“Wazir-e-Azam Benazir Benazir,” “Charo soubo ki zanjeer Benazir Benazir,” “Ab to raj kerai gi Benazir Benazir,” “Roshan Pakistan ki tasveer Benazir Benazir.” These were the slogans every man was chanting on the morning of 18th October when their leader, their sister, their mother, their daughter was returning after living in eight years of exile.
Not only were the workers of the Pakistan Peoples Party(PPP) chanting these slogans,but every person was who wanted a new Pakistan, a democratic Pakistan. The youngsters wearing the PPP flag were to be seen every where, slogans in favor of the party were being heard in every part of Karachi, little children, old men and women were all in a festive mood. Everyone wanted to receive Mohtarma Bhutto and well over two million people had showed up at the airport. There was a festive mood all over the city the workers of the party had covered almost every sign board in Karachi with banners of, “welcome Benazir welcome,” and “Benazir aie hai roz gar lai hai.”
When the plane landed at Karachi, hordes of photographers gathered at the foot steps to capture the triumphant moment when Bhutto stepped back on Pakistani soil after more then eight years of exile. This victorious woman who stepped out of the plane wearing emerald green and white shalwar kameez, Pakistans national colors was very different from the “pinkie” she used to be before her fathers judicial murder. The “pinkie” at Oxford was very different, she used to spend her vacations at top tourist destinations in the world, and at university used to go to picnics and all she had on her mind on weekends was to drive to central London in her yellow sports car for a picnic have Ben & Jerry’s peppermint stick ice cream and go back and study. At that time she was not the leader of millions, her father handled the politics but after the coup headed by General Zia-ul-haq resulted in his martyrdom, it was the responsibility of Benazir Bhutto to be the leader. She often said that, “I never chose this life it chose me.” Many thought the spoilt brat would never be able to lead the PPP but she proved everyone wrong. She not only lead the PPP but went on to became Prime Minister twice.
As she walked down the stairs of the plane in the Pakistani tradition of blessing a journeys beginning, a copy of the Quran was held above her head; as her foot touched the tarmac she raised her hands, palm upwards, in prayer. Only then did she falter and tears rolled down from her eyes. These were the tears of joy, later she told the media that she was, “just so happy to be back on Pakistani soil. It was as if a great weight had been removed from me, I counted the hours, the minutes, the seconds and now I am finally back.” The reason she came back she told the media was, “Today, the shadow of another Military dictator casts itself apocalyptically over this unfortunate land. Today, Pakistan again stands precariously at the crossroads. Today, the nation cries out for a Bhutto and that Bhutto will be me, I will die if I have to for the restoration of democracy like my father.”
Her convoy was moving very slowly because of the millions of people who had come to see their leader. Everyone was chanting slogans like, “wazir-e-azam Benazir” “ab lay ker rahega hur insaan roti kapra aur makan,” and “jeay Bhutto!” Every person there was pushing each other because they were so eager to catch a glimpse of Mohtarma. People were showering the truck of Benazir Bhutto on which she was waving to the crowds with other PPP leaders with rose petals. The sweet shops in Lyari and many areas where PPP has a strong hold were sold out. The convoy moved at the speed of few feet every hour, everyone was happy but then a suicide bombing took place which resulted in the killing of 125 people and injuring over 450 others. The security included police men and PPPs special security, “jan nisare Benazir” (can give life for Benazir) but they were unable to stop the bombing. However, Motharma was safely transported to Bilawal house, this act of cowardice did not stop Bhutto from rallying and also failed to stop the supporters of Mohtarma who came in large numbers at her rallies. She was once asked if such incidents were to take place sometime in the future will she give up politics, her reply was, “We are fighters, Bhutto’s never give up.”
After her fathers judicial murder Benazir Bhutto spent much of her time fighting the regime, house arrest or in prison. She continued the struggle of her father and was able to create a strong opposition against the regime and she proved this in 1986. After a few years in exile she decided it was time to raise a voice against the regime and she decided she would return to Pakistan. Before boarding the plane, she had a conversation with Safdar Abbasi a leader of PPP of which she wrote in her autobiography. Safdar Abbasi told her they would be expecting about five hundred thousand people at Lahore where Bhutto was to land and that he would tell this figure to media, but Bhutto disagreed and told him to tell the media that they were expecting about one hundred thousand because if, “470,000 people showed up the regime would not be able to say we received less people than we expected.”
