A memorable birthday with Benazir Bhutto

Bashir Riaz

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was the voice of the people. She had a genuinely strong relationship with her people. It was as if her heart used to beat in the same rhythm as the heart of the masses. She was the true keeper of national interest and this has been demonstrated by her long struggle against dictatorship. She not only fought the forces of martial law but her voice in favour of democracy was heard as the true voice of sanity in the international political arena. In the World she was known as the ‘Iron Lady’ of Pakistan and in the Muslim World, she was known as the ‘Daughter of Islam.’ it goes to her credit that she was the first woman prime-minister of any Muslim state.
Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto represented the Pakistan that was beautiful and with an immense potential for development and success. For this reason, her birthday is celebrated every year on June 21. Both, nationally and internationally, a tribute is paid to her in ceremonies that are organized across the world to remember her great contributions for this country. In June of 2003, BB came to visit London on a short trip. She invited me to attend her fiftieth birthday celebrations in Dubai. I reminded her that she was present alongside me as I cut my fiftieth birthday cake in Gulzar House. I assured her that I would be honoured to join her in her birthday celebrations in Dubai.
A few days later, I reached Dubai through a flight on British Airways and found BB’s driver waiting for me at the airport. I reached her residence and was warmly received by her. I was staying at her house as a house guest. 21 June 2003 was a remarkable and a memorable evening. Only fifty guests were invited, perfectly suited to the occasion of fiftieth birthday. The guests included Pakistanis, Arabs, and other foreigners as well. We all enjoyed food together. The cake was customized according to the fiftieth birthday party. BB cut the cake surrounded by the guests and as the knife went through the cake, the drawing room was filled with a melodious happy birthday song.A unique thing about that evening was the poem that BB recited, ‘Story of Benazir’.It was written by her and it beautifully described her life’s journey and struggles. The poem was appreciated a lot and on that day BB’s poetry skills were revealed to the world.
On that day, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari had sent her a bouquet made up of fifty dozen roses. She had arranged the flowers in her drawing room and had photographs taken next to it along with her three children Bilawal, Bakhtawar, and Asifa. She also called me in to join with them and I was glad to be able to become a part of that beautiful family moment. That memorable photograph has been published in my book ‘Rafaqatka Safar’ and is also available on the Bhutto Legacy foundation’s website.
BB was very happy that evening and it was not only a memorable day for her but also for all of us who were privileged enough to join her. Soon, I returned to London with memories that would stay with me for the rest of my life.
Today, 21 June 2017, is MohtarmaShaheed Benazir Bhutto’s sixty-fourth birthday. Pakistan needs a phenomenal leader like her but unfortunately she is no longer here.Her absence is felt today more than ever before and no one can ever fill the gap left by her. She is missed both, nationally and internationally as she represented the cause of Pakistan at all available forums. Although she is no longer among us but she will always be with us. She will always live in our hearts. I believe the best andthe most befitting tribute to her on her birthday would be to reiterate our commitment to BB’s vision.
Her workers should not be disheartened by her loss and should remember how much she cared about their rights. Every time they hold on to their rights and her vision and programme, she is with them; if not in person, but certainly in spirit. Her children, Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Bakhtawar, and Asifa are the custodians of her legacy. They have grown up under the care of one of the best leaders in the world. They are all well-educated and capable individualswho will continue BB’s mission of serving the people and keeping aloft the flag of PPP. There is no doubt that Chairman BilawalBhutto Zardari,Bakhtwar, and Asifawill make a great team and they will live for Pakistan and for the people of Pakistan as did ShaheedMohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
—The writer is former spokesperson of Benazir Bhutto and currently serving as Chairman of Bhutto Legacy Foundation

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