Friday, April 04, 2008
Remembering Zulfikar Ali Bhutto - A Towering Leader
Remembering the shaheeds
By Sherry Rehman; 4/4/2008 - The News
On the 4th of April every year, a deep quiet descends on every thinking citizen in Pakistan. They are reminded of the pain, shame and sorrow that the nation felt on the judicial murder of a great leader and statesman of the Muslim world in 1979. This April, that vein of sorrow throbs with a rawness that is difficult to hide, and even harder to bear. The brutal assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto adds an unfathomable layer of pain on the wounds inflicted on the national psyche.
At her last jalsa, in fact, at Liaquat Bagh, as she matured into the stateswoman of her times, Ms Bhutto had quite unconsciously, without planning, taken on the mannerisms and public speech patterns of her father. Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became immortal the day he refused to ask for a pardon from his tormentor. Bibi Shaheed, as she is affectionately known now, walked straight into the fires of a death foretold, refusing to be separated from the source of her power, the people of Pakistan.
Mr Bhutto left behind his inimitable mark on Pakistan's history for several reasons. Unlike most political leaders who ride home to political victory through a normal transition, Mr Bhutto took over the reins of a shattered and humiliated nation. His first actions as prime minister of a truncated country were to rebuild a shattered post-war economy, and to establish, for the first time, the writ of a popularly elected government in a land that had seen no public figure that could unite the nation since Quaid-e-Azam Mohmmad Ali Jinnah. Not only did the country need to be brought back on its feet after the loss of East Pakistan, there was the clear and present danger of 5,000 square miles of territory under enemy occupation, which was overshadowed by the bleeding wound of Pakistani 90,000 soldiers in Indian jails.
But foreign policy challenges that may seem insurmountable to another politician were like part of the course for the former foreign minister. All Pakistani baby boomers remember Mr Bhutto tearing up pieces of what was supposed to be the Polish Resolution on Kashmir and storming out of the United Nations after angrily affirming his country's position on Kashmir, leaving an indelible image of a fiercely independent nation in the public mind. He gave the vexed Pakistan-India environment the Simla Treaty, while his daughter laid the foundations in 1989 for the composite dialogue which leads the peace process in South Asia today.
Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's government worked like a veritable powerhouse on a clear manifesto for social empowerment and redistributive justice. Mr Bhutto gave workers their first right to unionise, while Benazir Bhutto's government gave them their enhanced right to pensions and bonuses. His government revolutionised the relationship of the citizen with the state, while the daughter worked tirelessly to bring Pakistan out of the shadow of a cold war dictatorship into a democracy that was rated among the first ten emerging markets of the world.
Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had dreamt of Pakistan as a modern welfare state, where the private sector would drive the economy, creating jobs and growth. Unlike any contemporary leader in Pakistan, her 2007 Party Manifesto was firmly committed to the provision of social nets for the poor, a percentage of jobs guaranteed for the unemployed, and protection for the vulnerable. Before even coming back to Pakistan, she had burnt much midnight oil on how to craft a National Health Card system for the millions without access to affordable public healthcare, and grappled with her policy team in Dubai on how to educate children while giving them boarding and lodging, if needed. The Benazir Bhutto governments gave the media its first taste of freedom by dismantling the controls put on it by eleven years of dictatorship, opened up the airwaves to satellite communication to lay the foundation for the private networks we enjoy today, and awarded working journalists their first wage board.
Both Bhuttos had brought a consistent strain of democratic politics into the history of Pakistani politics. Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is as the man who shaped an entire generation of political discourse in the image of a modern, nationalist and self-confident Pakistan. He lent his voice to the dispossessed and the poor.
Upon his death, Mr Bhutto remarkable daughter abandoned any sense of a life she might have had to plunge headlong, as was her way until the end, into taking up where her father had left off. Instead of a life of comfort that her class allowed her to live, she embraced the rigours of exile and imprisonment without looking back, to lead the Pakistan People's Party through its darkest hours of trauma and dispossession. When she returned to Pakistan in 1986 to a triumphal march of democracy after years spent in General Zia's exile, she was quite literally the princess of hearts and minds. When she returned from yet another exile in 2007, to a reception unprecedented in Pakistan's history, she became the uncrowned queen of people's hearts.
Today, both Shaheeds stand vindicated many times over, as their sacrifices lead their parties, their nation and their children to a fragile new dawn of democracy. Their great party, the Pakistan People's Party, has made history again by seeing its prime minister take his vote of confidence unanimously in the National Assembly of Pakistan. Its party and its cabinet owes a debt of gratitude to Bibi Shaheed's husband, Co-Chairman Senator Asif Ali Zardari, for guiding and uniting the party through its biggest crisis since inception after its chairperson's death on Dec 27, 2007. It owes an even bigger debt to both the shaheeds for the solid foundations they laid and the examples they provide of principled leadership of a ship that could have smashed on the choppy waters of Pakistani politics.
They both must have stood proud as their flag waves again in the Prime Minister's office. Yet at the screening of a documentary commissioned by Bibi Shaheed on her father for his April 4th Barsi, they must have been prouder that unlike any other party in government, the PPP did not use government funds for a party function, but paid for the event itself. In his first public speech on this occasion, PM Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani was right in saying that if anything has held this country together through the dark times it has been through since 1971, it has been the Pakistan People's Party and the consensus constitution of 1973 that Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gave to Pakistan.
No matter how many seats the enemies of democracy stole from the PPP in this last election, they could not keep the people from voting in their government. It is the Bhutto ethos that will hopefully give our government the integrity, commitment and the courage to overcome the onerous challenges ahead.
The writer is federal minister for information and broadcasting.
Retired judges term Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s execution illegal - DT
The Last Moments of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto - Chowk
Death Anniversary: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto - Pakistaniat.com
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