But the people of Lahore proved both of them wrong. Millions of people were at the airport to receive her, and when she got the news from the pilot she thought it was a joke. As she got off the plane she saw the people who came to see her, the working class, the taxi drivers, the domestic servants who were ready to die at a single wave of their leader. All approaches to the Lahore airport were blocked by thronging crowds who had been waiting since the previous night. By dawn the crowd had swelled up to over two million people, They not only came from the adjoining areas but also from the remotest districts of Punjab, Sindh and the frontier. The atmosphere was more festive than political, the streets were decorated with the PPP tricolor flags, colorful buntings and banners. Several groups danced to anti martial law songs after all this was the home coming of their leader, the chairperson of PPP. People were raising slogans against the regime and many were asked what Mr.Bhutto or Benazir gave them that they were mad about her and her party, one taxi driver replied, “Bhutto may not have given us anything in material terms, but he did give us the realization that we are human beings, we have rights and now we want change and only Benazir can bring about that change.” Mohtarma rallied all over Pakistan and attracted millions of people at her rallies, where ever she went crowds gathered and this was the same crowd who stood up for Bhutto when the coup against him was launched and Mr.Bhutto was imprisoned. They were punished with lashes, but with every lash they shouted, “aien ko bahal karo,” “Bhutto ko reha karo.”
These supporters showed their personal happiness when Mohtarma decided to marry Asif Ali Zardari. Many believed the rumors that Benazir has given up politics and now would continue her life as an ordinary housewife, but then in an interview she told her workers and supporters, “I have married but my priority is Pakistan a Pakistan with democracy.” This put down all the rumors with an iron hand and well over 500,000 people showed up at the public wedding of Benazir on December 18th 1987. This marriage resulted in three children two daughters and one son, Bilawal, Baktawar and Aseefa.
Benazir belonged to a very rich family, her family was known as the elite of the elite, the largest land owning family in the province of Sindh and later the family became one of the largest political dynasties. The family gave many sacrifices for Pakistan, the large family of six has now been reduced to two. The first death in the family was of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who was hanged on April 4th by the military dictator General Zia ul Haq. Mr. Bhutto never trusted the army, so he appointed Zia ul Haq as the chief of army staff who was loyal to him but later he headed a coup to over throw Mr.Bhutto, who faced a trial and was later executed.
Bhutto's trial began on October 24 on charges of "conspiracy to murder" Ahmed Raza Kasuri. The prosecution produced a witness in Masoood Mahmood, who had been the chief of the Federal Security Force under Bhutto. Mr. Mahmood testified that Bhutto had ordered the killing of Kasuri. Four men who were arrested and charged as Kasuri's assassins testified to confirm Mahmood's testimony. Bhutto charged that the army had fabricated the evidence and accused Justice Maulvi Mushtaq Ali of taking orders from Zia. The Lahore High Court sentenced Bhutto to death on March 18, 1978; he was also to pay Rs. 25,000 in fines or face six months rigorous imprisonment.
While General Zia published a white paper accusing Bhutto of rigging the 1977 elections, the Supreme Court of Pakistan agreed to hear Bhutto's appeal. Chief Justice S. Anwarul Haq adjourned the court until the end of July 1978, supposedly because 5 of the 9 appeals court judges were willing to overrule the Lahore verdict. One of the pro-Bhutto judges was due to retire in July. Chief Justice S. Anwarul Haq presided over the trial, despite being close to Zia, even serving as Acting President when Zia was out of the country. Bhutto's lawyers managed to secure for Bhutto the right to conduct his own defense before the Supreme Court. On December 18, 1978, Bhutto made his appearance in public before a packed courtroom in Rawalpindi and addressed the court for four days continuously. On February 6, 1979 the Supreme Court, upheld the verdict by a narrow 4-3 vote. Bhutto appealed to the court to review its decision, but the plea was rejected on March 24. Despite personal appeals from various heads of state, Zia refused to commute the sentence. Bhutto was executed by hanging in the early hours of the morning of April 4. Immediately after his hanging, there were violent protests in Pakistan, many of whom felt that Zia should meet the same fate. The regime was able to kill Mr.Bhutto but there remains a powerful, persistent, possibly growing but certainly undying, mystic belief held by millions of people, not only Sindhis but Punjabis, Balouchis, and Phatan tribesmen as well that “shaheed” Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was never hanged, that he never died. “zulfi bhutto lives on,” they say, “and he always will!”
MEN MAY COME MEN MAY GO BUT THE BHUTTO LEGEND LIVES ON!
