Daughter of the East
27 December 2007 saw the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto - one of the most charismatic leaders of all time. You! pays a tribute to this courageous woman...
There are certain moments in time that remain frozen on collective memory. People will be able to remember where they were and what they were doing at the exact moment when certain famous personalities died. For example people could tell you exact details of the day Elvis Presley, Marilyn Munroe and Princess Diana died. In the same manner, they can also tell you details on the day certain star status politicians like President Kennedy, Indira Gandhi and Prime Minister Liaquat Ali were assassinated.Thousands of people, including top PPP leadership and workers have reached Garhi Khuda Bux village, Sindh to observe second death anniversary of their beloved leader and former prime minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed.
The second death anniversary on Sunday 27th December, 2009 is being observed with simplicity in reverence to the Ashura of Muharram-ul-Haram, when Muslims mourn incident of Karbala.
There are certain moments in time that remain frozen on collective memory. People will be able to remember where they were and what they were doing at the exact moment when certain famous personalities died. For example people could tell you exact details of the day Elvis Presley, Marilyn Munroe and Princess Diana died. In the same manner, they can also tell you details on the day certain star status politicians like President Kennedy, Indira Gandhi and Prime Minister Liaquat Ali were assassinated.
Similarly, people recall exactly what happened on the fateful day when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. People were in denial when news of her death started filtering in on that fate December evening. Even those who didn't agree with her politically, were shocked to hear that one of the icons whose life had been intervened with theirs for decades had been snuffed out by a cowardly attack of terrorism. It was incredible that a woman of such strength and full of life, had been killed by an assassin, but to tell you the truth there was no other way this larger than life figure could have ended her life. She made history in anything she did, and she proved to the world that Pakistan was a country to reckon with, whose women given the chance could rise to great heights and prove their mettle in any field.
People exchanged notes about the life of this political colossus who rose above in the male dominated arena. The people of Pakistan had watched her from the time she was a young newly orphaned slip of a girl dodging various agents to becoming the most respected and known Pakistani politician in the world.
In her 56 years Benazir Bhutto must have faced more than her fair share of problems in her personal as well as her political life. Benazir was born on June 21, 1953, in Karachi into the Bhutto dynasty. She was educated at Lady Jennings Nursery School and then Convent of Jesus and Mary in Karachi, and Rawalpindi Presentation Convent, she was sent to the Jesus and Mary Convent at Murree, passing her O'level exams when she was 15 years old. In 1969 she got admission at Harvard University's Radcliffe College from where she graduated in 1973 with a degree in political science. From there she went to Oxford University, where she was elected to the Standing Committee of the most prestigious Oxford Union Debating Society. In 1976 she graduated in P. P. E. (Politics, Philosophy and Economics).
However, she returned to Oxford in 1976 to do a one-year postgraduate course, where a year later she was elected as the president of the Oxford Union. She returned to Pakistan in June 1977, where she showed interest in the Foreign Service but her father had other plans for her and wanted her to contest the Assembly election. She assisted her father Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto as an advisor, from where he probably sensed that his eldest child was his heir.
Since then Benazir Bhutto's life would never be the same ever again. In July 1977, her father was ousted by his own Army Chief, General Zia-ul-Haq and executed. Reportedly, Benazir Bhutto the young girl sat outside Adiala jail in Rawalpindi all night, silently weeping and praying as her father was taken to the gallows inside, but emerged a strong determined woman who would face the world and fate, no matter what was thrown at her.
Her father was executed, her brothers forced into exile, she herself spent six and half years in jail. Her education and her resilient nature gave her the strength to emerge from this incarceration stronger and more able to tackle what life still had in store for her. She and her family would never be the same, life would never have been the same. A lesser woman would have collapsed under all the stress, but she not only managed to stay afloat but returned to life and politics with a renewed vigour.
Her family looked to her for strength after her father's execution; they found solace in her when her younger and beloved brother Shah Nawaz died under mysterious circumstances in Paris. Her mother, the former charismatic first lady of Pakistan, also sought her eldest child for comfort. She returned to Pakistan in 1986 to fight the elections for the National and Provincial assemblies under General Zia.
On December 18, 1987, Benazir married Asif Ali Zardari in Karachi and had three children - Bilawal; Bakhtwar and Aseefa. But married life nor motherhood could quash her thirst for politicians.
In 1988, she contested the elections after the death of General Zia, and became the first elected prime minister of Pakistan in 11 years. Apart from this, she was the youngest prime minister in Pakistan's history - last but not least she was the first female prime minister of a Muslim country.
Armed with her education at the most prestigious educational institutions in the world, she authored several books, two of which are 'Foreign Policy in Perspective' (1978) and her autobiography, 'Daughter of the East' (1989).
All her life, Benazir Bhutto was the pivot of her family, and later she single-handedly reared her three children. Apparently, family life was extremely important for her, for even as prime minister she had time for her three children, and proved to be a doting and dedicated mother. She kept the Pakistan People's Party intact even during the most difficult times, which earned her the trust and respect of leaders and politicians many years her senior.
She said in an interview with Jason Burke for The Observer that: "Under my leadership, the PPP will bring moderation, democracy and the basics that the nation's poorest need. We represent the underprivileged, the peasants, women, young people, the minorities, all those who have been neglected by elite governments..."
If the people of Pakistan want me there and want to trust me with the leadership of my country it will be a great honour to accept it."
Aware of the threats to her life, she was determined to return to Pakistan, as if to prove that terrorists could not scare her away, for in the same interview she said: "My return will take place irrespective of the dialogue process."
Even after facing an assassination attempt on October 18, 2007 in Karachi as she returned to Pakistan after her exile, she addressed a gathering in Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi. Incidentally this was the very spot where Pakistan's first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in 1951, where five decades later Benazir Bhutto would be killed. Also nearby was the very spot where her father had been executed three decades ago. Only she knows what she felt as she looked around at the sea of people flocking her today, comparing it to the day her father was executed when she waited all alone in an unmarked car outside the wall of the prison.
However, even on this fateful day, aware of threats to her life, Benazir Bhutto braved the public gathering in Liaquat Bagh and gave a speech, despite the fact that her political rival Nawaz Sharif's supporters had been fired upon killing four.
Unaware of the immediate danger to her life, she opened her speech with: "Wake up, my brothers! This country faces great dangers. This is your country! My country! We have to save it."She was advised by her security people of caution, but while leaving Liaquat Bagh she could not disappoint her supporters, and in her father's style she emerged from the sun roof in her car and waved to the people, when the terrorists attacked, the first one firing three shots and the second one detonating his suicide jacket. Amidst slogans of "Long Live Bhutto!" Benazir Bhutto collapsed in her car and rushed to Rawalpindi General Hospital where shortly she was declared dead: "It's all over. We did everything we could. She didn't make it. Benazir Bhutto has expired."
27th Dec,2009 | Muharram 09, 1431 A.H .