December 27 is a day of immense grief and national tragedy because it was, three years ago to this day, when Pakistan in particular and the world in general lost a leader of high stature in the person of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. It also conveys the message in no uncertain terms that even in her martyrdom Shaheed Benazir Bhutto continues to be the symbol of the federation of Pakistan that she was in her life.
Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s life is a classic study of courage, commitment towards people’s welfare, and steel-like determination to accomplish the goals she set for herself. She took over the mantle of leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party from her illustrious father Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the most trying circumstances. She then carried forward his mission and braved the oppression of a dictatorial regime for eleven years with utmost courage. She continued to inspire millions and kept their hopes alive during this dictatorship. It is the sole honour of the PPP that it has its roots in every section of society – be they workers, labourers, peasants, students, lawyers, teachers, intellectuals and women.
Due to her political wisdom and leadership, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto made her mark in the world politics. She was an embodiment of courage and endurance who did not allow her personal tragedies to stand in the way of her larger commitment towards her people.
I deem it pertinent to refer to quotes of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. In her address to a seminar on the legacy of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in April 1989, she said: “Courage and grace in the face of adversity are the hallmarks of a great leader.” In another speech at Peshawar University in 1995, she said: “The character of men and women is shaped by their own ability to overcome adversity and not to be bent in the face of a storm.”
She proved through personal example that she was a leader who practiced what she preached. There is no adversity, big or small that she did not face starting from martyrdom of her father, both her brothers, threats to her life and then, to the rigours of exile and imprisonment. I recall that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto used to say: “Turn your personal pain into your strength. You can conquer world with this strength.”
There is a very select and rare breed of people who become immortal after their deaths. No doubt Shaheed Benazir Bhutto is one of them. She was a heartthrob of millions of people and continues to rule their hearts and minds even in her martyrdom. Her entire life is a role model not only for the people of Pakistan but also the world. She was an incarnation of steadfastness, perseverance and determination. Her name will be chronicled in golden words in the annals of history.
History will remember Shaheed Benazir Bhutto for three things: firstly, the unwavering determination to reach out to her people; secondly, the courage to take on huge and seemingly insurmountable challenges and thirdly, the ability to forgive her enemies.
She may not be physically with us today but her ideals and vision continue to enlighten our path. The principles and values she fought and died for remain as relevant today as they were in the past.
Though there are many facets of her illustrious life, however, I will confine myself to only a few. The first and foremost was her declaration of jihad against militancy, extremism and terrorism. She clearly warned us of this menace as far back as 1994 in a keynote speech at the Seventh OIC summit in Casablanca. She knew well the dangers to her own life as a result of her stand against terrorism and extremism but the well-being and future of Pakistan were dearer to her heart. Those who killed her may have martyred an individual but they have not silenced the idea that she championed. She led the fight against the forces of darkness from the front and thus by choosing martyrdom at the hands of terrorists, she has safeguarded the future of this country.
Our great nation has suffered immensely due to the politics of vendetta and revenge. As a result of a lack of consensus among different political parties on the minimum rules of the game, there has been periodic derailment of democracy and eras of dictatorial rule. Her signing of the historic Charter of Democracy along with PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif represented a sincere effort at changing the political culture of the country. She knew that if the nation’s well-being was to be ensured, it was possible only through continuation of the democratic order.
In a speech she delivered at Port Qasim, Karachi, in August 1989, she said: “The politics of violence is the dire enemy of the hopes, the dreams and the ambitions of our people.” She believed that common man’s well-being lay in the continuation of democracy and the establishment of good governance.
The present democratic government has undertaken critical reforms in different fields of national life. In a short span of two and half years, we have travelled a long distance. The focus of reforms introduced by my government remains on reorienting the direction of state policy in favour of the common man — the man in the street who is the real stakeholder. Our historic successes such as the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan initiative, the adoption of the Seventh National Finance Commission Award, the passage of the 18th Constitutional amendment, the Gilgit-Baltistan Self-Governance and Empowerment Act, the Benazir Income Support Programme, different initiatives for empowerment of women, and a successful fight against terrorism and extremism to name only a few, are dedicated to the memory and vision of our martyred leader Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. In our struggle to accomplish these Herculean tasks, my coalition government and I myself have been guided by the politics of reconciliation and harmony originally espoused by our Shaheed Leader. History is being made in this country under the coalition government as we have successfully taken on structural issues of governance and reforms, which remained unresolved in the past.
This is merely the beginning of a journey. It is the first step which is difficult to take and thankfully we are well past the take-off stage. It is not time yet to rest on our laurels. We cannot afford to be complacent, for we have the debt of huge tasks conferred on us by our Shaheed leaders. Let us join one another in the spirit of reconciliation, harmony and friendship to rid the country of the grave challenges that it faces.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2010.
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