Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: a legacy of democracy.

Shaheed Z A Bhutto

By Farahnaz Ispahani

Every year on the 4th of April all Pakistani democrats take a moment to remember Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Dubbed ‘Black Day,’ it is the anniversary of one of the most tragic political murders in the country’s history, albeit one conducted with judicial approval. Bhutto was Pakistan’s first popularly elected democratic politician. He is still mourned today unlike any other political leader born in our land. His political journey, as well as his assassination, gave birth to an enduring legacy.

The worst military dictator Pakistan has borne, General Zia ul- Haq, had overthrown the constitutional order through a military coup on July 5, 1977. But his plans to rule with an iron hand by murdering democracy, burying rule of law, and terminating peoples power required the elimination of the man who could mobilise the people against him. It is for this reason that Zia ul Haq sent Shaheed Bhutto to the gallows via a show-trial —a judicial murder never to be forgotten.

In a letter to his daughter, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto in 1978 from prison Quaid-e-Awam Bhutto wrote “Your grand-father taught me the politics of pride, your grandmother taught me the politics of poverty. I am beholden to both for the fine synthesis. To you, my darling daughter, I give only one message. It is the message of the morrow, the message of history. Believe only in the people, work only for their emancipation and equality. The paradise of God lies under the feet of your mother. The paradise of politics lies under the feet of the people.”

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto continued her father’s mission only to die at the hands of the same mindset on December 27, 2007 –this time a brutal assassination without the pretense of legalities.

The essence of democracy and the struggle of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is based on the vision and mission of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his absolute belief in democracy as the best system of governance for Pakistan. As Mr. Bhutto said in an address to the Pakistan Bar Council in Lahore on the 30th of January 1973 “Institutions are not directly concerned with the people. The judiciary is not directly concerned with the people. The people are beneficiary of the judiciary. The people have their contact. But they don’t bring the judiciary into being in the sense they bring the Government into being in an election. So, the legislature, the parliament, the people are concerned with it. But, in order to see that the parliament does not fall to the caprices and the whims of members and other factors, you give it a period of time to make that institution grow.”

Unfortunately, for the people and for Pakistan itself his wisdom was ignored. And, as we have seen through the last five years of democratic rule, the unelected and indirect forces have played a major role in trying to undermine democracy and democratic institutions. However, in spite all those efforts the PPP and its coalition partners including the ANP and MQM played a role in attaining the first complete democratic term in Pakistan’s recent history.

Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a Pakistan Day message delivered on March 23, 1973 spoke about the Pakistani Constitution that had finally been drafted with national consensus.

“The adoption of the constitution will be a milestone in Pakistan’s history. For 26 years, a power structure dominated by the bureaucracy and a military junta and bolstered by self-seeking politicians thwarted the establishment of democratic institutions and denied to the people an ordered political life. The nation remained in the grip of a dreadful vice forged by the egoism of one group and the obscurantism of another. The result was the complacency, the confusion, the incoherence and the loss of pride and confidence that brought us untold sorrow and splintered the nation founded in 1947.”

The democratic government that governed Pakistan from 2008-2013 restored and strengthened the Constitution of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto through the 18th amendment. The constitution had been distorted with amendments introduced by dictators. This crucial amendment gave the provinces greater power and the resources to directly govern their areas and people.

Mr. Bhutto’s era was the age of revolution for Pakistan. He mobilized the country’s first mass-based political party. The Pakistan Peoples Party became the undiluted voice of the people and opened the way for other parties to similarly try and reach out to the people. The slogan of “Roti, Kapra aur Makaan” brought the needs of the people into Pakistani politics for the first time. He was hated by the drawing room elites because he transferred power to the voters and therefore to the towns and villages. He has never been forgiven for this. And, neither was his daughter Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto or the PPP.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto changed the history of Pakistan by empowering citizens to have a voice. His voice was silenced. It is time to hear the voices of the citizens again.

The writer is a former member of the National Assembly-

The article published in Daily Times on 04/04/2013 Link: http://alturl.com/dxnto

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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