“Dartay hain bandooqon walay aik nihatti larki se….”
And so it was. Those armed with weapons and the ideology of dictatorship were afraid of the frail twenty-something Benazir Bhutto who was armed with an ideology. She had on her shoulders the heavy task of taking forward the legacy of her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was, after Jinnah, a true leader this nation had been gifted with, even though there were some taints on his name. BB fought back, and she fought back well. She was received well by the people who adored her. She was not the orate speaker her father was, and often had to rely on a display of histrionics to divert attention away from her compromised Urdu and Sindhi, but she was true to her cause. She suffered for the sake of democracy and won in the end. Our dear BB, the darling of the crowds, the emblem of a movement “by the people, for the people”.
But what happened later is a horrific tale of something right going so wrong. Somewhere, her father’s beloved Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) fell prey to corruption and nepotism. The efficacy of BB’s second term as prime minister for the cause of social justice is questioned even by staunch PPP followers. Yet, with all her faults, the brave daughter of a brave father, she came back after nine years in exile, mingled with the people, and paid the ultimate price for her bravery by being martyred.
And this is where the ultimate downfall of her party began.
Seven years after her, we look back at her legacy. And when we think of BB’s PPP, we think of it till December 27 2007. What followed, and what remains, is a disfigured mutation of the ideology that once represented this populist movement. Like every 27 December since the last seven years, crowds have gone to Garhi Khuda Bukhsh and are showering flower petals on her grave and sanctifying her, and they insist that “Bhutto zinda hai”. Of these, there are those who have used her martyrdom for their own agendas. Then there are those who are there simply because they love BB and are unable to get over the romance of the Bhutto name. Also there are those, and these are many, who know well that the present PPP is not even a shadow of what it once was, yet it is too late in the day for them to change their political allegiances. The rest of Pakistanis, like myself, are disgruntled bystanders. Some of us have turned towards more promising political parties, and have hopes in another populist leader who has risen in Pakistan, while others have become political atheists. While out of respect for BB, we still listen to her young son shouting himself hoarse that Bhuttosim is alive, we sadly know all too well what the reality is. Only time will tell if Bilawal or his sisters, or preferably a non-dynastic heir to BB’s ideology can give PP the boost it desperately needs. For now it seems improbable, if not possible. While her heirs succeeded in completing their term, their inefficient governance and corruption has cost the party heavily in terms of public support.
With all her faults, I believe BB meant well, which is not what can be said for those who took over her political throne. If BB is looking down, we know that she is equally saddened by what happened to her legacy. RIP BB.