Lived and died for democracy

“I would prefer to die for the cause that I struggled for all my life, rather than be run over by a bus.”

This was martyred Benazir Bhutto’s conviction. And she lived up to it when she was assassinated on December 27, 2007 after she had returned home after 8 years of exile to free the country from the stranglehold of a dictator holding the people of Pakistan hostage.

Bhutto’s homecoming on October 18 was an ominous precursor to what was waiting for her. Hundreds and thousands of people from the four corners of the country had festively cavalcaded to Karachi to give her unprecedented welcome only to end in a blood bath and death of over 150 PPP jiyalas when the suicide bombers meant for her could not rip through her protective human wall to blow her. It was a warning from the men who felt gravely threatened by her. It did not deter her, nor did it dampen her resolve. Rather, it strengthened her resilience.

She did not return home for pelf and power. She had seen it all and much more as the daughter of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and herself twice, as Prime Minister of Pakistan besides of course the  judicial murder of the man who made Pakistan an invincible nuclear power. She had suffered decades of torture, imprisonment, prosecution and persecution on false charges along with hundreds and thousands of people who bore lashes on their bare backs, bayonets, hangings and long imprisonments with the hope of a brighter, democratic and secular Pakistan according to the dream of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Before she embarked on her journey to Musharaf’s ordained Kofa she had been warned by her friends in high power in foreign lands that it would not be safe for her. And she herself told me that something horrible has been conspired against her.   

“Then why the hell return to Pakistan?

“My people are waiting for me. Go I must and go I shall, Allah willing”.

They were waiting for her with hope of deliverance and even if it meant sure death, she would not disappoint them. She would keep her promise to them come what may. And like a lioness she walked head high into the hunter’s den to singe his insatiable lust for power.

It was horrendous elimination of her father by General Ziaul Haq that cast on her the role of Pakistan’s most popular leader to carry onward SZAB’s mission of empowerment of the masses, to hold aloft the banner of democracy and to put up relentless struggle against dictatorship in its various manifestations. Instead of settling scores with her adversaries, she opted for democracy as best revenge.

She had been forewarned time and again that Pervez Musharraf wouldn’t let her back. She would not listen. Like her father’s commitment to the people, hers too was uncompromising. Nothing less than democracy, free and fair election would be acceptable. She was determined to fight to her last—to uproot dictatorship and usher in formidable democracy to establish an egalitarian socio-economic order to stand as a bulwark against terrorism—a hydra-headed evil threatening the very existence of Pakistan by spreading sectarianism and bigotry.

Time and again she had warned the west that by supporting dictatorship in Pakistan they were not doing any service to democracy nor serving the cause of peace. She had also foretold them the dire consequences of the Frankenstein’s monster-esque “Jihadis” that they had fostered, nourished and nurtured. It would be impossible to get rid off them. What were designed to be their mercenaries to fight for them ended up as their adversary. 

In exile, Bhutto was extremely worried over the epidemic spread of Talibanisation, sectarianism and religious extremist and their connivance with the powers that be. She felt time was running out for Quaid’s Pakistan. The hydra-headed extremism was not only a threat to Pakistan; it was pregnant with ominous consequences for the region and had global ramifications that are now squeezing Pakistan into isolation.

Nine years ago (December 27, 2007), she was killed in what was an irreparable blow to Pakistan – third of its time-each one more serious than the previous. First was the assassination of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, second that of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and third of Benazir Bhutto. It is intriguing to note that all three Prime Ministers from Sindh were done to death in Rawalpindi!

Notwithstanding the enormity of her sacrifice, her words to me still reverberate in my ears:“ Is it better to die for the cause that you have struggled all your life for or be run over by a bus?” I would say she achieved what she had struggled for all her life—restoration of democracy. Not only that, much before she returned to Pakistan she had given a road map to that goal.

The Charter of Democracy initiated by her and readily agreed to by PML-N’s Nawaz Sharif (July 2006) was indeed a landmark achievement. It was a consensus document that had blue-printed a mechanism for sustainable democracy, laid the foundation of vendetta-free democratic culture, with an inbuilt system of accountability, unbiased appointment of superior court judges, chiefs of the armed forces and other pivotal officials on basis of seniority. It was also agreed to revert back to original 1973 Constitution, transfer the current list to provinces and increase the quantum of provincial autonomy to consolidate national unity in diversity in a the shape of a nation state. Bhutto had believed that democracy was never really given a chance to grow stoutly by the powerful establishment and Bonapartist generals.

Indeed, we have seen that though quasi-democracy returned after the mysterious crash of General Zia’s plane, it was never without strings. Bonapartist generals ruled the country for over 30 years and continued in between through pulling the strings from behind the façade of an elected government. It was brinkmanship of President Asif Ali Zardari that he managed to pilot the ship from one storm to another and safely to hold elections after five years and transfer power to yet another elected government—it would remain a historic first.

It was not a safe passage. One used to dread to switch on TV sets as anchors and their so-called jacks-of-all-subjects tried to out shout each other in forecasting Zardari government’s fall next day, next month or next year until the day earlier before he handed over power.

I can not say whether PPP’s government’s five years were more traumatising or Mian Sahib’s three years. A fair evaluation shall have to wait until the completion of his term.

However, I must say that had Mian Sahib and his party stood by President Zardari as steadfastly as he had by him, there would not have been GRS syndrome blowing hot air down in his neck. No doubt his government too has been kept on tenterhooks during the last three years.  Having been humbly associated with the idea of Charter of Democracy, I always prayed that it be practiced in letter and spirit. Regretfully it was not. I would not like to recount who faulted when and where.

Most serious challenge to the Zardari government was posed by the lawyers’ movement. Though the dismissal of the Chief Justice was questionable, the charge sheet against him in the reference remains unaccounted for. Had it been properly pursued, much before his restoration he would have been resting in peace in the dustbin of history.

Once restored as CJP he proved he was not Oliver Cromwell. Mian Sahib and his party men jumped on his band wagon to spite PPP rather than serve the cause of justice. He established beyond doubt that there were two standards of justice in his lexicon meaning one thing for PPP and another for PML-N. Perhaps he set the practice and it still continues. He deliberately tried to bring PPP government to a standstill through his suo motto application of his whims. 

I am glad Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has at long last remembered Charter of Democracy while welcome former President Zardari’s return to Pakistan. He has hoped that he would put the brakes on the PPP hardliners who are itching for agitation against the government.

In politics or any other game it takes two to play tango. Zardari Sahib has proved his credentials as a democrat and his commitment to Charter of Democracy. Mian Sahib would do well to recall that AAZ did not let him down when “Umpire’s finger” was threatening him. He rallied the Parliament behind him and did not allow space for extra-constitutional intervention. High handed conduct of his colleague popularly tweeted as “Mr No Action Plan” has become his albatross that is likely to harm relations between PPP and PML-N in the longer run.

On the death anniversary of SMBB there should be right earnest rededication to the Charter of Democracy in its letter and spirit. It would be the best tribute to her.


  1. Mr.Wajid. The fact that BB was assassinated in a cruel political game,and not for an exalted and higher cause as claimed by you,does not give her a blank cheque to any noble virtue and certification. She alongwith her husband messed up further a system already notorious for its ugly face.

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