Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto — five years of martyrdom
“Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed personified the pleasant image of Pakistan. For her, Pakistan was her life; and for this she gave away that very life. Her larger than life political profile, graceful personality and international stature will echo as long as Pakistan lives. Her views and ideology will continue to influence the world like a fragrant flower in the times to come.”
“Mohtarma Benazir was a beacon of hope for the hapless people of Pakistan. She represented the materialisation of their dreams. In her face the downtrodden could see the eventual restoration of their rights and respect. She kept the light of their ultimate rise aflame. A lot has been lost by her martyrdom but her revolution and legacy is alive in the shape of PPP workers.”
I wrote this eulogy at the time of her first death anniversary. It was a heartfelt expression of our pain and emotions over her loss. She remains alive in the hearts of her people. It was true then and remains true after five years. And it will remain so in the coming years and decades.
It is strange that the five years of her martyrdom coincide with the near completion of the PPP’s five-year rule. It is even stranger and painful that the mystery of her assassination remains unresolved despite the passing of our party’s five-year rule. The assassins who also killed the hopes of the people that she represented remain scot free. Her followers will not sleep peacefully until the culprits are brought to justice.
Mohtarma Shaheed’s bond with the masses got established in 1977 when she stood up against the martial law of dictator Zia-ul-Haq. She activated the movement against her father Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s arrest in a fake murder case. She endured the torture and long imprisonments with grace and patience. She raised the issue of her father’s predicament worldwide and exposed the evil dictatorship and its satanic designs. She was subjected to worse torture during over five years of house arrest and imprisonment. This raised her stature worldwide. She was finally allowed to leave abroad on 11 January, 1984, for medical treatment. This marked the end of her jail time and the beginning of her freedom. After five years of imprisonment, she was received by the party workers and leaders at London’s Heathrow Airport with immense excitement. This was also the recognition of her leadership and bravery. She was given coverage by the British and the world media as an icon of human rights and democracy. This also exposed the evilness of the dictatorial regime.
Mohtarma Shaheed launched her movement after a brief ear operation. She activated PPP workers not only in Britain but Europe and Americas. She proved her political mettle and became a bane for the dictator back home. This was the phase when she groomed herself from a young brave leader to an international stateswoman—a stature that few in the world could match in those heady 1980s.
She endured extreme hardship with unmatched perseverance. She would do her own shopping, cook and wash clothes her self—a princess who lived like a pauper for the sake of her democratic values. She would travel in London underground rail like ordinary people, disregarding all security concerns. This was what bonded her with ordinary people. They could identify with her—the graceful way she lived her Shakespearian tragedy. This is why she lives in the heart and minds of the impoverished masses.
And it is because of her that the PPP is close to completing its five years. The credit for implementing her dreams and ideology definitely goes to PPP’s Co-Chairperson and President Asif Zardari. May Mohtarma’s soul rest in peace!
The writer is Chairman, Bhutto Legacy Foundation and former foreign policy spokesman to Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Email: [email protected]