Saturday, 17 March, 2012 was one of the finest moments in our history. On this day for the first time an elected president addressed the joint session of the parliament a fifth time. That was a moment of joy for the entire nation that has suffered long to see democracy on the move despite decades of long catalogue of intrigues, machinations and extra-constitutional interventions.
That landmark event could only happen because of the untold sacrifices in blood, toil and tears of the masses who remained steadfast in their commitment to pursue the destiny chosen for them by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and those great leaders who braved worst possible persecution to keep alighted the torch of democracy.
The final goal for Pakistan was decided on 23 March 1940 in Lahore under the leadership of Mr Jinnah. And it was his unflinching faith in the democratic destiny of the nation for a socio-economic egalitarian system that the Muslims achieved it in a short span of seven years. Unfortunately, his dream of a liberal and progressive Pakistan was hijacked by obscurantist forces and establishment power troika comprising of Praetorian, civil and judicial bureaucracy.
To be where we stood on March 17th, being addressed by President Asif Zardari fifth time in a row with elected Prime Minister and a sovereign parliament basking in their full glory – was surely a moment of triumph to salute the nation and to remember the great leaders in our long struggle for democracy. One of the most outstanding of them all was Begum Nusrat Bhutto who was born on 23 March, 1929 many years before Muslims in India resolved to carve a separate homeland.
Her birth that day was not just a coincidence. She was destined by history to play the role of a great unifier of the nation. By taking on the worst dictator following Bhutto Sahib’s ouster and leading the country in one of the darkest periods of its history, she along with her brave daughter Benazir Bhutto glorified the steely determination of Pakistani women and Pakistan’s shackled masses.
They stole the march on many male leaders who preferred to surrender before the bayonets and the guns. It were the seeds of democracy sowed by her and her dearest daughter, nurtured by Benazir’s and the blood of the poor people that the sapling of democracy is taking firmer roots despite heavy odds of an unenviable legacy of problems inherited from yet another dictator.
Begum Sahiba’s life went through many ups and downs in Pakistani politics but she ignited the path of people’s resilience. Her husband, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party and served as both prime minister and president in the 1970s. Her daughter was twice elected prime minister despite machinations of anti-democratic forces now getting exposed by Asghar Khan’s petition before the Supeme Court. Her son-in-law President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani – through martyred Benazir’s legacy of national reconciliation – have turned the tables on all those who opposed democracy.
Begum Nusrat Bhutto took over as head of the Pakistan Peoples Party after Shaheed Bhutto’s elected government was overthrown in a coup by General Ziaul Haq in 1977. She remained leader of the party for several years after her husband was judicially murdered by Zia in 1979. She was herself elected twice to the Pakistan’s parliament.
She was one of the most charismatic leaders of her time and god-mother for the entire nation, especially those under-privileged who found in her a voice for themselves. Her services for democracy and the masses of Pakistan will never be forgotten in the annals of history.