.
The subject then turned to economics. “We were dependent for too long on foreign aid,” she said speaking on Pakistan’s change to become a democratic nation.
“Democracies in transition are going to go through a difficult period,” she said explaining the huge amount of urban discontent that developed.
“It is not democracy which has failed, but world order.”
Bhutto believes in practicing demand management economics because of the huge debt Pakistan has accrued. She believes supply side economics will only delve them deeper into debt.
To get a country out of debt, Bhutto emphasizes that one must document the economy and tax the people.
At the end of Bhutto’s first term she knocked the deficit down by three points. The growth rate tripled from two percent to six percent, creating jobs in both Pakistan and the United States.
“I believe one fights elections because one wants to lead a nation,” she than said.
Surprisingly candid, Bhutto shared her experiences of where she had to face media trials and accusations of being corrupt.
“I want to be judged on record, not on slurs,” she said.
Ending on the subject of the World Trade Organization, she laughed realizing she had almost extended her time. “I was told to give only a 10 minute presentation,” she said apologizing.
When asked on how optimistic she was on the future of Pakistan and other developing nations she replied, “I think democracy in its greatest triumph faces it’s greatest threat.” Because there is no aid people must be able to teach global knowledge on transition and dealing with corruption.
With enthusiastic applause from the audience, Bhutto finished taking all questions. The business fraternity then presented her with an honorary membership.
Thankfully she laughed and told the students, “The days I went to college there was only men in fraternities.”
President Morgan then stood to say a few words of appreciation. Students were also able to get autographs and pictures taken with the former prime minister after the speech.