HISTORY as it is taught in the schoolrooms of
Yet his tale, no matter, how brief, bears telling. Many tributes will be paid to him all over the world, and hundreds of thousands will grieve at his tomb in Garhi Khuda Bux, where he lies next to his equally iconic daughter.
The fact of the matter is that he was so much more than the grainy footage we will see of him all day today on sombre television channels.
On April 4, the day of his traumatic extra-judicial murder at the hands of a rapacious Ziaul Haq, like most people, even his detractors, the whole nation wept. I was only 18, but I remember our final year class at the
Shaheed ZAB did the one thing that no one in
This is the foundation that kept the country and the state from falling down like a house of cards, because its memory, even in its defilement, served as a signpost in history, where Pakistan stood up to all pressures, both economic and regional, to start all over again after its very core was shaken by the fall of Dhaka in 1971.
Social and economic justice lay at the heart of Shaheed Z.A. Bhutto’s 1973 Constitution. So did protection of the rights of women and minorities, as the lowest of the underprivileged. His vision prioritised the flattening of social pyramids and the empowerment of labour, the privileging of politics as a solution, not as an end in itself. It had outlined a roadmap for provincial autonomy that for its times would have addressed regional grievances in ways to serve the federation better. It saw parliament as the fountain of representative government and public accountability.
The persecution of the PPP that followed its founder’s death is now the stuff of political legend. The party that Bhutto Shaheed founded in November 1967 is the only force that still unites the federation. Many times it was pushed underground, but it is still the PPP that evokes strong emotions and an unmatchable symbolism of hope in
The challenges that confront
SZAB steered the country out of its blackest period, when public morale had hit rock bottom and the dream of a stable, prosperous country for the Muslims of South Asia floundered on the rock of missed opportunities and political realities that had spun out of control. The state stood sundered and the nation in shock. At that point, crisis produced a statesman who extracted the state from the paralysis of despair and inaction.
To this day, when we as a nation-state are faced with unprecedented international, economic and domestic pressures, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s party and principles can take us towards the renewal of hope and the institutionalisation of parliamentary democracy. The clear and present danger that Pakistan faces today, that of a rising storm of militancy and terrorism, is not going to go away by pretending that the battle against these trends is someone else’s war. It won’t go away by an emotional call to arms against regional neighbours or by forces that hold undisputed sway over global military resources.
It may have arisen from a series of interventions in the region, but what we face today is a massive, existential threat. The threat no longer exists in our tribal areas, it no longer holds the border regions hostage, it strikes at the heart of our cities.
Our economy needs time, space and support to survive the global recession, to provide jobs, to mobilise resources to uniformalise education and deliver on social services, but for all of the above, two things are critical. And those were identified by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto as national reconciliation and political stability. Well before she returned to
Her message was very clear: she knew that political forces that stood for a united, stable and progressive
So on April 4, we should give pause, and reflect on what we as citizens can do for this country, not just what Pakistan can do for us. There is hope amongst all the challenges, and a renewal of faith in our ordinary people, who lead the way today. It is time to make history again, or its relentless march will consume us all as accomplices to inaction.
Saturday, 04 Apr, 2009 (Dawn)
The writer is a parliamentarian, a former federal minister and former PPP information secretary.