It has been ten years since Mohtarma Shaheed Benazir Bhutto left us, leaving a huge gap in the political landscape of Pakistan. But Shaheed BB will forever illuminate our hearts through the light of the memories she has left behind. As today marks a decade of her shahadat, I want to share the precious memories of Shaheed BB with you and create a pathway of light all around the world through each person reading these words.
Shaheed BB was internationally recognised for her personality and political wisdom. British Prime Minister Theresa May, while addressing the General Assembly in the United Nations, commemorated Shaheed BB and shared their time spent together at the Oxford University. BB played a significant role in arranging the marriage of Mrs. Theresa May. Shaheed BB was a strong advocate of humanity and democracy. Her brave stance against terrorism gained international recognition. “Benazir Bhutto Leadership Programme” was launched at the world-renowned Harvard University. These facts are a testament to the lasting impact that Shaheed BB has had in the fields of politics and academia. Even today her name enjoys immense respect in the world.For this reason she is still living among us after a decade of her shahadat.
In 2007, Mohtarma Shaheed Benazir Bhutto announced her return to Pakistan from London. She was aware of the threat to her life. Despite the perceived danger to her life, General Musharaf refused to guarantee her safety during the reconciliation process. When BB was warned about the looming threat to her life, she replied, “Life and death are in the hands of God. Today, Pakistan is facing an existential threat and I am going to Pakistan for democracy, for the rule of the people and to save Pakistan. Fear of death cannot stop me.” She decided to return to Pakistan on October 18, 2007.
Upon her return to Karachi on October 18, 2007, the truck carrying her was targeted with a suicide attack. This attack was aclear ramification of General Musharaf’s refusal to vouch for BB’s safety. The attack confirmed Shaheed BB’s reservations about the rigging of the upcoming elections at that time and the extent to which the government dared to go. At the same time, BB was also determined to expose the plan of election rigging and to challenge the anti-democratic forces, even if she had to sacrifice her life.
The people of Pakistan showered her with their love. On international level, she was considered as one of the most popular leaders of the subcontinent. It is true that BB was a phenomenal and indeed Benazir, that is, one of a kind lady in the Muslim World. She fought a long struggle against the military dictatorship only for the democratic rights of her people. The history of Pakistan is a witness to the difficulties and atrocities faced by Shaheed BB for her people. She believed the centre of power should rest with the people and faced house-arrests and exiles. The people were fully aware of Shaheed BB’s fight for their rights. They knew she was her strength and they were her strength and together, they would make Pakistan a force to be reckoned with on the international level. The realms of power shook with fear at the strength represented by Shaheed BB.
When BB returned after the second exile, her popularity was at its peak that also matched the fear of her opponents. These forces took their revenge and on December 27, 2007 Benazir Bhutto succumbed to shahadat in LiaqatBagh. Despite finishing her physical existence, her enemies failed to extinguish the light of love that glowed in the hearts of the people for Shaheed BB. She was a considerate person and deeply cared for the welfare of the poor. Her love for humanity was indeed a beautiful aspect of her personality. It was for this reason that every eye in the country glistened with tears and every house-hold was submerged in a state of gloom at the death of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
Shaheed BB had a charismatic personality. Whoever met her once became her follower and supporter for life-time. I have had the privilege of knowing her for about thirty years. I witnessed the beginning of her political career and the difficulties she faced. I have also witnessed the betrayal of many leaders and I can vouch for the loyalty and unwavering spirit of many workers. Shaheed BB faced all kinds of circumstances with great bravado. Even during her exile she was aware of the conditions of her workers who lived in far-flung areas of her country.
The memories associated with Shaheed BB are indeed beautiful. Her entire life was spent in the struggle of making the lives of the people of her country beautiful. She was also a fountain of hope for the party workers. Her shahadat is not only a loss for Pakistan and its people but it is a loss for humanity. My personal and political association with Shaheed BB is a great asset for me. These words by Shaheed BB reflect her greatness: “Only history will tell how much I love my people, democracy, and humanity. But I can assure you that everything that I have done for my country, I’ve done it in goodwill for the betterment of my country.”
Today, the leadership of Pakistan People’s Party has been taken up by Shaheed BB’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The torch of association with the people, respect for democratic values, and love for Pakistan that was lit by Shaheed BB is still blazing today through her son. (The writer heads Bhutto Legacy Foundation)