Compounding the unspeakable personal tragedy that has befallen Pakistan, with one fifth of our country under water in the greatest floods in our history that have put almost five million people out of their homes, there are those within Pakistan and abroad who would seek to exploit this humanitarian disaster for political gain. Unfortunately, the Huffington Post enabled this base, moral outrage when it ran Shirin Sadeghi’s September 9, 2010 posting, “$11-Million Monument to Benazir Bhutto: APPROVED,” which is an unfortunate but obvious part of an ongoing nasty campaign against the democratically elected PPP government that preceded the floods and will probably continue long after the waters have receded.
There will always be those, in almost any society, who will actually believe almost anything said about the political opposition. I recall that Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels once said that “a lie repeated three times becomes the truth.” Just as 20% of Americans — mainly belonging to the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party — actually believe that President Obama is a closet Muslim and was born outside the US (and therefore ineligible to be President under the US constitution), there is a consistent, unmovable core in Pakistan who have nothing but hate for President Zardari just as they hated his martyred wife Benazir Bhutto, and who have worked to undermine the PPP from its creation in the late sixties, as they have worked to undermine democracy over the last three decades.
Sadeghi’s post has nothing in it except a recycling, with a clever twist, of information from the announcement about the plans to build a memorial to honor the former Prime Minister announced two years ago. The twist in the story is somehow connecting the cost of the project to the current flood situation, thereby intentionally making the government look insensitive and indifferent. Given the polarization in Pakistan, those who hate the government and who have fought against democracy and supported military dictatorships throughout our history would readily believe that President Zardari has probably insisted on diverting resources from flood relief to building such a memorial. Those who do not have a visceral, historical hatred of the PPP democratic government would mostly likely dismiss this charge for what it is, disinformation which is part of a destructive political agenda. The government of Pakistan has made it clear that all nonessential projects throughout the nation have been suspended until the flood needs of the flood victims have been addressed.
The greatest memorial to Benazir Bhutto is what lies in the hearts of the people of Pakistan. She certainly would be the first to demand that all resources of our nation are directed to helping our people which is what our government has implemented, as Shirin Sadeghi fully understands. How many times, and in how many ways, will Benazir Bhutto continue to be murdered? Now during this moment of national tragedy should we not unite and suspend the politics of hate that feeds uncivil discourse?