Remembering BB Shaheed: What would she do today?


Today, we are celebrating the 67th birthday of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. Her struggles for democracy are already a part of our history and a source of inspiration for the party workers. While her words and writings continue to glow brighter than ever in the dark political landscape of our country to provide guidance for her followers.
Shaheed BB used to run her party in a democratic way, which ultimately strengthened unity within the party. She used to be extremely fair and impartial when allotting party tickets during elections. She used to consult with Party Presidents and Secretaries on the district level to make the best possible and informed decision.
She always discouraged favouritism and accepted recommendations based on merit. She used to respect and gave preference to sincere workers. On political matters, although she discussed every issue with party leaders but ultimately, she used to make her own decision. As a leader, she fully realized her responsibilities and never shied away from making difficult decisions.
In 1999 when Shaheed BB was in London, every morning she would spend five hours to connect with her workers in Pakistan through email. Similarly, she used to take out a few hours in the evening to respond to the people personally.
She used to believe that if her response is a source of motivation for the workers then she was happy to do it. In this way, she kept the party united as one big family.
In 1985, after the death of her brother Shahnawaz Bhutto, Shaheed BB visited Pakistan for a few weeks but she was soon sent back to London.
During this time, she became aware of certain elements within the party creating inner conflict. Grief stricken but determined, Shaheed BB returned to Pakistan in April of 1986. She was surrounded by two very opposing sentiments. On the one hand, she was welcomed by the love and fervour of the people of Pakistan.
On the other hand, she faced internal rift within the party. During a meeting, she was pressurized to change her communication strategy whereby she was issuing statements directly through me.
She was the Co-chairperson of the party at that time. She was told to give statements through the Secretary General or the Senior Vice Chairman instead. It was a conspiracy to take control over party matters but Shaheed BB saw right through this scheme and did not fall for it. Later on, such people left the party.
Mumtaz Bhutto created the Sindh Balochistan Front but Shaheed BB rejected such ventures by standing firm on her beliefs and principles that People’s Party will always support the federation. Shaheed BB condemned any nationalist movements. In the end, she received full support for her vision and she was elected as a national leader and the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Simultaneously, Shaheed BB was fighting on multiple fronts. She was both, a mother and a father to her children. She used to hold several meetings, write articles, and give statements. She used to give lectures in the USA, which was also a source of income for her. This way, she kept the party alive and relevant from 1998 until her last day in 2007.
During this time, the most worrisome issue for her was the cases on her husband. These cases on Mr. Asif Zardari were part of an organized propaganda against Shaheed BB. It is important to remember that none of the rivals managed to prove any of their allegations.
Her reputation was dealt a blow with Surrey Mansion and Swiss scandals. Such allegations to tarnish her name were a great cause of concern for Shaheed BB but these challenges gave her greater political wisdom and she understood the nature of the forces working against her. Her political wisdom was not only appreciated in Pakistan but it was acknowledged internationally as well.
In recent years, the Benazir Bhutto Leadership Program was launched at the Harvard University through a day long assembly titled “Leading in the Muslim World: What would Benazir do today?” In these challenging times, we should ask ourselves this same question and seek guidance in the words and legacy of Shaheed BB.
The writer is the former press secretary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and advisor to Bilawal Bhutto, Chairman, PPPP.