Benazir Bhutto remembered

Published: December 27, 2012
The writer was MNA from 2008-2012 and is media adviser to President Asif Ali Zardari

The writer was MNA from 2008-2012 and is media adviser to President Asif Ali Zardari

Today is the fifth death anniversary of Pakistan’s iconic leader, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. History remembers her as the first elected woman prime minister of a Muslim majority country. For millions of Pakistanis she was the embodiment of their hopes for a democratic, pluralist country and the desire to be free of the scourge of extremism and terrorism. She led and kept the PPP alive against many odds during and after the dark years of the obscurantist dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq.

Benazir Bhutto touched the lives of many Pakistanis by confronting military dictatorship in opposition and through her programmes to address the issues of the poorest and most marginalised during her two short stints in office. She was seen as a threat by those who saw her vision for Pakistan as a challenge to their militarised intrigues. For that reason alone she was hounded during her life and killed by the bigots who have hijacked our beloved country.

Bibi Shaheed firmly believed that women and those who followed other religions were equal Pakistanis in every way. She lived by her convictions and was killed for them. Her vision for Pakistan is summarised in her final book, fittingly titled Reconciliation. Bibi also left the PPP a Manifesto that she had personally worked on and read and reread countless times.

It is hard to forget the day of her assassination, the scenes at the hospital, that endless night carrying Bibi’s coffin in the C-130 with her young children and closest friends and aides on board. The long, terrible drive through the dark, sleeping villages of Sindh, driving behind the ambulance which carried our beloved Bibi home are seared in my memory. Buried next to her father at Garhi Khuda Baksh and close to her two brothers Mir Murtaza and Shahnawaz, Benazir Bhutto was like them, martyred by those who loved power more than Pakistan.

Many of us believed that Bibi Shaheed’s sacrifice of her life would bring change to Pakistan. The country was paralysed and even those who had been her fiercest political opponents during her lifetime grieved for her and her family. There was grief around the world. World leaders who had known Ms Bhutto personally either in her capacity as prime minister or as the leader of the opposition or from her exile years mourned. As did many citizens of countries near and far. In the years since her assassination, many of us have run into countless working people in many countries who express their grief over Bibi’s death the moment they find out that we are from Pakistan.

Today, on the fifth anniversary of her death, we have to ask ourselves whether we understood her ultimate sacrifice. Have the over-reaching powers of the establishment that consistently plotted against her democratic values been curbed? Has democracy and its roots been strengthened? Have the lives of Pakistan’s citizens improved materially and socially or at least been put on the path to improvement? Are Muslims of different denominations and our non-Muslim minorities safer today?

Several excellent laws have been passed by parliament. The visible improvement of Pakistan-India ties are to be celebrated. The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) — initially conceived by Mohtarma Bhutto herself along with economist Kaisar Bengali — is an extremely successful initiative with many new components. But much still has to be done and many of her ideas are still unfulfilled.

Pakistan remains in the grip of militarism and militancy. The superior courts have failed to expand access to justice, involving themselves in political issues instead. The democratic process continues to be undermined by invisible intrigues and many important issues end up being neglected. The establishment continues to think of ways around the Constitution instead of allowing the country to be run according to its principles. Instead of mourning what we have lost, we must use this occasion for self-reflection. We must remember her indefatigable energy, her love for her homeland, her endless patience and her step-by-step, day-by-day work together to reclaim Pakistan.

We owe Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto no less.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Mirza
    Dec 27, 2012 - 11:03AM

    ZAB and BB were Titans among all political leaders that is why both of them were rewarded by the voters several times. While these great leaders are eliminated their killers and rich enemies are still free to roam and spit venom against their family members and party. While beating upon the elected leaders of PPP their opponents pretend to be more loyal to ZAB and BB. Everybody knows who killed ZAB but the generals, their families and all the judges lived happily without much criticism from those who now talk about the “old PPP” and criticize current leadership. If ZAB and BB were not murdered there would be no current leadership!


  • Bold
    Dec 27, 2012 - 1:16PM

    The only question people should be asking the PPP government is when will the killers of BB get arrested? The government of Zardari has given the people of Pakistan nothing but death, destruction, chaos and insecurity.


  • karachiwala
    Dec 27, 2012 - 2:33PM

    “We owe Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto no less.”
    Dear Ms Ispahani
    Can you please let us let us know, without going into any political statement, as to why the murderers of Shaheed Bibi have not been arrested


  • Faisal
    Dec 27, 2012 - 2:37PM

    Who signed NRO with a dictator?


  • Shanawar Hashmi
    Dec 27, 2012 - 3:06PM

    With all due respect to the writer, I remember BB’s second tenure as a common citizen. I remember the skyrocketing prices in general, the doomed IPP deals for which we’re still feeling the curse and of course, her husband’s lavish lifestyle at the expense of my hard earned taxes. I had moved abroad at the time of her assassination and yes, people did condole with me her death but they only knew her as a liberal woman leader of a muslim country. They certainly didn’t know the state the country was in. In fact, most people here in the west care less about the state of the people of the country.


  • Sultan
    Dec 27, 2012 - 3:14PM


    Vote for change, vote PTI


  • Niz
    Dec 27, 2012 - 5:33PM

    “We owe Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto no less.” No we dont owe anything to anyone!!
    If we are speaking of owing things, then these so called leaders ( and their supporters) owe us our Pakistan!!!


  • Dec 27, 2012 - 7:18PM

    Any Plan for your govt to catch the culprits…. i guess he is at presidential house right now… Right?


  • Poor Farah
    Dec 27, 2012 - 8:35PM

    “I want to leave, to go somewhere where I should be really in my place, where I would fit in . . . but my place is nowhere; I am unwanted.”
    ― Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea


  • Mirza
    Dec 27, 2012 - 9:36PM

    @Faisal: “Who signed NRO with a dictator?”
    Who signed the surrender agreement with India in East Pakistan?
    Why did Nelson Mandela sit and signed agreement with the apartheid govt?
    Why did Yasir Arafat sign agreement with Israeli PM and shook hands?
    Why do Kashmiri leaders talk to Indian and Pakistani govt for their autonomy?
    People negotiate with their enemies to come to a solution. Otherwise there would be no agreement or cease fire in the history of human race. I guess surrendering and joining the dictators is what we all should condemn not talking for the rights of people.


  • Waseem
    Dec 28, 2012 - 8:20PM

    While the educated people of Pakistan refuse to believe in the democratic process: sooner or later they will realize its importance. PPP government’s performance will be judged in the next election and it will be ousted or reelected without a movement. Urban Pakistanis will come around and acknowledge the legacy of Benazir just they have finally recognized the legacy of Bhutto after being hand in hand with Zia for so long. Either way Benazir lives on in our hearts and our minds we don’t need their pointless approvals.


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