Saturday April 13, 2024

Shaheed BB — a star twinkling in hearts

By Bashir Riaz
June 21, 2018

The Daughter of Pakistan, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto is the star on the horizon of politics that neither fades away nor breaks down. This tribute was given to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto by a delegate from Middle East on the occasion of 50th commemoration of the Socialist International.

The ceremony of the Socialist International took place in Portugal where people from various walks of life participated including politicians, pro-peace activists, writers and thinkers fighting against poverty and struggling for socio-economic justice.

On this occasion of the commemoration, the delegation representing Pakistan People’s Party included myself, Mian Misbah ur Rahman, Mr. Zaka Ashraf, and two ladies.

Among various democracies of the world, BB Shaheed stands out as an unequivocal symbol of democracy. She is the person who spent her life fighting the dictatorship and even gave her life for democracy for the sake of the people of Pakistan. On the international level today, programmes have been introduced in Universities and various seminars are organized to take advantage of the political wisdom and the legacy of Shaheed BB.

In April 1999, a conference was organized for women by the local mayor. I attended that conference along with Shaheed BB. At that time, Shaheed BB was touring America for lectures and sent me a message that I should reach Portugal and accompany her at the conference. The conference focused on the political and social role of women. Everyone greatly appreciated Shaheed BB’s speech. She answered all the questions in her signature way and everyone wished to meet her. Therefore, during lunch, she mingled with the participants and had discussion with them in a very amicable way. She was very happy.

Upon our return to London, we saw the news that because of not appearing in the court, Shaheed BB was sentenced to three years in prison. She commented on this sad news by noticing the irony of how she was appreciated in Europe but her own country continued to oppress her.

Apart from Europe, the Arab World also gave Shaheed BB immense respect and she was known as the Daughter of Islam. Shaheed BB was a leader who represented a democratic and progressive Pakistan on the international level. She was the first woman Prime Minister of the Muslim World. She fought against the tyrannical rule of dictators who actively tried to oppress her and the workers of Pakistan People’s Party. However, Shaheed BB always stood side-by-side along with her people not only during her life but also in death.

While commenting on the false cases against her, Shaheed BB would say that such tactics can never break her resolve or dampen her spirits. On the contrary, challenges encouraged her to re-double her struggle for democracy with great fortitude. She believed that Allah tests His special subjects.

During exile, Shaheed BB was fighting simultaneously on several fronts. She was a mother as well as a father to her children. She had a sense of loneliness however, she utilized that time for party work and to keep an eye on the global politics. She used to work on her computer 5 hours every day, writing articles and publishing her statements on various matters. Due to this reason, between 1999 and 2007, PPP stayed functional and united.

A beautiful aspect of Shaheed BB’s personality is that she had a kind heart and cared for the poor. She used to feel the pain of others just like her own and used to consider it her duty to alleviate the suffering of the down-trodden. She worked towards this end when she became the Prime Minister and helped numerous families. She always helped her party workers when in need as well. She had a special fund that she utilized to help people associated with journalism and literature. She gave financial support to renowned journalist Hameed Akhtar, the progressive poet Zaheer Kashmiri, Hafeez Raqib, Asrar Zaidi, actress Sabeeha Khanum etc. Once, she gave a tip of Rs. 100,000 to the caretaker of Pak Tea House, bringing joy to his household. She helped scores of people through me. She gave employment opportunities to several people. A lot of people benefited from her generosity. Even today, the less fortunate ones remember the kindness and big-heartedness of Shaheed BB and keep her in their prayers.

After Shahadat, the entire World recognized BB as a great leader. Just like her parents, Shaheed BB had a lot of charisma. I witnessed all her traits and her personality first hand as I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to accompany her everywhere. For this reason, she referred to me as her shadow. She was very kind to me and the trust she bestowed upon me is invaluable and an asset for me. June 21, 2018 marks Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s 65th birthday. In her life, she shone like a bright star in the hearts of the people, and in her death the glow of the star continues to guide her people in the direction of democracy and peace. (The author is the former spokesperson of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Chairman of Bhutto Legacy Foundation).