Sharjeel Inam Memon
The 70th birthday of Ms. Benazir Bhutto Shaheed is being celebrated today. After her martyrdom on December 27, 2007, this is the 15th birthday since her passing, which we are celebrating without her. When she left us forever, she was only 54 years old. She sacrificed her life for her country and her people. On her birthday, we can give her the gift of dedicating our lives to our land and our people as well.
45 years ago today on 21 June 1978, when it was the 25th birthday of Shaheed Ms. Benazir Bhutto, her great father Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto wrote a letter to her from Central Jail Rawalpindi. Shaheed Bibi was also in jail at that time. It was a long letter, which was published in book form under the title “My Dearest Daughter”.
45 years ago today, on June 21, 1978, on the occasion of Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s 25th birthday, her esteemed father Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto penned a letter to her from Central Jail Rawalpindi. Shaheed Bibi herself was also imprisoned at that time. The letter, titled “My Dearest Daughter,” was of considerable length and was later published as a book.
In this heartfelt letter, Shaheed Bhutto expressed his deep emotions and contemplated the complexities of the situation. He wrote to his dearest daughter. How can a convicted prisoner father write a letter congratulating his beautiful and intelligent daughter on her birthday when both the father and daughter are in prison? She is aware that her mother is also enduring immense pain and is actively engaged in fighting to secure her father’s release.”
This letter is a bigger deal than communication. How can the message of love and compassion reach from one prison to another and from one chain to another. I give you only one message, this message is the message of the coming day and the message of history, just believe in the people and work for their salvation and equality. This is the message of Almighty Allah that believe only in the people. The paradise of Allah is under the feet of your mother and the paradise of politics is under the feet of the people. What gift can I offer you from within the confines of this prison cell, where even the simple act of extending my hand is denied? I bestow upon you the gift of the collective hand of the people. What event can I arrange for you? I present you with the gift of a renowned reputation and a memorial service that resonates throughout history. You are the inheritor of the ancient Indus Valley civilization, the oldest known civilization. Play your integral role in advancing and empowering this ancient civilization to its fullest potential.
On June 21, 1978, the esteemed Bhutto-The Great bestowed his beloved daughter upon the people, and Shaheed Bibi not only stood by the people until her demise but also made the ultimate sacrifice, giving her life to uphold her bond with the people. A few years following her father’s martyrdom, Shaheed Bibi expressed in an interview with the renowned Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, “In the realm of Pakistani politics, there are numerous trials, sorrows, and sufferings.” Several individuals in my family advised me to abandon politics and seek a life of luxury in a Western country, given that I have everything. However, how could I possibly derive enjoyment from such a life when it necessitates severing ties with my country and my people?”
Then the world witnessed how Shaheed Bibi upheld this profound connection with her homeland and its people. Although she was born into a royal family, with a privileged upbringing, she possessed a compassionate and empathetic nature that couldn’t bear to witness the suffering of others.
In the same letter written from the death cell, Shaheed Bhutto wrote about an incident from his dearest daughter Shaheed Bibi’s childhood. Addressing his daughter, he said, “During the winter of 1957, when you were four years old, we sat on the terrace of Al-Murtaza. The weather was very pleasant in the morning. I had a double-barreled gun in my hand, and without thinking, I shot and killed a wild parrot. You screamed when the parrot came close to the terrace and fell. You buried him in your presence. However, you continued to cry and refused to eat anything.
The girl who shed tears over the death of a bird not only battled against two military dictatorships in history but also confronted gun-wielding terrorists who were patronized by internal and external forces. Shaheed Mrs. Benazir Bhutto engaged in politics from the age of 25 until her death when she was 54, in a country like Pakistan, which was considered one of the most perilous for political involvement. By the way, this period of his 29-year political career was the most challenging for popular politicians worldwide, particularly in the developing nations. The disintegration of the Soviet Union, coupled with the weakening of both national liberation and democratic movements, had a significant impact globally.
At the same time, the era of the Cold War ended and America became the only superpower in the world, which imposed the “New World Order” on the world. In this New World Order, non-state actors, especially terrorist organizations, were framing the rules of world politics. Simultaneously, the Cold War era came to a close, and the United States emerged as the sole global superpower, asserting its dominance through the establishment of a “New World Order.” Within this New World Order, non-state actors, particularly terrorist organizations, played a significant role in shaping the dynamics of world politics.
People-friendly, enlightened, and democratic forces in the third world were ruthlessly suppressed by these terrorist organizations. Many third world countries witnessed the abolition of popular leadership and their political parties. Pakistan, during this period, experienced some of the most challenging political conditions globally, primarily due to the ruling elite’s involvement in the power struggles orchestrated by world powers.
Shaheed Benazir Bhutto fearlessly confronted the horrors of the longest night of oppression with unwavering courage. She not only ensured the survival of Shaheed Zulfiqar Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party during the darkest period in history but also played a crucial role in restoring democracy in the country.
On October 18, 2007, as Shaheed Bibi was returning home after eight years of exile, she received warnings from the rulers of other nations and numerous well-informed individuals within her own country, advising her against returning to Pakistan due to an assassination plot. However, she firmly declared, “I will certainly go back to Pakistan. I cannot abandon my people. I cannot bear to witness my country in such a state.”
In an interview, she expressed, “We are men and women who talk about arguments, who possess ideas. We understand how to live and how to face death. History is shaped by the sacrifices of martyrs. The very essence of history is woven through the threads of revolution. We have dedicated our lives, our freedom, our youth, and our peace of mind to the cause of democracy.”
Addressing her final gathering at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007, she proclaimed, “We live and die alongside the people.” Tragically, following this speech, she was martyred by terrorists in the midst of the gathered crowd. Thus, while holding the hands of the people, she departed from this world.
She cherished the gift bestowed upon her by her father, Shaheed Zulfiqar Bhutto, on her 25th birthday, delivered through a heartfelt letter. As she celebrates her 70th birthday today, let us pledge to follow in her footsteps, firmly grasping the hand of the people and unhesitatingly making any necessary sacrifices for our country and our fellow citizens. This commitment is the most significant gift we can offer to Shaheed Bibi on her birthday.
Sharjeel Inam Memon