Benazir Bhutto had a life full of ‘turbulence, tragedies and triumphs’. The tragedies outnumbered the triumphs.
In 1979 as a young girl full of emotions she met her father who was the first popularly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan for the last time in the death cell and she was not even allowed to give him fight through legal and constitutional means for her father – but on that day she must have had second thoughts about her decision.
Many people had thought that she will now leave Pakistan and live a life abroad, but instead she joined active politics and fought for bringing back democracy. During the decade-long struggle she had to spend time in solitary confinement
and was arrested multiple times. She led mass protests and campaigns of civil disobedience against the brutal martial law regime and General Zia in a private conversation just months before his plane crash had admitted to Mark Siegel who was accompanying an American a hug despite her repeated protests the jailer didn’t open the cell door and instead told her repeatedly th
at the ‘time is up’ and she has to leave. For years, unlike her brothers she had opted todelegation that his ‘biggest mistake was to let Benazir live’ and when Siegel narrated this to Benazir, she looked at him and said that ‘he is damn right’.
Benazir Bhutto won this battle of democracy and became the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Islamic world in 1988. It was not an easy task to win elections in a patriarchal society, but she proved her enemies and skeptics wrong. There was also a deep message for the western world who had always considered Muslim societies to be too conservative to have a woman leader and she brought many pro-people reforms and gave rights to the people which had been usurped by Zia’s regime.
Like many other politicians and leaders of the world she committed many mistakes both in her personal and professional life. Instead of following her father’s socialist policies she introduced Neo-Thatcherism and did growth based economic reforms. There were many charges of corruption against her husband – who couldn’t have operated without the permission of his wife. It is also a reality that none of the charges were proved and most cases were withdrawn by the subsequent governments.
Why she married Zardari? This is a question that people often ask because those who knew her could never have thought that she would agree to an arranged marriage. Frankly, Benazir didn’t have any other option because she knew that if she has to operate in the conservative Pakistani society she will first have to get married and due to the multiple pressure tactics of the Zia regime there weren’t many people who could take this ‘risk’ so among the two prospect candidates Zardari was the only Sindhi and hence became her husband.
Despite multiple threats to her life she decided to come back to her country and once again launch a pro-democracy movement, but before coming to Pakistan in 2007 she wrote:
“Some people might not understand what drives me forward into this uncharted and potentially dangerous crossroads of my life. Too many people have sacrificed too much, too many have died and too many people see me as their remaining hope for liberty – so for me to stop fighting now is not an option. I recall the words of Martin Luther King ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ So with my faith in God, I put my fate in the hands of my people.”
The ‘remaining hope for liberty’ – as she called herself was lost on 27th December’ 2007 when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in the same town in which she last met her father.