Published on December 29, 2011
My birthplace, Rawalpindi, has a strange notoriety: it has been extremely unlucky for the prime ministers of Pakistan. Liaquat Ali Khan became a victim of Syed Akbar's bullet back in 1951, in what was then known as Company Bagh. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was murdered in 1979, at Rawalpindi Central Jail. I use the term 'murdered', although he was supposedly sentenced to death by the Lahore High Court, and the Supreme Court had upheld that verdict, for obvious reasons. It is commonly termed as a 'judicial murder'. His daughter, twice elected prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto became a victim of an assassin's bullet four years back in December 2007. What a strange coincidence that she died at the same Company Bagh, now known as Liaquat Bagh. Boy what a death trap that Company Bagh is.
Benazir was an amazing and remarkable person. She was a tigress from the inside; she had the unyielding spirit to fight, which of course she had inherited from her parents. She stood firm in front of her critics and it would be not an exaggeration to say that many men in our republic were afraid of her zestful Bhutto spirit. Simply put, she was the man! My neighbourhood convenience store owner, an Afghan, just left me speechless at her death. Mind you he is not so academically well versed but he said, "Saab, what kind of men are these who would hit a woman, and that too from the rear?"
Each year around this time, we have ceremonies where she is remembered and eulogised and rightfully so. But rarely do we want to reflect upon what went wrong so terribly in our republic that popular leaders had to pay the highest price, i.e. their lives. Sadly, the entire South Asian region is marred with examples of political assassinations. It is a shocking reminder that as nations we have not matured to understand the implications of such horrific incidents, and in Pakistan in particular, where we brush such things aside and tend to move on.
We always hear the age-old bickering of the people, 'Our country never had a good leader, and that is the reason why we are in such a pathetic state.' They are absolutely right because we kill our elected leaders and expect some Superman to descend from the heavens to eradicate our miseries. Leadership requires patience, perseverance and above all continuity. Regretfully, all these are commodities that we do not possess. No wonder we look at the khakis as our 'saviours' and want them to rescue us. We fail to understand that democracy is the only way to go. Look around the world and you will get the answer.
BB was her father's daughter in every sense and respect, who staunchly believed that the people are able to decide their own destiny. No matter who they are, what social sphere they belong to, they have a voice and a choice. She was meant to fulfil his unfinished mission. If it would have been anyone else, given the treatment the Bhutto family received from Zia, they would have left politics for good. She was a real fighter, who shattered all the myths surrounding a lady becoming a prime minister of this beleaguered nation. Given the fact the humiliation Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah had to face at the behest of another dictator, Ayub Khan, BB's commitment was unwavering, exemplary and commendable.
Ironically, we do not appreciate our leaders when they are alive and tend to glorify them after their death. The same people who are acknowledging her political acumen now were the same people who made her life miserable when she was alive. She was called 'corrupt', 'inept', 'unfit' and 'incompetent', and was totally dogged by accusations and slurs. But as they say, we are dead from the inside; no wonder we only give reverence to the dead.
What a lady of substance, who knew that death was looming and yet did not stray from what she truly believed in. In her final days, she was ridiculed for signing a 'deal' with a tinpot dictator. To the critics, a question is warranted. What other options did she have? Live in exile forever or take a chance? She took one and ended up in a life of eternity.
That begs another question. How come Baitullah Mehsud knew that she was going to become the prime minister of Pakistan again and issued a threat to her? She had not even made it to Pakistan when such a threat was up in the air. Something somewhere does not make sense to a layperson like me. Besides, Musharraf was still supposedly going to be the president under that 'deal'. He was the one who was actually leading the war on terror, so why was BB being singled out?
People will come up with all kinds of excuses. They will come up with all kinds of spin. The facts remain there and one day they will be unearthed. Who did Syed Akbar, the killer of Liaquat Ali Khan, truly work for? Why was there a coup against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto when the agreement of holding fresh elections in 1977 was almost done? Who laid that death trap for Benazir at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi? Until then, let's enjoy our slumber and wait for the angels to descend from the heavens to lead us and get us out of this abyss.
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