Remembering Daughter of the East
Benazir Bhutto (21 June 1953 – 27 December 2007)
One might disagree with her political ideology, but she was a visionary and seasoned politician. Following the legacy of her charismatic father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, she audaciously faced all perils. The father entered the gallows and the daughter intercepted the bullet. Historians will quote her as an example while discussing courage, valour and heroic stances adopted by firm fisted women around the world. During her last address to a public rally in Liaqat Baagh Rawalpindi, Benazir Bhutto seemed not less than a gallant warrior of democracy. Her resolve for rescuing the country from its ‘socio-political quagmire’ strengthened with each word that she delivered on December 27, 2007. Unfortunately, the nation didn’t get a chance to assess the mature political vibrancy of Benazir. The first woman premier of a Muslim country was shot dead soon after she bade farewell to her supporters at Liaqat Baagh. Pakistanis witnessed a second political assassination at the same place (first being that of Liaqat Ali Khan– first premier of Pakistan). The culprits are yet to be discovered and brought to book, for both the tragedies that befell the young nation. Her prognostication about the conditions following, in case of her assassination, turned into reality. ‘My death will serve as a catalyst for change’, said late Benazir.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won the general elections of 2008. The country got rid of Musharraf regime and the judiciary was restored after a long, monotonous struggle of coalition partners that joined the lawyers’ movement. Benazir’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari hailed the party as its vice-chairman and her son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, embraced chairmanship at a young age. The next general elections are round the corner. It is for the first time in the political history of Pakistan that a democratically elected government is likely to complete its constitutional five-year tenure. As per prophecy, her assassination did mark a significant wave of democratic transition. Undoubtedly, Pakistan was enmeshed in innumerable problems like power crisis, faltering economy and the country’s steepening position into the abyss of extremism. The past five years weren’t easy for the subjects and the constituents. Governments’ clash with the judiciary, a chequered relation with the opposition factions and disgruntled allies like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) accounted for a fragile democratic stature. What baffled the most was the considerable deviance of the incumbent government from Benazir Bhutto’s political conviction.
In her first political speech that she has narrated in her book, ‘Daughter of the East’, Benazir argued with Professor Michael Walzer on Pakistan’s inability to provide Bengalis with the right of self-determination. With her quivering lips, young Benazir, silenced an audience of 201 students (1 herself) as she opposed the Professor by stating that the right of self-determination was granted to Bengalis in 1947. It’s a lamentable fact that Pakistan People’s Party under President Zardari didn’t follow the vocal audacity of Benazir to improve Pakistan’s place on the international horizon. I doubt if Shaheed-e-Jamhooriyat (martyr of democracy- the title PPP ascribes with Benazir) would have sent an op-ed to Washington Post in the wake of Abbotabad raid by the US Navy SEALs. From the Movement to Restore Democracy (MRD) to her last publicly signed document, Charter of Democracy (CoD), her dissent for oppression, favour towards political liberty and commitment to democratic values was obvious. She was a confident leader who resisted subjugation and enslavement till her last breath. Another thing that goes to her credit is the way she reassembled the barracks of PPP to ensure that it remains a cohesive political force after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s death.
The recent fragmentation of PPP with the exclusion of someone as important as Shah Mehmood Quraishi and thwarting echoes of members like Zulfiqar Mirza, depicts the inefficacy of today’s PPP to contain separatist divergence. A leadership which cannot serve as a unifier has a tendency to misgovern the country.
Although the post-Benazir PPP attempted to revive concepts of ‘political reconciliation’ and national integration through coalitions and National Finance Commission Award, respectively. It takes performance and administrative efficiency to reside in the hearts of the masses. Benazir Bhutto wasn’t an adept administrator as well, but a visionary leader who possessed political acumen. The ideological liberalism of the PPP requires a projection through governance strategies, articulation of public sentiments and clear political orientations. The nation poured in sympathy votes the last time as a token of homage to brave Benazir. Upcoming elections will conclude in accordance with the performance of Zardari-led PPP. The essential Bhuttoism isn’t that pure now as late Benazir mentions in Daughter of the East:
“My father’s imprint on me, however, keeps me going.
Endurance. Honour. Principle.
In the stories my father used to tell us as children, the Bhuttos always
won a moral fight.”
This blog post has also been published as ‘Tribute to Benazir Bhutto’ in The News International Blog http://blogs.thenews.com.pk/blogs/2012/12/tribute-to-benazir-bhutto/