Bilawal inherits a legacy rich with struggle, sacrifice and leadership
This was the darkest chapter of General Zia-ul-Haq’s martial law. Human rights were not a consideration. People were jailed, tortured and killed with abandon. This warranted a historic declaration: “We shall fight for Pakistan through generations, one after the other”. The person who vowed such brave words were nobody else than that icon of bravery — Begum Nusrat Bhutto. She proved her words when she led the Pakistani people in a relentless struggle against the dictator. The torch was then carried by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto who waged a herculean fight against the evil regime. This energised the people into a historic momentum that revived democracy in this country.
Shaheed Benazir Bhutto stood by the vows of her mother. And now it is her son who has vowed to keep the family tradition alive, come what may. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has reiterated the words of her grandmother by declaring at the solemn occasion of her mother’s fifth death anniversary, “We brought democracy to this country and it is us who will guard it.” We can proudly say that this is the true materialisation of Begum Bhutto’s words. Where else has this ever happened? The promise was made by the grandmother and fulfilled by the grandson.
Shaheed Benazir Bhutto would have been a proud mother today to witness the history unfolding, yet again. Bilawal has been the centre of world attention all along. In 1989, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto took him along her official visit of the United States at such young age. This shows she had the vision to introduce him to politics one day. This may have been his earliest training. She would often carry him in her arms even during official work. This promoted the soft image of Pakistan — the first woman prime minister of the Muslim world running one of the most difficult countries and yet not ignoring her duties as a mother. When Bilawal was only one year old, she wrote an autograph on a picture in which she was with Bilawal, saying, “Dear Uncle Bashir, you will be my spokesman when I grow up.” It was a proud moment for me and I cherish that autograph to this day.
It may sadly be true that Bilawal may not have the company of the two brave women in his life, but their prayers are with him. He may not have the company of people who were with his mother but he has the proud legacy of being Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s son. People look up to him to fulfil the dream of her mother. He will have the same unflinching support of the people that his mother enjoyed. This is the same trust that got transferred from Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. Now the torch gets passed to Bilawal. Some might think it’s the transfer of political legacy. But I see it as the continuation of that political awakening and peoples’ trust that continues to flow from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Bilawal Zardari Bhutto.
Bilawal may not know many in the government but it should not take time as he had met most of them when they would come to see his mother from as long as when he was in her lap. He too is received as the personification of his Shaheed mother. Whether this be old stalwarts like Makhdoom Amin Fahim or Jahangir Badr or new party workers — everybody swears by Bilawal. After all each one of them is associated with the PPP’s political and ideological legacy.
I have no doubt in my mind that he will prove to be the ideal successor to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s ideology. He has studied the circumstances and the political context of her mother. Shaheed wanted him to finish his education before joining politics. Of course, she was infusing political training to him from early age. She would encourage him to know the PPP and its manifesto better. He has studied the party under the wings of his mother and has now matured to be a responsible leader — the torch-bearer of the generational legacy.
He may face the same challenges that his mother had to go through, but he too has inherited the will to fight them. He has expressed the resolve to do that before the graves of his ancestors. I can already see the spark of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in his eyes.
Today, had he been alive, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto must have been a proud grandfather to see the reins of his legacy being transferred from a long list of martyrs like his mother Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and uncles Murtaza Bhutto and Shahnawaz Bhutto.
The writer is Chairman, Bhutto Legacy Foundation and former foreign policy spokesman to Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Email: [email protected]