Shaheed Bibi….. by Farahnaz Ispahani

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– Published in Daily Times on 27 December 2012 


Benazir Bhutto Shaheed will be remembered forever for her bravery, efforts for the empowerment of the oppressed within our society, and her sacrifices for us.

There are very few people courageous enough to not only face all troubles with resilience but also be capable of leading tough missions effectively. Not only a role model for the women of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto Shaheed is the pride of democracy advocates everywhere, fighting the war against the terrorists so bravely and finally laying down her life for the nation. Shaheed Benazir Bhutto devoted her entire life to the service of the people of Pakistan. She never bowed before anti-democratic and extremist elements who wanted Pakistan to become a hub of extremism and terrorism. She continued her struggle to save Pakistan from going into the hands of extremists who wanted to convert it into a state of rigid elements.

While addressing her people in Liaquat Bagh, which proved to be the last speech of her life, she said:

“I put my life in danger and came here because I feel this country is in danger. I want to see a prosperous, progressive and developed Pakistan.”

These words echo her boundless love and unrivalled warmth for Pakistan and its people. What can be dearer than life for a human being? But she put hers in danger to give us a prosperous, progressive and developed Pakistan. In return she faced the most debauched propaganda by elements wanting to see Pakistan as a state of conservatives. She was declared a foreign agent and unpatriotic, whereas none in Pakistan’s short history has rendered such sacrifices as her entire family. Today, the same elements are engaged in their vicious aims in trying to suppress the secular forces of the country. But despite their nefarious intentions, Quaid-e-Azam M A Jinnah, Quaid-e-Awam Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and our beloved leader Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s dream of a progressive and modern democratic Pakistan will soon be realised. Throughout her life, Benazir Bhutto struggled for the subjugated and browbeaten. She longed for a futuristic Pakistan where women were not subjected to embarrassment and sufferings. She wanted women to be treated with respect, as equal partners towards progress and prosperity. She wanted each child of Pakistan to be well educated with international standards of education and looked after properly.

Benazir had a lofty and multi-dimensional personality, which was a beacon of light for the marginalised segments of our society and she herself was a role model for women around the world.

Shaheed Benazir Bhutto had the courage to defy the most awful dictatorship of her times. She had to pass through the vortex of a blood feud by a brutal regime in the shape of the ghastly assassination of her father Quaid-e-Awam Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the martyrdom of her two beloved brothers, the destitution of her great mother who had spent her life in the struggle for the supremacy of democracy, her own and her husband’s imprisonments, physical and mental torture. But nothing could shake Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and her family’s resolve for a progressive Pakistan. She bravely faced whatever came her way, continued to challenge dictatorships and remained resolute in her vow to both the people and democracy.

Benazir Bhutto Shaheed as a twice-elected first female Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Islamic world, worked meticulously for her aspirations of women empowerment.

Bibi Shaheed brought women into the mainstream by appointing them as judges of the superior courts. She opened the first women’s bank to give micro loans to women to start small businesses so as to empower them economically and so that they could live in society independently, with raised heads. She ensured state protection for women by coming up with the idea of separate women police stations to help those who suffered from domestic violence. She dedicated funds and proposed schemes involving women health workers to bring about a substantial change in improving the general health of women and last but surely not the least, encouraged women at every stage of political ranking.

Under her government, foreign investment quadrupled; energy production doubled; defence production improved, exports boomed. It was Bibi Shaheed’s government when 100,000 female health workers were recruited across Pakistan from the tribal to the settled areas to ensure healthcare, nutrition, pre- and post-natal care to millions of our poorest women citizens.

She never had a free and fair election. The Asghar Khan case has proved that the state machinery was used to bribe politicians in order to stand against her and rig elections. She was always under siege, facing state brutality, and spent her whole life under state instituted oppression. All means were used to defeat the public voice and she received no justice from anywhere, not even from the Pakistani courts that are considered to be impartial and fair. She would say: “We were in government but not in power.” Yet the lady on her own with great resolve and confidence delivered so much because she believed and used to say that there was another court, the court of the public. In that court, Benazir Bhutto was never at a loss as she was greatly loved and valued by the people of Pakistan.

We find that alone Benazir was not afraid to challenge dictators but faced bravely state evil, harassment at the hands of agencies, unimaginable allegations, vicious tongue lashings, oppressors, bigots and terrorists. Today, all these stand defeated while Shaheed Benazir Bhutto has emerged victorious and lives eternally in the hearts of people from Parachinar, Gilgit-Baltistan, Quetta and Chitral to Karachi as a symbol of a united strong federation of Pakistan. December 27, 2007 — a gloomy day in the history of Pakistan when all our hopes were shattered along with our expectations. The day when the country was set ablaze, stained with blood, and was almost pushed to the brink of disintegration, but the evil aims of undemocratic and terrorist elements were stopped in their tracks by President Asif Ali Zardari’s slogan “Pakistan Khappay” (Long Live Pakistan). The country was saved and reintegrated and a democratic Pakistan was restored to the people of Pakistan.

Sadly, just a few days ago, Bashir Ahmed Bilour joined Benazir Bhutto in death at the hands of the same murderers. Pakistan cannot be saved unless we, the people of this nation urge, plead, force through the ballot box a new order. One where the political class, military and judiciary are forced to work together and put Pakistanis and Pakistan first. It has to be a united effort to succeed.

Bibi Shaheed—we love you and we miss you and you shall be remembered forever. Rest in peace.

The writer was an MNA from 2008 to 2012

 http://www.ppp.org.pk/mbb/articles/Shaheed%20Bibi-27-12-2012.html

Written by Farahnaz Ispahani

Farahnaz Ispahani is a Global Fellow, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC. She is the author of the recently published book "Purifying the Land of the Pure: The History of Pakistan's Religious Minorities. Oxford University Press, 2017. Ms. Farahnaz Ispahani has been a leading voice for women and religious minorities in Pakistan for the past twenty five years, first as a journalist, then as a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, and most recently as a scholar based in the United States. An advocate of Pakistan’s return to democracy during the military regime of Pervez Musharraf, she served as a spokesperson and international media coordinator for the Pakistan People’s Party, working alongside the late Benazir Bhutto. During her tenure in parliament (2008–2012), she was a member of the Human Rights Committee and the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus. In 2013–2014, she served as a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where she completed a book on the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan. In 2012, she was listed among Foreign Policy magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers, as well as Newsweek Pakistan’s Top 100 Women Who Matter. During her fellowship, Ms. Ispahani is exploring women’s political participation in the Muslim world, both in terms of their progress toward gender equality under democratic systems and the converse rise of women as agents of extremist propaganda within the world of the Islamic State. FARAHNAZ ISPAHANI is Senior Fellow, South and South East Asia Action Team at Religious Freedom Institute also.

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