“Live amongst people in such a manner that if you are alive, they crave for your company, and if you die, they weep over you,” are the immortal words of Hazat Ali (AS).
Words that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto committed to her heart. Indeed during her life, those who knew her and those who wanted to, all alike, aspired to meet her, to be like her, to follow her lead. And when she was so cruelly snatched from us, billions across the world wept in grief, and continue to weep to date.
Today, on her 59th birthday, mere words are insufficient to pay tribute to a leader who lived and died solely for her nation and its people.
Benazir Bhutto was a personality larger than life. So infectious was her fervour to serve her nation, that it instilled in everyone she interacted with, an innate desire to adopt her cause.
She consistently explored new frontiers and drove those with her to do likewise. Her passion and commitment made her an inspiration for not just the people of Pakistan but those across the globe.
Having borne a lifetime of tribulations, sacrifices, and irreparable losses, Mohtarma still managed to remain optimistic in her outlook. And no time did she let her circumstances defeat her indomitable spirit. Instead, she emerged, stronger than before, ready for the next challenge. Whenever life threw her a curveball, and there were many, she played it like a pro. Her struggle began as the responsibility of her party and her nation was thrust upon her young shoulders. When a girl who wanted to join the Foreign Service was instead encumbered with the burden of leading a revolution against the tyrant who killed her father and devastated her nation. “This is not the life I chose; it chose me,” she said. Yet, when it came to honouring the promise made to her great father, she accepted her responsibility and stood strong and loyal – never once wavering in her mission to establish an egalitarian Pakistan.
It was from her inimitable father that Benazir Bhutto learnt to love, honour, serve and protect her nation. “You cannot be big unless you are prepared to kiss the ground. You cannot defend the soil unless you know the smell of that soil,” he wrote to her from his death cell. And true to his teachings, she lived.
When it came to leading the fight for democracy, Mohtarma was single-minded. With legendary far-sight and vision, she recognised that true leadership required daring action and necessitated the need to challenge status quo. “Despite threats of death, I will not acquiesce to tyranny, but rather lead the fight against it,” Mohtarma proclaimed when there was imminent danger to her life.
Indeed, true to her word, not only did she lead the fight, her spirit survived all tyrants’ attempts to defeat and vanquish. “I am not one of those leaders who sell lies and buy time,” Mohtarma said once.
Unfortunately, it was the lying tyrants who sought to keep her from serving her people. Let history show, however, that although they incessantly tried to sell barefaced lies, they were still unable to buy time. For time, that very harsh judge, will continue to pay homage to Benazir Bhutto, long after all trace of her enemies, indeed the enemies of Pakistan, has disappeared.
Her abilities and charisma can never be forgotten. Her sacrifice continues to live on in her hearts and minds. Indeed she has left us all an enormous responsibility – the responsibility of Pakistan.
She’s entrusted us with the future for which she gave her life. A responsibility similar to that which her father left her, who in his last message to her said, “To you, my darling daughter, I give only one message. It is the message of the morrow, the message of history. Believe only in the people, work only for their emancipation and equality. The paradise of God lies under the feet of your mother. The paradise of politics lies under the feet of the people.” A lesson on which Mohtarma based her political ideology.
As a true visionary, Mohtarma understood the dangers posed by extremism. As she was preparing to return to Karachi after so many years of exile, her thoughts reflected her inner resolve as she proclaimed that, “The forces of democracy must, and will, prevail again extremism and dictatorship. I will not be intimidated. I will step out of the tarmac in Karachi, not to complete a journey, but to begin one.” Indeed, the journey she began is being continued by her government today. Today, dear sister, your government is fulfilling the promises you made to your people. Today, as I see your government in Pakistan, adhering to your principles, committed to your vision, working on your goals, serving your people – I feel your presence among us. Today dear leader, what gift can we give you? You, who gave us the most precious gift of all. All that we can do is reaffirm our unwavering commitment to your cause, your ideals – your Pakistan!