After Mr.Bhutto it was the turn of Mir Shahnawaz Bhutto who was the youngest of the four children Mr.Bhutto had. Benazir Bhutto described him as, “could bring life into the dead, could make you laugh till you cried.” On July 18, 1985, the 27 year old Shahnawaz was found dead in his French Riviera apartment in Nice. He died under mysterious circumstances, and the Bhutto family firmly believe he was poisoned. No one was brought to trial for murder, but Shahnawaz's wife Rehana was considered a suspect by the French authorities and remained in their custody for some time. She was found not guilty and later allowed to travel, and went to the U.S. Shahnawaz was believed to have helped organize a group designed to overthrow the regime of President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq,The funeral of Shahnawaz turned into a defiant show of opposition to Zia's military rule. It was held in a Larkana sports stadium, attended by an estimated 25,000 people.
After the the tragic death of Shahnawaz the family suffered a great blow because of the death of Mir Murtaza Bhutto. On the night of 19th September 1996, the estranged brother of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and the only surviving son of the Martyred Lion of Sindh Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Mir Murtaza Bhutto was shot dead along with 6 other party activists in a police encounter near his residence.
After all these deaths in the Bhutto family it was time for Benazir Bhutto. On December 27, 2007, Bhutto was killed while leaving a campaign rally for the PPP at Liaquat National Bagh, where she had given a spirited address to party supporters in the run-up to the January 2008 parliamentary elections. After entering her bulletproof vehicle, Bhutto stood up through its sunroof to wave to the crowds. At this point, a gunman standing behind and to the left of the vehicle fired three shots at her with a pistol. Immediately afterwards, someone in the area detonated explosives, killing approximately 20 people. Bhutto was critically wounded and was rushed to Rawalpindi General Hospital. She was taken into surgery at 17:35 local time, and her martyrdom was announced at 18:16.
This was the same ground where Benazir Bhutto gave her speech after returning from exile in 1986, she recalled with tears in her eyes, “today, as I came to the Rawalpindi rally, I felt my father walking beside me and saying he was around to support me.” At the funeral which was held at Naudero, the ancestral place of the Bhutto’s in unison the PPP suporters chanted, “zinda hai, Bhutto zinda hai,” while their eyes brimed over and their words choked, a certain inexplicable energy seemed to exude and the incantation grew stronger almost as if Benazir Bhutto was prodding and willing them from above. To all of them the life of Benazir Bhutto had seemed a part of natural order of things, a thing as certain as the rising or the setting of the sun. Benazir Bhutto was a publicity gurus dream, with the power to command more global attention than her successors ever could, even in her death. Her father, with his legendary charisma, continues to be revered by a vast populace, even after thirty years of his death, for his sheer magnetism, a quality she inherited from him. While some of her competitors smoke timidly behind bulletproof glass kiosks at their rallies, she literally looked death straight in the face in her determination to pursue her campaign trail. Looking back at her photographic montages of her early years, we are reminded of the same idealistic Benazir Bhutto who, resplendent in green satin with crimson lip-gloss, pouffed hair, her complexion radiant with elation, took her oath for the first time. Its hard to believe that even she could die. Today as she lies six feet under, her persona evokes a rare kind of glamour etched with underlying tragedy that only a very few personages can possess, that places her among world icons. Benazir Bhutto will always be remembered by friends and foes alike. In her death she stands martyred in a way no one could ever have imagined. Whether one politically supported her or not, none can say they were untouched by her aura. “Zindagi Benazir thi teri. Moth bhi Benazir hai teri.”
Bhutto's body was flown to her hometown of Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in Larkana District, Sindh, and was buried next to her father in the family mausoleum at a ceremony attended by hundreds of thousands of mourners. This was the tragic end of the legendary Benazir Bhutto, but many believe that she is not dead and at the mention of her name shout the slogan, “kal bhi bhutto zinda tha ajj bhi bhutto zinda hai.” Before coming to Pakistan she wrote a will which showed that she knew this could happen to her so she had already named the Chairman of PPP. Bilawal was appointed chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party on 30 December 2007. His father, Asif Ali Zardari, had been named the new chairman in Benazir Bhutto's will, but he asked for his son to be appointed instead. Asif will be co-chairman. In the same press conference Asif also announced that Bilawal would henceforth use the name "Bilawal Bhutto Zardari", whereas he was previously known as "Bilawal Zardari,” and that all his children would include Bhutto in their surname.
Now the responsibility has been transferred to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 19 year old youngster who barely knows anything about the politics in his country. He is currently studying at Christ Church Collage of Oxford the same University from where his mother and grandfather had graduated from. He is just a simple teenager who loves to spend time with his friends, go on picnics and eat junk food, just like his mother had been before the judicial murder of her father which transformed her into someone who gave her life for democracy and perhaps Bilawal too, would be transformed into a charismatic person like his mother who fought for democracy till her death. All we can say is God bless him, give him patience and leadership qualities like his mother. “THE SON WILL RISE,” is the thought of every PPP worker and they all pray for the success of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
Come what may, the Bhutto legend lives on!