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

Benazir Bhutto remembered By Farahnaz Ispahani

Today is the fifth death anniversary of Pakistan’s iconic leader, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. History remembers her as the first elected woman prime minister of a Muslim majority country. For millions of Pakistanis she was the embodiment of their hopes for a democratic, pluralist country and the desire to be free of the scourge of extremism and terrorism. She led and kept the PPP alive against many odds during and after the dark years of the obscurantist dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq.

Benazir Bhutto touched the lives of many Pakistanis by confronting military dictatorship in opposition and through her programmes to address the issues of the poorest and most marginalised during her two short stints in office. She was seen as a threat by those who saw her vision for Pakistan as a challenge to their militarised intrigues. For that reason alone she was hounded during her life and killed by the bigots who have hijacked our beloved country.

Bibi Shaheed firmly believed that women and those who followed other religions were equal Pakistanis in every way. She lived by her convictions and was killed for them. Her vision for Pakistan is summarised in her final book, fittingly titled Reconciliation. Bibi also left the PPP a Manifesto that she had personally worked on and read and reread countless times.

It is hard to forget the day of her assassination, the scenes at the hospital, that endless night carrying Bibi’s coffin in the C-130 with her young children and closest friends and aides on board. The long, terrible drive through the dark, sleeping villages of Sindh, driving behind the ambulance which carried our beloved Bibi home are seared in my memory. Buried next to her father at Garhi Khuda Baksh and close to her two brothers Mir Murtaza and Shahnawaz, Benazir Bhutto was like them, martyred by those who loved power more than Pakistan.

Many of us believed that Bibi Shaheed’s sacrifice of her life would bring change to Pakistan. The country was paralysed and even those who had been her fiercest political opponents during her lifetime grieved for her and her family. There was grief around the world. World leaders who had known Ms Bhutto personally either in her capacity as prime minister or as the leader of the opposition or from her exile years mourned. As did many citizens of countries near and far. In the years since her assassination, many of us have run into countless working people in many countries who express their grief over Bibi’s death the moment they find out that we are from Pakistan.

Today, on the fifth anniversary of her death, we have to ask ourselves whether we understood her ultimate sacrifice. Have the over-reaching powers of the establishment that consistently plotted against her democratic values been curbed? Has democracy and its roots been strengthened? Have the lives of Pakistan’s citizens improved materially and socially or at least been put on the path to improvement? Are Muslims of different denominations and our non-Muslim minorities safer today?

Several excellent laws have been passed by parliament. The visible improvement of Pakistan-India ties are to be celebrated. The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) — initially conceived by Mohtarma Bhutto herself along with economist Kaisar Bengali — is an extremely successful initiative with many new components. But much still has to be done and many of her ideas are still unfulfilled.

Pakistan remains in the grip of militarism and militancy. The superior courts have failed to expand access to justice, involving themselves in political issues instead. The democratic process continues to be undermined by invisible intrigues and many important issues end up being neglected. The establishment continues to think of ways around the Constitution instead of allowing the country to be run according to its principles. Instead of mourning what we have lost, we must use this occasion for self-reflection. We must remember her indefatigable energy, her love for her homeland, her endless patience and her step-by-step, day-by-day work together to reclaim Pakistan.

We owe Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto no less.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2012. http://tribune.com.pk/story/484988/benazir-bhutto-remembered/

Shaheed Bibi….. by Farahnaz Ispahani


– 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