Begum Nusrat Bhutto

Begum Nusrat Bhutto

Begum Nusrat Bhutto

As I sat down to pen my thoughts on the first death anniversary of Begum Nusrat Bhutto — one of the greatest leaders of Pakistan by her own right, I received the good news soon after came yet another historic news. Supreme Court of Pakistan — after 16 years — vindicated Benazir Bhutto’s charge that elections in 1990 were stolen from her through a conspiracy by the then President Ishaq, Army Chief Aslam Beg, their intelligence apparatus in collusion with the IJI politicians that included some of those leaders who even today continue to masquerade as champions of democracy and never get tired of pot calling the kettle black. The Supreme Court concluded that all those high and mighty in power in cahoots with their political puppets shamelessly violated the Constitution and should be given draconian punishment.

The anti-democratic conspirators with perhaps longest collaboration among themselves that continues in one form or the other even today with backdoor entry of others, had stooped so low to accuse Benazir Bhutto of being anti-state and piled up plethora of charges of corruption against her and her spouse upheld as proven by the then Supreme Court on the basis of clippings of newspapers — no where accepted as admissible evidence.

Prophetic words of Benazir Bhutto reverberated in my ears. “Inshallah, a day will come when I shall stand vindicated.” Indeed, Supreme Court has dealt a severe blow to all those summer soldiers and sunshine patriots who still harbour the dream to be kicked into power by the jackboots and their Taliban supporters since they orchestrate that Taliban are waging a “Jihad” to free themselves of “foreign occupiers”. Having adopted a denial mode to ride into power on the backs of the TTP, despite being Oxford educated unlike those clerics who are bigoted by their bearing, individuals forget that the TTP is not killing any foreigner in its “Jihad” but targeting innocent, harmless Pakistani education-hungry teenagers like Malala, Pakistani soldiers, innocent people especially girls and women who believe in enlightenment rather than remain tied to slavish taboos.

And the TTP agenda is not to free Afghanistan from what the PTI leader Imran Khan calls “foreign occupation” but to occupy Pakistan and claim it to be their independent state.

Why I have opted to co-relate Malala with Begum Nusrat Bhutto is relevant since Malala — a 15-year old brave girl after having experienced worst during the Swat occupation by Taliban — is fighting for her life. Like Begum Bhutto and Benazir she stood up fearlessly against the barbarians opposed to education of girls and women rights. Hers is a commitment in the illustrious footsteps of Begum Nusrat Bhutto and martyred Benazir who fought and sacrificed their lives for the empowerment of women, education of girls and less privileged. Malala emerged as a crusader for the right of education for girls in Pakistan when the TTP took over Swat and banned female education, destroying schools (over 1000 have alone been destroyed in northern areas) and killing anyone who protested.

Although Begum Bhutto is not with us any more, her spirit must be feeling elated about the brave Malala, the relentless commitment of the PPP government and Pakistani people to fight against obscurantism and the Supreme Court verdict in Asghar Khan’s petition. It was General Ziaul Haq who had abused the Supreme Court to get forced legitimacy when he replaced Justice Yaqub Ali in Begum Nusrat Bhutto Vs State of Pakistan case and appointed a pliant Chief Justice Anwarul Haq to sign on the dotted lines.

Malala’s gradually recovery and the Supreme Court verdict have provided a moment of joy for the entire nation that has suffered long to see the apex judiciary act in vindication of genuine democratic leaders rather than bailing out military dictators and their anti-democratic hirelings. The resilience of our people as manifested by Malala and continued sustainability of democracy on the move despite a long catalogue of intrigues, machinations and extra-constitutional interventions symbolises our national determination for overcoming all internal and external challenges.

These landmark events would need separate comments I would like to salute the likes of Begum Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and now Malala Yusufzai as well as Pakistani masses, government, civil and military leadership who have remained steadfast in their commitment to pursue the destiny chosen for them by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and those great men, women and girls like Malala who braved worst possible persecution to keep alighted the torch of freedom and knowledge. Best tribute to the departed soul of Begum Nusrat Bhutto would be to ensure — come what may — education to girls and rights of women besides of course upholding aloft the flag of democracy, sovereignty of the Parliament and inculcation of a cultur of tolerance and peaceful co-existence.

The author is the High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK