Benazir Bhutto did not utter a word as she fell in the lap of her political secretary Naheed Khan in the car after being hit by a ‘mysterious bullet’ on December 27th, 2007. It brought an end to a traumatic political journey of the first woman prime minister of the Islamic world.
The PPP could not recover after her. She practically proved herself a people’s leader, who died among her own people. We may never be able to know the true story of her assassination.
“Connect me to Mian Sahib, I heard about firing on his rally and some people were killed. I want to inquire about him and his workers. His phone was constantly busy,” she said, “Okay, let me wave to this crowd as they want their leader to respond and she came out of the car and never spoke again,” former PPP Senator Safdar Abbasi, who was in the car along with his wife Naheed, recalled. Had Mian Sahib’s phone not been busy, we would have left the venue and she would not have come out of the car,” he added.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was among the first leaders who reached the hospital after hearing of the attack on her and everyone saw the way he cried. One of them recalled, “It was not only the murder of a great woman, a great leader, but also the murder of democracy at a time when we had both agreed on Charter of Democracy.”
Let’s have a close look on her career, murder and why no government including the PPP’s could trace the planners, perpetrators and financiers.
It is true that she was killed by a ‘mindset,’ who always found it difficult to accept a woman as prime minister, and she had defeated it in the elections when people voted her to power.
Despite victory, she was never accepted as PM and attempts were made to dislodge her, but each time she bounced back. Finally, she was physically eliminated.
First, her father was physically removed and nine years back, his daughter. That mindset still controls the political narrative, irrespective of whether they get electoral support or not. Even the National Action Plan or Operation Zarb-e-Azb could not weaken them. But, it’s not about the mindset alone but the politics have also changed and it would be naive if we only look on one aspect of her murder without ignoring as to who shared the blame in pre-Benazir and post-Benazir era.
Bilawal was young at the time of the tragedy and before leaving Dubai for Pakistan on October 18, she met everyone in the family, knowing the risk of the journey. She survived first attempt on her arrival in which 150 PPP workers were killed. She was advised to return, but she refused. She survived second attempt on December 26 in Peshawar when the alleged suicide bomber was arrested before he had blown himself near her car. But, he could not survive the fatal attack on December 27th, only 10 days before January 8, 2008 elections.
Bilawal rightly demands justice at a time when he is likely to be nominated as successor to carry her mother’s political journey, since PPP is passing through a difficult pathway. Seeking justice from the present government is justified as the PML-N is in power for the past three and half years, but he should also show some courage in making her own PPP government from 2008 to 2013 accountable for its failure in both October 18th and December 27th tragedies.
He needs to trace the missing links from the day. Benazir wrote a letter to Sindh police chief regarding conspiracy to kill her and how long that letter was kept sealed. He should also look into the criminal aspect of the incident as well.
One thing which Bilawal needs to find out as to why all those named by Benazir in her letter, have never been probed, and some became PPP’s allies, on the contrary. When Benazir said, “Democracy is the best revenge,” she wanted to bury the traumatic past and political rivalries to strength democracy, but would have never thought that this phrase would be used to ‘bury her own murder case.” All those named by her in the letter after October 18th, not only been given red carpet farewell but also made allies.
Former president Asif Zardari who succeeded Benazir as co-chairperson is also expected to give a few surprises in his important speech at her ninth death anniversary and we all wait for his announcement which many believe would have far-reaching impact both on the PPP and the future politics.
The PPP could not recover after her assassination and the irony was that it even lost in Rawalpindi in 2008, the city which had a lot of memories and once used to be PPP’s stronghold.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a genius and breaking all traditions of male-dominated society, he groomed his eldest daughter, Benazir Bhutto, which for the first time was noticed by an Indian journalist, who interviewed her during his visit to Shimla for historic accord in the early 1970s.
Although Benazir was too young, she used to go to see her father in prison and once described her last meeting with him, the day before he was hanged. “It was one of the most painful moments of my life, but he was so calm and composed and gave me tips for the future politics. He could have compromised but refused and wanted to live and die with his own people.”
After nearly three decades, she herself fell victim. Like Bhutto, she could have stayed back in Dubai and waited for the outcome of January 2008 elections and returned after having been elected PM, but turned down all advices and died with the people, minutes after addressing them at Liaquat Bagh.
She not only died with the people but even when she was married to Asif Zardari, she arranged a ‘public reception,’ at Lyari, PPP’s stronghold. Unlike many political leaders, she always led from the front and at times, even surprised police and administration with her surprise entry during agitation. At least twice, I was the witness, once in Lyari in 1986 and once during rally in Rawalpindi. On both occasions, she surfaced during teargas shelling.
Benazir’s political journey started at 70-Clifton and ended at Bilawal House. During her traumatic political journey, she was put in prison, detained, sent on exile but she kept the party alive. During General Zia’s period, attempts were made to malign her, through character assassination but she showed courage. Role of Begum Nusrat Bhutto was a key agent in giving her courage and strength.
It is also a matter of history and now an admitted fact that under Benazir, the PPP had never been allowed to get two-thirds majority and the role of then establishment was now an open secret. In 1988, it formed and backed IJI, and in 1990, even money was distributed through Mehran Bank. Whether the party is over or not, it depends on the party itself and its leadership, but there is little chance that PPP would ever be the same party left by Bhutto and Benazir.
—This writer is a senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang. He tweets @MazharAbbasGEO
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Sign me up for the newsletter!
The content is the property of the Roznama Urdu and without permission of the publisher will be considered copyright infringement..