Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto Shaheed (BB Shaheed) was a stateswoman par excellence whose love for her people and for her homeland was her only pride as she believed that like her noble father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Shaheed, she owed her life to them. And she gave a
practical demonstration of that claim by sacrificing her own life. She could go for many worldly comforts like most of other politicians who were not accustomed to fighting the formidable forces inimical to peace, public welfare and love for the downtrodden.
But she chose the path of living – or dying- with grace which meant earmarking her energies and God-gifted abilities for the people of Pakistan. Serving the masses was her passion. Before her martyrdom on December 27 five years back, she knew she would be confronted with the fiercest of foes back in the country that were not confined to one sector or segment rather these forces of darkness were hidden within the ranks of the powers that be as much as they were to be found in the extremist ranks. These elements were, in reality, the enemies of freedom of thought and of freedom to live without taboos and inhibitions. BB Shaheed, being the torchbearer of civil, individual liberties and public empowerment was deemed a big stumbling block in the way of these destructive forces that had plotted to assassinate the enlightened visionary on a number of occasions.
But the people who assassinated BB Shaheed did not realize her mission couldn’t be dampened even, what to talk of thinking of putting an end to that mission of humanity, learning and people’s emancipation. Such missions don’t die. Benazir, without an iota of doubt, is still living among us through her convictions, her faith in people’s shining destiny and through the continuity of her mission that not even martial laws, powerful military dictators, formidable juntas and establishments could erase from the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan. So, when the people raise the slogan, “Zinda Hai Bibi, Zinda Hai”, they mean it. She lives within them as a lighthouse that guides you through dark passages, ups and downs of life.
The assassins of Benazir Bhutto also did not realize that Pakistan was a blessed nation since the Creator had gifted highly enlightened souls like ZAB Shaheed and BB Shaheed to this blessed country and the only mission of these enlightened souls was to transform Pakistan into one of the most prosperous and dignified nations of the world. Those who have had a chance to study the working style of BB Shaheed, know well as to how much she was respected throughout the world for her immense knowledge of latest global and national developments. And in global diplomacy, she outsmarted even the wisest and shrewdest of foreign leaders and diplomats and throughout her parleys with foreigners, the main focus of all her discussions was strengthening the people of Pakistan by strengthening the institutions and by strengthening the democracy, withstanding all kinds of pressures I consider myself a very lucky person for having got many an opportunity to learn directly from the wisdom and fearlessness of Benazir. And let me say it with complete honesty that I found her an extraordinary and dignified person in all respects. When I say she was fearless, I mean it. She was never scared of any threats to her person. Her faith in Allah the Almighty as the Decider of Fate was impeccable and she always stood firm and undeterred during her imprisonment and while facing innumerable troubles let loose on her from different directions. And when we discuss other extraordinary abilities of BB Shaheed, they include her indefatigability, quick power of decision. As for her policy of reconciliation, it was not a policy or a strategy as some people tend to think. Rather it was a philosophy. Some people usually say it was a political strategy adopted by Benazir to counterweigh the forces of establishment and other undemocratic powers. Yet others say that the reconciliation strategy was adopted by BB Shaheed to neutralize the ill effects of split mandate that is considered a curse in many countries of the world where democratically elected governments hardly survive through the mandated timeframe. The fact is that reconciliation was the philosophy of BB Shaheed. She believed in the sharing philosophy whose practical manifestation we saw in the shape of her political reconciliation policy and in the form of Charter of Democracy.
Had she not believed in the spirit of sacrifice and sharing, she would not have forgotten the prolonged imprisonment of her spouse and prolonged victimization faced by herself and her party colleagues at the hands of her political rivals.
One positive result of BB Shaheed’s philosophy of reconciliation is that split mandate has now turned into a state strength instead of becoming a weakness that undermines democracy.
Talking about her administrative and leadership abilities, allow me to say by experience that very few politicians possessed the ability to give guidelines to technocrats and civil servants who were highly experienced in different dimensions of administration, economy and technology.
As for her clarity of vision, that was astounding. Even her rivals acknowledged her vision that earned recognition at home as well as abroad.In the end, I would like to say that BB Shaheed, like her charismatic father ZAB Shaheed, believed from the core of her heart that masses are the fountain of power (‘Taaqat ka surchushma awam hein).Here, I would also like to quote from BB Shaheed. She said: “In life there are challenges, but I think leadership is very much predicated on the capacity to absorb defeat and overcome it. Now, after having been in politics for more than two decades, I have come to the strong conclusion that the difference between somebody who succeeds and somebody who fails is the ability to absorb a setback. Because on the road to success there will be setbacks, and there are those who give up, and those who say that, “No, we are going to go on.” So it’s that capacity to absorb a failure”.
*Federal Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Government of Pakistan