Today, at a crucial juncture of the political history of Pakistan when the PPP-led elected democratic government has attained a landmark achievement of presenting its 5th consecutive people-friendly budget, it is a coincidence that we are marking the 59th birthday of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. The life of Shaheed BB, who was twice elected prime minister of Pakistan and chairperson of the PPP, was dedicated to the service of the people of Pakistan and making the nation a modern and progressive democracy.
The political observers who had opportunity to have some interaction with BB during her childhood and especially in her late teen years, had already predicted about her glorious political career and highlighted her abilities to become a great political leader. Truly, Shaheed BB was born to lead millions of people of Pakistan as well as to emerge as a symbol of hope, resistance and struggle for the rights of the people.
The political career of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto reminds us of her unprecedented stand against the tyranny and for the restoration of the democracy in the country. These were the days of her uncompromising struggle, and later as her visionary and future-oriented policies and her love for the poor and hapless people of the country. As a leader of the downtrodden, she took courageous steps to ensure better future for the people and to safeguard the rights of the most vulnerable segments of society.
After the restoration of democracy and the end of the long era of tyranny in the country, the visionary leader did not seek revenge from the elements who were responsible for all the miseries inflicted upon her and her family starting from the arrest and subsequent judicial murder of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to all oppressive tools used by General Zia to crush the PPP and especially, the Bhuttos. Instead, she focused upon rebuilding Pakistan and to serve the people with best of her abilities.
Besides ushering new era of economic growth and development, Shaheed BB augmented the defence of the country and provided missile technology to Pakistan, which was an immediate need in that critical international scenario. Being an ardent advocate of the rights of women, she took various steps to enhance social, political and economic empowerment and emancipation of the women folks of the country, including establishment of women’s banks and women’s police stations.
It was also for the very first time that a women’s affairs ministry was established during her first tenure in the office. With regard to socio-economic development of the country, Shaheed BB expanded Port Qasim, Steel Mills and launched the Keti Bunder and Thar Coal projects. She also created jobs opportunities for a large number of youth and increased the wages and salaries of the labourers.
Shaheed Benazir Bhutto had a firm believe in a state which regards the honor, dignity and equality among the people as its hallmarks as well as a deep commitment with the prosperity and development of Pakistan. She expressed her desire at several occasions by saying that “I want to see a prosperous, progressive and developed Pakistan.”
Shaheed BB introduced the ideals of political reconciliation and forgiving and forgetting in an environment that was polluted by the acts of political vendettas by some quarters who did not uphold the democratic values in their true sense. This vision of national reconciliation and forgiveness is still being seen as a guiding principle as the political heirs of Shaheed BB are today confronting the same anti-democracy mindset.
The heart of Shaheed BB was full of sympathy for the poor and under-privileged segments of society. Hence, due to her untiring work for the people of Pakistan, she immediately became a symbol of hope after her emergence at the national political scene. She gave the masses an assurance that they were the real inheritors of the country and they will have a secured economic future.
As the leader of masses, Shaheed BB set high goals of serving the people and took the arduous challenge of completing the mission of Quaid-e-Awam, her Shaheed father. This mission was based on the vision of making Pakistan a modern state with a vibrant democracy where equal rights of all its citizens were guaranteed.
The efforts of Shaheed BB aimed at serving the people of Pakistan irrespective of caste, creed or colour, which was a vision perfectly in line with the guiding principles of the father of the nation, regarding how to run the affairs of new state.
Shaheed BB, while once talking about the future of Pakistan, said she believed that a nation that was inspired by democracy, human rights and economic opportunity, would turn its back decisively against extremism. She added further that “Indeed, I look forward to the day that a truly democratic Pakistan, unhindered by extremists and military rule, takes its place on the world stage”.
The present democratic government, despite the fact that the anti-democratic forces are still not weak, and several issues, both at international and national level, are to be confronted, has shown utter determination for the cause of fulfilling the mission of making Pakistan a modern, progressive and democratic nation, as it was envisioned by Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. Besides taking several steps to provide people of Pakistan relief, and to give them better economic opportunity, establishing Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) was the initiative which set new standards of serving underprivileged segments of society in Pakistan. The programme has been able to gain support and admiration at international level due to its transparent and effective mechanisms and for achieving practical goals with regard to complete social rehabilitation of the poor and downtrodden of society.
On the occasion of the 59th birth anniversary of our great leader, Shaheed Mohtarma, we reaffirm our commitment to keep serving people of Pakistan with the same level of zeal and zest that Shaheed BB would have been expecting from us. On this occasion, we also reassure the masses of Pakistan that they would not be left alone and their economic rights would be catered to as it was wished by our great Shaheed leader.
The writer is Benazir Income Support Programme chairperson