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Monday July 22, 2024

Shaheed Rani’s birthday and a gift more valuable than life

By Sharjeel Inam Memon
June 21, 2024
Former prime minister of Pakistan Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. — AFP/File
Former prime minister of Pakistan Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. — AFP/File

June 21 marks the birthday of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. Born into a royal family of Sindh on June 21, 1953, the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto rejected a life of luxury and consciously chose a path filled with pain and suffering, ultimately accepting a martyr's death. There is no precedent for this in history. Why did she do this? This is a question for history, answerable only by those who stood with the truth and did not hesitate to sacrifice their greatest pleasure "life".

In her book "Reconciliation," Shaheed Benazir Bhutto wrote, "I suffered the persecution of my father's arrest, imprisonment, and murder, and I knew that such wounds of the soul never heal. I was ready to do anything to save my children from the persecution I suffered on my father's death, but this was the only thing I could not do."

From these lines, it is not difficult to infer that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto chose this path herself. After the great tragedy of the judicial killing of her father, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Shaheed Rani could have lived comfortably in any country outside Pakistan if she wanted. However, she realized the significance of Pakistan to its people. Despite understanding the dangers, she chose to stay and engage in politics for her land and its people.

Once, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto also told her that if she wanted, she could go to a European country and live her life in peace. However, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto replied that she would fulfill her father's mission, no matter how much suffering and hardship she had to endure. Shaheed Benazir did not care for her own life, but when she thought of her children and sought to save them from the suffering she experienced due to her father's arrest, imprisonment, and killing, she resolved that she could do anything to protect them from such pain. But, she could not abandon the people of Pakistan.

On the occasion of Shaheed Benazir's birthday on June 21, 1978, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto wrote a long letter to her while he was a prisoner in Central Jail Rawalpindi. This letter was later published in book form under the title "My Dearest Daughter".

In this letter, Shaheed Bhutto addressed his beloved daughter, Ms. Benazir Bhutto, and said, "What gift can I give you from this prison cell, from which I can't even take my hand out? I give you the hand of the people as a gift. What event can I organize for you? I give you the gift of a famous name and the memorial of a significant event. You are the heir of the oldest civilization. Play your full role in making this ancient civilization highly advanced and powerful. By developed and powerful, I do not mean that society becomes extremely fearful. A fearful society is not a civilized society. A truly civilized society is the most developed and powerful one, which has recognized and nurtured the special sentiments of the nation."

In the same letter, Shaheed Bhutto also wrote, "I am giving you only one message. This message is the message of the coming day and the message of history. Just believe in the people. Work for their salvation and equality. The paradise of Allah is under the feet of your mother, and the paradise of politics is under the feet of the people."

Then history witnessed that Shaheed Bhutto bestowed upon his dearest daughter on her birthday the gift of the people's support. Shaheed Benazir Bhutto cherished this gift as more precious than her own life, and she continued to advance the struggle for people's rights during an era considered the most challenging period in human history for politicians and the populace alike. It was a time when neo-fascist forces waged war against the people, causing more bloodshed than the world wars.

In a time when democratic forces were crushed and dictatorships imposed in third world countries, and when non-state terrorist elements hindered the development of democratic movements, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto emerged as a formidable figure. She not only confronted two military dictators but also took on terrorists. Amid this challenging era, she unified democratic forces and successfully restored democracy in her country. Moreover, she thwarted the anti-Pakistan agenda of neo-fascist forces.

She not only granted democratic rights to the people of Pakistan but also steered the country away from security threats it faced. On October 18, 2007, when Shaheed Bibi returned home after 8 years of exile, a multitude of people from all corners of Pakistan gathered in Karachi. On that same day, forces opposed to the people attempted to assassinate Shaheed Bibi through an act of terrorism, reinforcing her belief that these anti-people forces were determined to take her life.

On 19 October 2007, during a press conference at Bilawal House, when a journalist asked her if she intended to continue running election campaigns in Pakistan after the incident, Shaheed Bibi replied unequivocally that "They also want me not to campaign and go back abroad. Those people do not want genuine democracy restored in the country. However, if democracy is not restored, the dangers for Pakistan will increase. I am committed to staying with my people."

In subsequent gatherings (Jalsas), she consistently reiterated, "We live and die with the people. We are a resilient nation, filled with ideas and emotions. We know how to live and how to face death."

Finally, the tragic day of December 27, 2007 arrived, when Shaheed Benazir Bhutto sacrificed her life among the people. She held onto the gift of public support given by her father, Shaheed Bhutto, until her last breath.

Today, on her birthday, this gift serves as a reminder for all those who can follow Shaheed Bibi's path in love for their country and its people. Shaheed Bibi's birthday gift is to never abandon the people’s hand.