By Riaz Ali Toori:
“I salute the people of Pakistan. Whenever the country is faced with a crisis, they demonstrate discipline and unity. I am confident that whenever their country requires any sacrifices they will not find wanting”.
Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto who lived and died for the well-being of Pakistan, restoration of democracy and welfare of the oppressed section of Pakistani society, defines the Pakistani nation in above words. She had great faith and confidence in the people of Pakistan.
“The people are never wrong. They can be poor, they can be hungry but their thinking can never go astray,” she understood and praised the Pakistani nation with great love and respect.
She gave up her life but could not keep herself away from the nation. Between her and the public there was no barrier. The dictator, Musharraf left no stone unturned in defaming her by false allegations and forcing her into illegal exile at the end of which she was warmly received on her arrival in Karachi. She died a martyr’s death amongst the public, away from her home and family.
Her life started with mourning and ended with grief. It had been appalling, painful and gloomy. Her enemies were cowards who dared to confront a lonely eastern woman who was audacious, heroic and fearless. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was only 24 years old when she came back to Pakistan in June of 1977 after completing her studies at Harvard and Oxford, perhaps with the aim of serving the nation that was looking for another leader like Z A Bhutto. But merely after two weeks of her return to Pakistan, history took a bizarre turn when her father – Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto – was ousted as prime minister, in a military coup led by General Zia who took over the government and declared martial law in the country.
General Zia snatched power in the early hours of 5th of July 1977 and mercilessly violated the honour of Pakistan’s constitution that was formulated after a long struggle by Shaheed Z A Bhutto with the consensus of all political parties. For the sake of lengthening his illegal rule over Pakistan, General Zia through conceit and brutality soon plotted to permanently eliminate the popular public leader by ensnaring him in a forged conspiracy-to-murder charge. For the young Pinky (Benazir’s nickname), this was the most agonizing turn of events occurring right before her eyes.
However, taking complete charge of the situation, courageous and audacious Benazir tried to stay tranquil and took over the responsibilities of her father’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) together with her mother – Begum Nusrat Bhutto. She also strove to congregate PPP stalwarts and other political forces in the country to compel the wicked dictator to drop malicious murder charges against Z A Bhutto and announce elections as promised by him. One and a half year of her youthful life, she spent in and out of house arrests and political imprisonment.
Undeterred, BENAZIR BHUTTO remained more steadfast and peaceful than ever. Very valiantly, she tolerated the brutality of Zia. She met her father in jail and shared both his pains and aspirations. She proved a stronghold for her father. Never did she revert to violence of any kind despite great mental torture inflicted by the dictator.
On 04 April 1979 the gloomiest day in the political history of Pakistan, her beloved father, a great public leader, originator of atomic Pakistan and author of the Pakistani constitution – was put to death in an orchestrated judicial murder. This was a crucial moment for Benazir. She writes in her memoir, Daughter of the East, “I told him on my oath in his death cell, I would carry on his work.” She also writes in the same book, “I didn’t choose this life; it chose me.”
The spitefulness of craven and timorous Zia-ul-Haq did not just end here. He continued to subject bereaved Benazir to his viciousness. Defying all attempts to stop her, Benazir struggled to muster her party partisans for a strong political agitation against General Zia. After frequent bouts of house arrest, during the summer of 1981, she was imprisoned in a desert cell of Sukkur. She narrates in “Daughter of the East” about the darkest days and nights of Sukkur Jail, “The summer heat turned my cell into an oven. My skin split and peeled, coming off my hands in sheets. Boils erupted on my face. My hair, which had always been thick, began to come out by the handful. Insects crept into the cell like the invading armies. I tried pulling the sheet over my head at night to hide from their bites, pushing it back when it got too hot to breathe.”
Benazir put up with all pains and atrocities of wicked Zia but did not bow before him and did not compromise over her principles. Benazir was inspired by the great lady of Karbala “Hazrat Bibi Zainab S’A” who went through great troubles inflicted by spiteful Yazeed but heroically accomplished the mission of her Brother Imam Hussain A’S.
Benazir Bhutto preferred death over compromise. Although today she is physically not with us but her wisdom, her vision, her manifesto, her political theory and her thought is still alive and we can never alone in the presence of her sweet memories”.
In a mail to me on the situation of Parachinar she had showed great grief and had promised me, “Coming into power once again I will make Parachinar a piece of heaven”. Today we, the people of Parachinar are missing her as our only hope was crushed by her untimely death leaving her affectionate promise unfulfilled.
(Written by Riaz Ali Toori, A human rights activist from Pakistan’s Tribal Areas Parachinar once was called the earthly paradise by Shaheed Z A Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto but now there human rights are bitterly abused and violated by ongoing terrorism and blockade of all roads connecting it with the rest of the world).