What Benazir stood for

By Amanat Ali Chaudhry

Those who are born are bound to die one day. But what people leave behind them in terms of legacy is important. History's verdict on leaders and their doings is the most objective assessment as it purges all estimates of their actions of biases and prejudices by sifting facts from fiction and puts the record straight.

December 27, 2009, marks the second death anniversary of slain leader of the PPP and former prime minister Shaheed (martyr) Benazir Bhutto. Given the importance of the day, it is necessary to analyse what Benazir stood for. What are the factors that have made her the heartbeat of millions of people across Pakistan and abroad? Here is a check list.

Benazir was not merely an individual but an incarnation of causes that are larger than life. She was the symbol of the federation and national unity. The PPP, which the Bhutto family nurtured with its blood and personal sacrifices, has its following in all the four provinces of Pakistan.

Despite the efforts of the establishment to splinter the party by winning over some of its erstwhile stalwarts through ministerial positions, the party held its ground. This in itself is a credit to the leadership of Benazir who withstood all pressures bravely by rising above her personal pains for the larger cause of democracy and representative rule. The threat to the PPP and Benazir was a threat posed to national integration.

By killing her, the perpetrators of doom and gloom have tried to conspire against the federation of the country, but will they succeed?

The life of Benazir is a symbol of resistance against dictatorship and tyrannical rule. She joined politics at a time when a military dictator was entrenched in power and her father, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was all set to go to the gallows due to manipulation of the judicial process. From then onwards, she led a relentless struggle against dictatorship and for the revival of democracy. Hundreds of workers of the party were beaten publicly and detained illegally but these coercive actions of the regime only served to strengthen the resolve of the workers under the dynamic leadership of Ms Bhutto.

During the nine year-long dictatorial rule of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, Benazir waged a campaign against the excesses of the dictator during her stay abroad in self-exile. By killing Benazir, the perpetrators of this heinous crime have tried to snatch away the dream of democracy and representative rule. Being a woman herself, Benazir was a role model for the women of not only Pakistan but also the entire world. She had the honour of being the first woman prime minister of a Muslim country.

Benazir was a powerful voice for women's rights and emancipation in a male-dominated society. In a society where divisive ideologies and extremist viewpoints are a noticeable feature, she was an icon who stood for enlightenment and an inclusive society. She was for diversity in unity. She stood in the way of extremists and worked for an enlightened Pakistan. By killing Benazir Bhutto, the terrorists have tried to convey a message to women about the type of society they want to establish, which is characterised with radicalisation.

The situation is pretty explosive with unimaginable implications for the future of the state and society. It all depends on our collective response to the challenges we face today. By killing Benazir, her murderers might have silenced one voice but they cannot silence the ideas and causes her life symbolised and for which she sacrificed her life. In the kind of circumstances Pakistan is mired in, there is all the more need to look forward to the ideals espoused by Benazir because they give Pakistanis light at the end of the tunnel.

This democratic government, which has come into power as a result of the people's vote on February 18, 2008, owes it to Benazir and it is its prime obligation to translate her ideals into reality. There can be no better tribute to her than this. This is how Pakistan can defeat the terrorists.

Courtesy Daily Times, Pakistan

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