Friday July 01, 2022

Benazir Bhutto: A life that touches others goes on forever

December 27, 2018

“Our destiny does not lie in our stars. It lies within us. Our destiny beckons us. Let us have the strength to grasp it” — Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto's assassination in 2007 had not only shocked the world but people in Pakistan started fearing that her death would cause serious repercussions to the future of the country.

A warm welcome given to Benazir Bhutto on her return to Pakistan in April 1986 and then unprecedented welcome on her return to homeland in Oct 2007 despite constant and serious threats to her life are golden chapters in the political history of Pakistan. Her rise at the age of 35 to the office of first woman chief executive of an Islamic state after a relentless struggle for restoration of democracy and her tragic end during the election campaign on December 27, 2007 in a second attack by the extremists at Rawalpindi just few kilometres away from the military headquarters strengthens our belief that life and death is in Allah's hand .She would have been leading Pakistan if she had been alive today.

Benazir Bhutto was a true fighter who bravely fought against the military dictators. Her sacrifices for democracy are unprecedented which gives inspiration to millions of her followers till today not to give up and never compromise on principles.

She had the courage and resolve to swim against the traditional thoughts of the Pakistani elite, especially on the issues of the common man.She never hesitated to express her thoughts in her own courageous way without caring for their fallouts and her love for the poor people reflects in their sentiments who would see a ray of hope in her.

She was confident that in the third millennium Pakistan will be in a better position when the gap between rich and poor will narrow down and the issue of literacy will be addressed by ensuring that each child gets education and support from the state.

This is a hard fact that after the judicial murder of her father she spent most of her prime youth behind bars and earned her place in history through perseverance and struggle against a military dictator. Moreover, her strong faith in the poor people of Pakistan who would believe that she was the harbinger of change in their lives. She was a strong advocate of democracy and empowering of the under-privileged. Her main objective was to ensure that all Pakistanis get their constitutional rights. She would want a liberal, moderate and progressive Pakistan and would not allow extremists to dictate their agenda.

Her vision on issues was very clear and she had strong communication skills to communicate with a common man.

She had the resolve, passion and commitment to the people of Pakistan to change their destiny. She challenged military dictator Ziaul Haq and looking at her commitment and dedication thousands of Bhuttoists came out on the streets to save PM Bhutto. Scores of them were hanged, flogged, thousands were awarded long imprisonment including Shahi Qila in Lahore and scores died of self-immolation to save PM Bhutto.

After her election to the office of the prime minister in 1988, Benazir Bhutto restored the constitutional rights of the citizens abrogated by Gen Ziaul Haq. She lifted the ban on students and trade unions, gave freedom to the press, and agreed to separate the judiciary from the executive. In her second term in 1993, she empowered women by appointing them to higher judiciary, ambassadors in foreign missions, established woman bank, women police stations and appointed lady health workers.

Today Pakistan stands on the crossroads of history. There is a complex political situation in the country. The decisions that we make today will certainly affect the future of Pakistan.

Apart from corruption, terrorism and tension on our frontiers, economic stability is a big challenge to Pakistan. There is a need for collective and sincere efforts by each one of us to change the political narrative of the country. Politicians as a result of blame game have lost their credibility and the political space for them is shrinking to an extent that other forces have stepped in with a new agenda. There is a need for an institutional democracy to rebuild the institutions, including the political parties, and to rebuild the country for our future enerations.

In such a volatile political atmosphere when country is at the verge of make or break absence of a National leader like Benazir Bhutto is badly felt who would have pulled the country out from the crises.

She was a visionary leader who could see what Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan is saying today that we must control our population. In 1994 Benazir Bhutto in her address to United Nations population division in Cairo had said that "Pakistan cannot progress, if it cannot check its rapid population growth. It is not the destiny of the people of Pakistan to live in squalor and poverty condemned to a future of hunger and horror." She wanted Pakistani authorities to address this issue keeping in view the demographic pressures together with migration which is transcending national frontiers. There is a serious need for the current government to deal with the issue of population planning.

Her contributions for reconciliation between Islam and the West were an effort in line with the geopolitical condition of Pakistan. She moved the country towards democracy but herself never got justice and was pushed to the wall by the then establishment of this country who would be regretting today the shabby manner in which she was treated.

Today her followers are mourning her 11th death anniversary with a deep pain in the manner in which a federal party and its ideology has been ruined and confined to few districts of Sindh. Benazir Bhutto's dream to see Pakistan as a liberal and a modern democracy where every person can exercise their right is shattering. Unfortunately, present political scenario is a threat to the entire system of the country. Tension is growing between the majority and the minorities, the liberals and the extremists which can lead Pakistan to a disaster.

She focused on basic needs of the people like health, education and poverty alleviation. The present government has taken few steps to improve economic situation through help from Saudi Arabia, UAE and China but these are temporarily arrangements. The rise and fall of dollar rates gives the impression that the economy is being run by stock brokers. There is a need to find out permanent solution by making good economic policies to put the country back on the right economic path.

Our armed forces by focusing their attention on terrorism have brought the country out of the abysmal situation of the past. The country previously has paid a heavy price for it by losing thousands of its soldiers and civilians including a great national leader Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto which has created a serious leadership vacuum.

There is a need for the present government to address the major issue of poverty because as Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto very rightly said that without war on poverty, war on terror cannot be won.

The Pakistani elite and middle class voted the PTI for its agenda to build a new Pakistan. There is increasing poverty and hunger. Gap between the rich and the poor has widened. Poor people are living in miserable conditions. Income of an average Pakistani is so low that they cannot make both ends meet. The basic necessities of life are out of reach, people are unable to pay their utility bills and they cannot afford to send their children to schools.

The Pakistan Economic Survey admits that poverty has increased since democracy was derailed in 1996 after dismissal of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s government.

Militancy and corruption are not the defining images for a country that was created with much hope. Time has come for all of us to rethink how can we return to real democracy to respect the will of the people. How can we build up institutions that can provide economic and social justice to the people.

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto's legacy were: One, her relentless democratic struggle spanned over a period of 30 years; two, a truly national, federal party with massive support in all the four federating units, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir.

Her democratic struggle started after the judicial murder of her father orchestrated by the military dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq. As a young woman she along with her mother and thousands of political workers bore the brunt of the Zia regime.

PPP workers were lashed, tortured and incarcerated while their leadership was baton charged in Gaddafi Stadium, dragged at the tarmac of Multan Airport and incarcerated at Sihala, Sahiwal, Karachi and Sukkur jails.

Apart from two truncated periods of government in 1988 and 1993 spanning five years her political carrier of 30 years was a period of constant struggle against the Zia dictatorship, Nawaz Sharif's anti-democratic setup and Musharraf’s military regime during which she was hounded from court to court and city to city until she opted for a long period of exile in Dubai which spanned for eight long years.

During her period in exile, she signed Charter of Democracy with her major opponant Mian Nawaz Sharif with a decision to respect each other’s mandate and not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

After her unfortunate assassination on December 27, 2007, the leadership of PPP and PML-N didn't learn any lessons rather repeated the same mistakes during their ten years in government leading to shrinking political space for the politicians.

The incumbent PPP leadership through their wrong policies and lack of capacity along with massive corruption charges failed to maintain the quality and charisma of the Bhuttos, the father and the daughter, and through inept governance and faulty policies reduced the once national and a federal party with roots in all the four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir to a fringe party, out of the political mainstream, restricted to a few districts of Sindh and that too in the hands of big landlords nothing to do with the grassroots politics of the PPP founded by Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

With each passing day the workers and supporters of Bhutto ideology mourn the death of their charismatic leader.