Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto

Party Structure History Articles & Issues

Benazir Bhutto — my great leader

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan
The Dailytimes June 21, 2011

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto is the most written about leader of Pakistan. Throughout her life she was a media celebrity and basked in the glory of public attention. Due to the uninhibited devotion and love of the masses for her, the writers and commentators perforce had to find out and write about what was so charismatic and captivating about her that the children, men, woman, commoners and elite regarded her as a focus of their hopes. Only one thing is visible to us, her love for the masses that formed an unshakable bond between the two and gained an added strength during the times of adversity. Whenever an attempt was made to separate her from the people by sending her into exile or behind the bars, that connection was further reinforced, imparting eternity to the words that the founder of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had written to her on her 25th birthday from Central Jail Rawalpindi, “What gift can I send you from the death cell, I present the hand of the masses as a gift to you”. These words became the axis of the life of Mohtarma Shaheed. Like a dutiful daughter she always kept this rare and last gift from her incarcerated father, most dear to her. She never faltered in her determination and putting aside the life comforts she took an oath to live and die for the masses.

After the death of her father she assumed the leadership of the party and faced the forces of exploitation with unswerving perseverance. During the tyrannical and black era she faced detention, incarceration and finally was sent into exile. Her love for the downtrodden masses did not allow her to stay away from them for long. She returned to the country on April 10, 1986 and launched a peaceful movement for the restoration of democracy and finally in 1988 the people’s power swept away the black clouds of martial law and democracy was restored in the country. She earned the honour of becoming the first women ruler of the Islamic world. But the forces inimical to democracy never relented in their machinations and only after 20 months the assemblies were dissolved to end the democratic rule in the country.

The PPP was once again forced to sit into opposition. A number of false cases were instituted against Mohtarma Nusrat Bhutto, Bibi Shaheed and Asif Ali Zardari and they were put behind bars. But she staged a comeback through the 1993 elections and for the second time became the prime minister of Pakistan, an honour that only her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto enjoyed before this. People repeatedly paid the debt of their love for their beloved leaders but even this government could not complete its mandated tenure and the assemblies were dissolved in November 1996. Again several references were filed against Mohtarma and her husband who had to go through the rigours of imprisonment for eight long years without being convicted. During the same period she also had to face a number of cases but that could not dent her resolve and determination. She continued her struggle for democracy unfazed by these trials and tribulations because once again martial law had been promulgated in the country in October 1999. In the words of Muneer Niazi” Ik Aur Dary Ka Samna Tha Muneer Mujhey, Mein Ik Darya Key Par Utra To Mein Nain Dekha” (When I crossed a river I came to know that I had to wade through another one).

Throughout my life I have been greatly impressed and influenced by the continued struggle of Mohtarma. I was brought up in a house where there was lot of love and devotion for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. I saw my late father Ashiq Hussain Awan crying for the first time over the martyrdom of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. These were the formative years of my consciousness and wisdom and I could never break free from this spell of devotion. The struggle of Mohtarma also aroused the love of the masses in my heart although the beginning was quite different, as I had decided to serve the masses by becoming a doctor. I still vividly remember the day, which was the best of my life, when prime minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto graced the convocation of the Jinnah Medical College in Lahore on my invitation as the president of the student union. I was so overwhelmed that despite my best efforts to put on the badge of chief guest on her I could not fasten the buckle and Mohtarma sensing my feelings smilingly said”let me help you”.

Mohtarma admired our courage for inviting her, as she knew that the college administration was reluctant to invite her as chief guest, there being an opposition government in the province. But Mohtarma accepted my invitation to honour the student union. Surely I will cherish her words of praise for us forever. I decided to follow the footsteps of Mohtarma. The words and sentiments that she expressed for me, when I applied for a party ticket to contest the 2008 elections on the general seat, guaranteed success for me in every sphere of my life. Mohtarma thought that I would request her for a special seat but after listening to my thoughts she said, ”I congratulate you for your success in advance for the courage and determination that you have shown.” Mohtarma’s words became a reality but she was not among us to witness those moments. After her martyrdom, the people voted the PPP into power, yet again proving their infallible love for the party that started with the founder chairman and even today remains unaffected. But to earn that love, one has to die for the masses. This phenomenon is best explained by the following couplet ”Matti ki mohabat mein hum ashufta sarone nane, who qarz utarey hein jo wajab bi naheen they” (In our lunacy and love for our land we have paid even those debts which were not due to be paid).

Today is the fourth anniversary after the martyrdom of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed. The government and democracy gifted by her are well entrenched in the country. The PPP government under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari and Yousaf Raza Gilani is following a policy of reconciliation bequeathed by Mohtarma. There are no political prisoners in the country. The media is no more in fetters and there is no bar whatsoever on freedom of expression. Although law and order is a very grave issue confronting the country but the government is committed to eliminate this menace. The government will fix the economy by nudging it into the right direction with a view to eliminate poverty and unemployment and to provide relief to the masses groaning under the weight of the burgeoning inflation so that it can stand triumphant before the spirit of Mohtarma. Today, on the birth anniversary of Mohtarma every sincere worker and leader of PPP renews the pledge that like their martyred leaders they will serve the masses till the last breath and they will live and die for them.

The writer is the federal minister for information and broadcasting






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