She always knew that matyrdom was her destiny. To change the existing system of exploitation remained the focus of her political struggle. But at the same time, her knowledge of the world history apprised her that this had never happened without claiming the ultimate sacrifice. That is the reason why Shaheed Bibi declared, “Martyrdom is our Aim” as the fifth principle of Pakistan Peoples Party’s political philosophy.
Initially, no one in the party knew or was in a position to state why this was adopted as the fifth principle. In one of my meetings with her, I asked her about it. She looked at me for a few moments and then, with an incredible poise, said “I know my destiny, our party is a party of martyrs; a party of struggle. My father gave his life for Pakistan. I have to follow in his footsteps. They did not spare him, and they will not spare my party-comrades or me. But we have to fight, we have to struggle to achieve our party’s four principles and we should be ready to lay down our lives to make the struggle of our people a success”. I was stunned to silence.
Shaheed Benazir Bhutto herself described this in her epic poem: “Story of Benazir, from Marvi of Malir and Shah Latif”, a deeply touching autobiographical account. She started writing it in 2003. And it was published and distributed the same year. However, many would agree that this epic came to its actual climax on 27th December, 2007, the day Bibi laid down her life in the course of her struggle to liberate this country from the shackles of despotism, to bring smiles to the faces of the poor people who were left with nothing but despair, hunger and misery. She loved her homeland and in its dust she rests today.
In her epic, Shaheed Bibi had come out as one who had decided to defy death and fight for the people of the land she loved the most. She seemed optimistic, in fact, supremely confident, that destiny could not take away the dreams of a free people, of a redeeming youth and that despots stood no chance against a united people. She hoped and prophesied that the day when tyrants would be no more was just round the corner and soon there shall be a dance of people’s victory in every street.
She sounds determined to defeat the dictators with the people’s power and build centers of learning for children of the poor and low. She assures dignity, hope and security to the old and young:
We will raise buildings / Where there are deserts / And stop the weeping of the women / Of the land / Cry not / For change is in our hands / In our voices, in determination / To reject wrong and embrace right
She was in love with her land and the poor people who dwelled it, both of whom so often trampled by the boot bearing generals and their stooges.
O God, I await the messenger / Taking me to where I belong / Although the tyrants do not care / Strands of white my hair now shows / My face is gaunt with sadness / The sweet lands lie parched / For water people pray
The crops perish / The cattle die / The stoves grow cold / As labor is sent home / Yet the lust for land grows / Plazas and plots for the elite lot /Government homes too / Not one but two / All on starving backs of the people robbed
Shaheed Bibi was determined to return to her native land, come what may. She was not unaware of what may lay in store for her in the days to follow. She was fond of Shah Latif Bhitai and his poetry; particularly his poem Marvi had always been a solace to her, which is why she attributed her epic to Marvi.
Comfort leaves me cold / Much dearer do I hold / Marvi’s ancestral shawl / Symbol of our treasure / From Marvi I learnt / From past mystic saints / From my dear brother Shah I learnt / That handsome youth who fought another tyrant / That / Were I to breathe my last living / Away from the home I loved / My body won’t imprison me
Shaheed Bibi proved herself to be a true follower of her father, who gave his life to emancipate this land from despotism and neo-colonialism. She knew one could die thus, but she was not afraid, because such deaths make one live-forever in people’s hearts. In her epic she eulogized those who gave their lives for the freedom of their homeland. This was the commitment of a civilian, a politician, a poetess, a defiant, a daughter, a sister, a wife and one who opted to be a Marvi, so eulogized by Shah Latif Bhitai. She was a relentless fighter and the matter of the fact is that she, almost single handedly, defeated two dictators one after the other: First General Zia, and then General Pervaiz Musharraf. Though she had to give her life in the process, in her martyrdom she dealt a fatal blow to the dictatorship.
When she decided to return home, she knew odds were stacked against her, But she was determined to save her country. When she finally came back, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Karachi to receive their Marvi. Two suicide strikes on the procession left more than 180 people dead and many more injured. This carnage made her even more resolute, because she knew for sure that this was a handiwork of imperialist powers and their cronies who could go to any length to balkanize Pakistan. She decided to put aside the reconciliation agreement with the powers that be and went on to launch the “”Save Pakistan Movement”.
During her election campaign, she made three very important speeches at Lodhran, Muzaffargarh and Peshawar. In all three, she emphasized unequivocally: “they have decided to break up Pakistan. But I’m here to defend my country. I will lay down my life but will not let them do that. Pakistan is my motherland and there live more than 160 million people who love their country. We will struggle together to keep our beloved country united and together. My life is not more precious than my country and the world will see that I shall even sacrifice my life for the freedom of my country and my people”.
When she planned to hold the last election meeting at Liaqat Bagh Rawalpindi, she was aware of the risks involved. There were conflicting reports about the security arrangements or lack of them. Many people smacked of a foul play; I was one of them. Three days before this public meeting, I sent her a message requesting her to be more careful. And she replied in just one sentence, ” I am Bhutto’s daughter, just pray for me”.
The speech she made there was one of her best and she appeared so larger-than-life with that extravagant rose and jasmine garland around her neck. She was more than happy to see a sea of people inside and outside the Liaquat Bagh. And she was overwhelmed by the response of the people. Minutes after the public meeting, she raised both her hands in the air to bid farewell to her people… moments before she left for the eternal abode. As long as I live, I shall not be able to forget that majestic smile that adorned her face at that very moment.
Born on June 21, 1953, Benazir Bhutto was thrust into politics when she was just 24. That was a time when her father, an undisputed hero of the downtrodden of this country, was being consigned to the gallows erected by the lackeys of imperialist powers. She set on writing this classic poem when she was 50 and gave her life when she was just 54 and a half.
Marvi of 21st century is no more with us but her ancestral shawl remains with the brave people of Pakistan, urging them to keep the fight on for the freedom of their homeland. Her epic may have ended, but the march that Benazir Bhutto started, following in the footsteps of her illustrious father, would be carried forward by the destitute, by the wretched of the earth and the torch would be kept alight.
And… Just as she wrote:
Better a life of test / Than a worthless life of rest / The land reclaims its own / When the dead die / They live again / Becoming part of a land
Centuries old / Holding secrets / Of great civilizations / Of heroes and heroines of bygone times / Shaping his toy and heritage / Shaping culture
Shaping the future / Time begins / Time ends / We decide / What to do with time
Story of her struggle shall never end, the story of Benazir Bhutto continues – Marvi lives on.
The writer is a member of the PPP’s Central Executive Committee
Source: The Nation, 21/6/2008