Daughter Of The East, You Are Missed

Daughter Of The East, You Are Missed
Rawalpindi, 27 December 2007 – Benazir Bhutto, the iconic twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, was brutally assassinated by the dark and sinister forces of religious extremism, obscurantism and intolerance. In this cowardly attack, 20 party workers lost their lives and over 70 were seriously injured. After the tragic incident, inquiries were launched by a joint investigation team of the FIA, the UN and Scotland Yard of the UK – and yet no definite or conclusive result could be brought to light. A total of 12 challans were filed in this case, 355 appearances were recorded, 10 judges were changed and 141 witnesses, including 68 prosecution witnesses, testified. 16 people were accused in the case, but only eight of them were arrested.

The main accused, Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a drone strike. Five other accused – Nadir Khan alias Qari, Nasrullah, Abdullah alias Saddam, Ikramullah, Faiz Muhammad Kaskat – were also killed in encounters with intelligence agencies at different places. The suicide bomber who attacked the former prime minister was identified as Saeed Blakel, who died in the blast. The police arrested five accused Aitzaz Shah, Sher Zaman, Rashid Ahmed, Rafaqat and Hasnain Gul – and dumped the debris on them.

Benazir Bhutto, the political successor of the founder of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the charismatic Z.A. Bhutto, was the eleventh and then the thirteenth Prime Minister of Pakistan and served two incomplete terms as prime minister in 1988 and then in 1990. She was the first women to be the head of government in any Muslim country and is recognised and applauded as an icon of democracy and for her relentless political struggle for her country. Her leadership of the PPP sustained the democratic institutions in Pakistan and proved a bulwark against military dictatorship and political instability. During both her terms as PM, she worked ceaselessly to combat the scourge of poverty, hunger, religious extremism, terrorism and bigotry. She struggled hard to provide housing and health care to the common citizens. She focused very seriously on women’s rights and took down several laws that impeded women’s freedom. She faced the opposition of the religious lobby and Islamic militants for being a woman.

Her rule was marred by allegations of corruption and mismanagement, and she went into exile in 1996. She will always be remembered for her sincere efforts to promote democracy and women’s rights and her efforts to deal with the economic and social issues facing the nation. She implemented economic reforms and sought to improve living standards for the poor and disadvantaged. She also worked to improve relations with other countries and played a role in promoting peace and stability in the region.
She once said: “I have led an unusual life. I have buried a father killed at age 50 and two brothers killed in the prime of their lives. I raised my children as a single mother when my husband was arrested and held for eight years without a conviction – a hostage to my political career”

The one and only charismatic Benazir Bhutto was born in Karachi on 21 June 1953 as the eldest child of Z.A. Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan. She completed her high school education in Pakistan and proceeded to the USA for her university education. She entered Radcliffe College at Harvard University and graduated with a B.A. Degree in comparative government. After this, she then attended the Oxford University in the UK and obtained a degree in international law and diplomacy. These are academic achievements to be proud of.

Even the most ardent critics and political opponents of Benazir Bhutto cannot doubt her great love for her country and her desperate struggle for the welfare of the people of Pakistan. She was the first woman Prime Minister of a Muslim-majority country, and this position was no bed of roses. She had a very heavy burden on her shoulders, she was a role model aware of the importance of healthcare and an icon for billions of women all over the world – especially for young Pakistani women. And she was totally aware of the burden that she carried, which she described as “It is not easy being a woman anywhere. Moreover, for women leaders, the obstacles are greater, the demands are greater, the barriers are greater, and the double standards are greater.”

As a woman and a mother of three, she was aware of the great importance of access to healthcare to empower women. It was during her tenure that the health budget of the country was increased by 60%. As a woman PM and the mother of three, she was very aware of the importance of healthcare for mother and child. “As a woman leader,” she said, “I thought I brought a different kind of leadership. I was interested in women’s issues, in bringing down the population growth rate [...] as a woman, I entered politics with an additional dimension – that of a mother.” She was the first ruler to introduce the new and revolutionary concept of lady health workers in the country because she was cognizant of the fact that Pakistani women can only have access to healthcare if provided by women. She recruited and trained a huge army of 50,000 women to provide healthcare at the doorstep of our women. This program looked after the problems of infant and maternal mortality, reproductive health and family planning. The lady healthcare initiative was a bold and revolutionary concept initiated by Benazir Bhutto that also provided door to door facilities for polio vaccination.

Her efforts were recognized by the World Health Organisation, which awarded her a gold medal in honour and recognition of Pakistan’s efforts to eliminate polio and provide basic healthcare. Both tenures of Benazir as PM were cut short by the use of the draconian law called 58 (2) B and she was never given the opportunity to complete her five-year term according to the constitution of the land. In spite of all the impediments and obstacles, she revolutionised our foreign policy and relations with other friendly countries. She focused on the national technology policy, the economic policy, women’s rights, nuclear program, and the energy, agriculture and labour sectors. She did more than many elected or imposed governments of Pakistan. She believed that no nation would succeed unless its women stood as equals and broke free from the patriarchal chains that shackled them. As she famously said in Beijing, “It is my conviction that we can only conquer poverty, squalor, illiteracy and superstition when we invest in our women and when our women begin working.”

Benazir Bhutto was one of the most effective political leaders in our history. She had the natural ability to inspire and motivate people, and to unite the country around a common cause. She worked all her life to formulate and implement policies to improve the lives of the common people and bring about economic and social development. She displayed a deep compassion for the poor and economically deprived people of the country.

Having married Asif Ali Zardari in 1987, had three children and lived a life of constant threats worries and personal tragedies, she once said: “I have led an unusual life. I have buried a father killed at age 50 and two brothers killed in the prime of their lives. I raised my children as a single mother when my husband was arrested and held for eight years without a conviction – a hostage to my political career.”

“Charismatic, striking and a canny political operator,” The Times said in an appraisal after her death. “She ruled the party with an iron hand, jealously guarding her position, even while leading the party in absentia for nearly a decade.”

Her rosy pink complexion gave her the childhood name “Pinky” and this is what she was called during her school days in the Presentation Convent School in Murree and later on in university at Harvard and Oxford. After graduating from Harvard, the lyrics from Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of the 1960s song — “I’m leavin’ on a jet plane/don’t know when I’ll be back again” — were stuck in her head as she boarded a plane for home. She returned to the United States 16 years later, in 1989, not as Pinky but as Benazir Bhutto, the new prime minister of Pakistan — the first woman elected to lead an Islamic country.