As I sat down to pen my thoughts on the first death anniversary of Begum Nusrat Bhutto — one of the greatest leaders of Pakistan — I received the good news that brave Malala Yousufzai, targeted by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is on her way to recovery.
Soon after, came a historic piece of news. The Supreme Court of Pakistan — after 16 years — vindicated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s charge that the 1990 elections were stolen from her through a conspiracy hatched by then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, former army chief General (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and their intelligence apparatus in collusion with the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad politicians that included some leaders who, even today, continue to masquerade as champions of democracy. The Supreme Court concluded that all those high and mighty individuals, in cahoots with their political puppets, shamelessly violated the Constitution.
The prophetic words of Benazir reverberated in my ears: “Inshallah, a day will come when I shall stand vindicated.” The Supreme Court has dealt a severe blow to all those who still harbour the dream to be kicked into power by the jackboots and their Taliban supporters. Despite being educated at the University of Oxford, unlike those clerics who are bigoted by their bearing, certain individuals ignore that the TTP is not killing any foreigner in its ‘jihad’, but targeting innocent Pakistanis like Malala, our soldiers, and all those who believe in enlightenment. The TTP agenda is not to free Afghanistan from what Imran Khan calls “foreign occupation” but to occupy Pakistan.
Why I have opted to correlate Malala with Begum Bhutto is relevant since the 15-year-old brave girl, after having experienced the worst during the Taliban occupation of Swat, is fighting for her life. Like Begum Bhutto and Benazir, she stood up fearlessly against the barbarians who opposed girls’ education and women’s rights. Malala’s is a commitment that follows the illustrious footsteps of Begum Bhutto and Benazir, who fought and sacrificed their lives for the empowerment of women, education of girls and the less privileged.
Although Begum Bhutto is not with us any more, her spirit must be feeling elated at the brave actions of Malala, the relentless commitment of the PPP government and the Pakistani people to fight against obscurantism and the Supreme Court verdict in the Asghar Khan petition. Malala’s gradual recovery and the Supreme Court verdict have provided rare moments of joy for a nation that has suffered and waited long to see the apex Court vindicate genuine democratic leaders rather than bailing out military dictators and their anti-democracy hirelings. The resilience of our people as manifested by Malala and the continued sustainability of democracy despite a long catalogue of intrigues, machinations and extra-constitutional interventions, symbolise our national determination for overcoming all internal and external challenges.
These landmark events need separate comments but I would like to salute the likes of Begum Bhutto, Benazir and now Malala, as well as the Pakistani people, government, and the civil and military leadership, who have remained steadfast in their commitment to pursue the destiny chosen for them by Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The best tribute to the departed soul of Begum Bhutto would be to ensure — come what may — the education of girls and the rights of women, besides of course, upholding the flag of democracy, sovereignty of parliament and inculcation of the values of tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2012.