Benazir Bhutto 1953-2007: a tribute

Remembering the Daughter of the East

Today it was Benazir Bhutto’s third death anniversary. When we were growing up in Pakistan at the height of General Zia’s military regime’s power, everyone believed that Benazir would return to depose the tyrant and restore democracy: this was gospel.

Therefore,  it was difficult for me to let the day of BB’s death pass without some form of remembrance of her personality on this site.

After all it is our purpose to provide a place from where the voice of the mazdoors and kissans, the “people”, of Pakistan can be heard.

Pakistan’s people looked to BB to pull their country out of the doldrums.

Despite all the misfortune, tragedy and scandals, it would be right to say she was the most loved politician in the country ever. BB was very popular with the mazdoors and kissans of Pakistan. Rivals like the Sharifs even expressly conceded this point upon her death.

When I met BB in Fatehyab Ali Khan’s company on the few occasions which I did, she always came across as a very cheerful, nice and intelligent person.

There were no strip you down routines by security officials when meeting BB at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs. With other “heads of state” such searches were routine.

When Musharraf had come to the PIIA there was lots of last minute security stuff which was really silly: there was none of that with BB. When Her Majesty ER II attended the Middle Temple Church to grant a renewal of the Inn’s Letters Patent and I went to the ceremony there was less security in comparison to the arrangements which were in place for Musharraf or “mujahid” (this is what the army morons affectionately called him). From experience, I can say that ER II and BB were not big on security. At the Inn the police did not even search me before allowing me in the same room as the Queen. The same was true for BB: like ER II she wanted to meet everyone.

I was in Karachi when BB was murdered. I had just come home at around six-thirtyish in the evening and Fatehyab Ali Khan told me about what had happened. He was very pained by her death. Despite the fact that he felt that BB had let Pakistan down in her first two stints in power he believed that she was the only leader who had enough experience in office and the diplomatic skills required to turn the country around from the consequences of the army’s long yoke of dismantling Pakistan’s democratic institutions.

BB’s death was a tragedy which will mar Pakistan for some time to come. For my generation BB embodied the truth: theoretically she represented democracy. She was the symbol which repudiated Zia’s dictatorship. Pakistanis might have felt let down when she did badly in keeping her promises but it was always the case that the people of Pakistan overwhelmingly supported BB (they were quite mad about her – no matter what!): whatever she did in the past was no longer an issue when she campaigned in 2007 for the elections.

No other politician can compare to her in that way. BB was special and everyone knew it. It was a great loss for Pakistan when she was murdered. Perhaps no woman will ever rise to her political stature in the country ever again. Other women in her family simply don’t compare. It was that Persian blood which one can’t replace. When she died Fatehyab Ali Khan brought out her hand written notes and those written by her party’s workers who had been sentenced to death. Some of these PPP workers who Zia hanged communicated with Fathehyab Ali Khan from death row using clandestine methods.

Since BB was a massive leader the UN Secretary-General appointed Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz, the Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations, as head of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry into the facts and circumstances of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto (the Commission). The Commission also appointed Mr Marzuki Darusman, a former Attorney-General of Indonesia, and Mr Peter FitzGerald, a former Deputy Commissioner of the Irish Police, the Garda Siochána to assist with the investigation.

The Commission commenced its activities on 1 July 2009 and provided its report to the Secretary-General on 30 March 2010.

The report found that the police had covered up the evidence by washing the crime scene immediately after the incident which lead to BB’s death. There was evidence, the report stressed, that the Musharraf regime failed to provide enough security to BB, but equally, the report also stressed that the PPP did not make sufficient arrangements to protect BB either. The report also stated that in the aftermath of the bombing there was no car available to take BB to the hospital and she had to wait for twenty minutes before a car turned up to take her wounded body to a hospital.

CPO Saud Aziz’s role in covering up the incident has been very harshly criticised in the report but it would appear that he was taking orders from an undisclosed source.

Whatever her detractors might say anyone would have to concede that despite all the scandals BB represented something good in the minds of Pakistan’s masses and people continue to perceive her as a positive force in the country’s political history. Nothing will ever change that and the fact that BB died fighting while leading from the front serves as a testament to her determination. BB died trying to set the record straight. Others in her place would have cared much less I reckon.

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  • kazim hasan  On April 24, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    I think your tribute to BB is awesome. I shared it with my friends. Some of them wept.

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