Tribute to a great leader | By Dr Abdul Razak Shaikh

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Tribute to a great leader

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

How much 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.

But if any a conclusion can be drawn from the story of her life is that she managed to hang on to her destiny even when she was initially thrust by the not-so-mundane realities of her life into it and even though the practical problems of everyday life kept dodging and sometimes tripping, her in her larger than life endeavours. 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 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, took over as a chairperson of the PPP in 1982. Benazir Bhutto spent several years in exile in London. When she came back in 1986 in the tenure of military ruler Zia ul Huq, the a sea of people received her at Lahore. It was the real day for the PPP. Again she remains 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 27 December 2007. Benazir Bhutto was born 21 June 1953, in Karachi, the eldest child of Zulfikar 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.

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 04 April 1979, the day was shameful for the country, when Chairman of PPP was hanged in a disputed case. This black day will be never 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. Benazir Bhutto married Asif Ali Zardari, in Karachi on 18 December 1987. Zia ul-Haq’s dictatorship ended when he was killed in a plane crash in 1988. Benazir Bhutto was elected, the first-ever female Prime Minister of a Muslim nation on 01 December 1988, and later on, She was again elected in 1993 but was replaced in 1996. Once again she spent exile in UK and UAE, in the tenure of another military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan on 17 October 2007, at Karachi and was warmly well come by party workers and was hit by a suicide attack, killing near 170 people. She only survived after ducking down at the moment of impact behind her armoured vehicle. Benazir Bhutto was killed when an assassin fired shots and then blew himself up after an election campaign rally in Rawalpindi on 27 December 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 28 December 2007, as she was buried at her family’s mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, Larkana province of Sindh. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced three days of mourning. Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, her three children, and her sister Sanam attended the burial. Benazir Bhutto was buried alongside her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s first popularly elected Prime Minister.

The shooting and bombing attack on the charismatic former Prime Minister plunged Pakistan into turmoil. Pakistan is armed with nuclear weapons and is a key US ally in the war on terrorism. Furious supporters rampaged through several cities, torching cars, trains, and stores in violence. Pakistan’s election commission announced 02 January 2008, that parliamentary elections were postponed till 18 February, 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. Mehsud has denied involvement. Benazir Bhutto was a brave daughter of a brave father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s first women democratically elected Prime Minister. Benazir went on to become Prime Minister twice but she was always distrusted by the power planners, which used corruption allegations to remove her from power. At the time of her death, she was making a bid for a third term as Prime Minister. We never forget her for the cause of democracy in the military government of military ruler Zia-ul-Huq. She remains many times in the jail for democracy. Though she is no more with us, her vision will be alive for people of Pakistan.

— The writer is retired officer of Sindh Govt.

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