A Woman Called Benazir

A Woman Called Benazir
It was a hot April afternoon when I was in my class at Aitchison College, when the peon walked into the class and whispered something into the ears of our teacher. There was a strange hustle bustle in the corridors and teachers were seen murmuring something to each other. Suddenly pour teacher announced that the School will be off early today and nobody will go out from the Mall Road. When some of us asked why, we were reprimanded and asked to just follow the announcement. As soon as the school ended one of my class fellows said he heard some loud music and sloganeering on mall road and wanted us all to go and see what it was all about. A few of us ran up to the school walls opening up on mal and road and climbed it to be shocked out of our wits. It was a PPP rally to welcome Benazir Bhutto back from exile. Never in our lives had we seen so much dancing, music, chanting or a political rally. It was a riot of colours with men, women, young and old dancing and screaming away. It was then when we realised who Benazir Bhutto was and we too broke into chants of jeay Bhutto.

Today the youth of Pakistan sadly doesn’t read much or probe at all. They accept populist slogans on face value and adhere to the commonly practiced political beliefs. No thought or research is conducted into what today’s leaders claim, deny and then reclaim at the drop of a hat. Today’s youth have no idea who was Benazir, what she struggled for, how did she struggle and what she meant/means to Pakistan even today.

In this era of social media, where everything is a click away, it is unforgiveable not to know facts. Had our young minds been trained to think and go beyond the obvious, they too would have realised what today’s leaders like Imran Khan (once out of power) and Maryam Nawaz (Once jailed) also realise and when state it, that Benazir and her legacy remains relevant and how her struggles have become a reference point for a fight for democracy and a fight against fascism.

Her resilience and strength during her time Sukkur Jail would put every leader in today’s time to shame. I can safely claim that none of the main stream leadership of PTI or PMLN can even survive 10% of what she endured and that too under a real martial law and no social media time. How she without any male support stood up against an all-powerful military dictator leading from the front and not from her house in Clifton, Karachi.

She not only restored democracy in Pakistan, she stood to champion the rights of women, minorities and other marginalised segments of the society/ country. She was a unifying force across Pakistan having presence in each province of the country. Her stature was not just of that of a daughter of a brave Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but that of a strong, equally brave and solid woman.

Her vision of a tolerant, inclusive, progressive and moderate Pakistan remains a theme for her Pakistan People’s Party, but also something this country badly wants. Her repeated statements of each pillar of the state remaining within their constitutional roles and how the military has no business doing politics is far more relevant today than it was back then.

It is heartening to hear PTI fans today when they openly admit that Imran Khan seems to echo what Benazir used to say back then. It is ironic that all her detractors in PMLN today salute her bravery, her vision and her mind set.

The youth sadly know her only as the first woman prime minister of Pakistan and the Muslim world and that she was the mother of Bilawal Bhutto or the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. What they don’t know is what it actually meant to be all of the above. What we don’t hear is what it took from her to be all that we saw her to be. What we rarely understand are what choices she had and what choices she created for herself. What we may never know is how she went from strength to strength over time only due to her calibre, attitude and approach towards life.

You will always find pictures of her leading a charge of protestors trying to go past barbed wires and not hidden away behind a shield of supporters. You saw her up and on the roads meeting families of victims and nursing the injured at hospitals across Karachi, the very next day of that deadly attack on her at Karsaz in Karachi. What you did not see was her locked inside for months asking only her supporters to be on the roads. She is a prime example of leading from the front in a real life battle field and not a sporting arena. Can’t imagine anyone today aping such acts of bravery.

This and more is what the youngsters of today do not know and do not understand. This was also a populous leader, but a leader who led her supporters from the front. She was also successful in gathering thousands at her rallies, but never did she misuse that power to incite them towards violence. She too had a very powerful opposition against her who became personal and ugly in their campaigns against her, but never did she match their vulgarity or their filthy language. What she taught back then is not just relevant today, but is something that should be part of our school curriculum. This is what our next generation doesn’t know that there was once a woman called Benazir and this is all that she stood for and eventually died for as well. The minute they realise that they will see how her death has left a lasting impression on the psyche of this country and voters or no voters of PPP today, still talk fondly, emotionally and with passion about who Benazir Bhutto was to them all.