Remembering Shaheed BB: Daughter of East | By Dr Abdul Razak Shaikh

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Remembering Shaheed BB: Daughter of East

SHAHEED Benazir Bhutto was the daughter of the great politician Zulifqar Ali Bhutto, who was the leader of Pakistan from 1971 until 1977.

Benazir was educated at Harvard University (BA, 1973) and subsequently studied philosophy, Political Science and economics at the University of Oxford (BA, 1976) before completing a postgraduate degree in International Law there (MA, 1977).

Benazir Bhutto became the first female Prime Minister in a Muslim-majority country. At 35 years old, she was the youngest elected leader in the Islamic world.

How much Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was driven by a sense of destiny and how much was she the product of the peculiar circumstances of her life is a question for historians to answer.

Benazir Bhutto first called the daughter of Pakistan, then the daughter of the East, and lately the daughter of destiny.

The daughter of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) founder and Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, took over as a chairperson of the PPP in 1982.

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto spent several years in exile in London. When she returned in 1986 in the tenure of dictator Zia ul Haq, it seemed that whole of Pakistani people had turned out to receive her at Lahore.

It was the real day for the life of PPP. Again she remained in exile and returned to Pakistan with plans to participate in the 2008 general election, but was killed during an attack at a PPP rally on 27th December 2007.

Benazir Bhutto was born on 21 June 1953, in Karachi, the eldest child of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. After completing her early education in Pakistan, She pursued her higher education in the United States and then studied at Oxford UK from 1973 to 1977.

There, she completed a course in International Law and Diplomacy. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in 1977 and was placed under house arrest after the military coup led by General Zia ul-Haq, overthrew her father’s government.

She inherited her father’s leadership of the PPP. On 4th April 1979, the day was shameful for the country, when the great leader of Muslim Ummah and Chairman of PPP were hanged in a disputed case.

This Black Day will never be forgotten in the history of Pakistan. There was more family tragedy in 1980 when Bhutto’s brother Shahnawaz Bhutto died in Paris.

Another brother, Murtaza Bhutto died in 1996 in a gun battle with police in Karachi. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto married Asif Ali Zardari, in Karachi on December 18, 1987.

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was elected, the first-ever female prime minister of a Muslim nation on December 1, 1988, and later on, She was again elected in 1993 but was replaced in 1996.

Once again she spent exile in the UK and UAE, in the tenure of another dictator Pervaiz Musharraf.

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan on October 17, 2007, at Karachi and was warmly well-come by party Jiyalas and was hit by a suicide attack, killing near 170 people.

She only survived after ducking down at the moment of impact behind her armored vehicle.

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was killed when an assassin fired shots and then blew himself up after an election campaign rally in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.

The attack also killed 28 others and wounded at least another 100. The attacker struck just minutes after Bhutto addressed a rally of thousands of supporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Thousands of mourners paid last respects to former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 28, 2007, as she was buried at her family’s mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, Larkana, Sindh.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced three days of mourning. Benazir Bhutto was buried alongside her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s first popularly elected prime minister.

The shooting and bombing attack on the charismatic former prime minister plunged Pakistan into turmoil.

Furious supporters rampaged through several cities, torching cars, trains and stores in violence.

Pakistan’s election commission announced January 2, 2008, that parliamentary elections were postponed till February 18, a delay of six weeks.

Pakistan’s Interior Ministry also revealed that it had irrefutable evidence showing that Al-Qaeda was behind Bhutto’s assassination.

The government had recorded an intelligence intercept in which Al-Qaeda leader Baitullah Mehsud congratulated his people for carrying out this cowardly act.

Later, Mehsud denied involvement. Benazir Bhutto left a deeply polarizing legacy. Her career has been celebrated as a triumph for women in the Muslim world and for the global fight against Islamic extremism.

Her efforts and struggle to champion democracy remain a lasting legacy. We will never forget her for the cause of democracy in the military government of dictator Zia Ul Huq. She remained many times in jail for democracy.

Bhutto’s autobiography, Daughter of the East, was published in 1988 (also published as Daughter of Destiny, 1989); she also wrote Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West, which was published posthumously in 2008.

At the time of her death, she was making a bid for a third term as prime minister. Though she is no longer with us, her vision will be alive for the poor people of Pakistan.

— The writer is retired officer of Sindh Govt.