Benazir Bhufto, a character larger than life, the finest political leader among her contemporaries, and torchbearer of women rights in a society like Pakistan, has rightly been regarded as the “Daughter of East” and a lady who stood for democracy and rights of her countrymen. Her struggle for the restoration of democracy and rule of law is matchless.

Benazir lost her father, brothers and sacrificed herself for the sake of democracy. When she decided to return to Pakistan in 2007 to launch a campaign against the despot regime of that time, her companions advised her not to return, but, despite the potential threats to her life, she said: “1 want to be amongst my people and in my country.”

She possessed a charismatic personality. She steered Pakistan and its economy to new heights of success with her visionary policies, despite unfavourable political circumstances. Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation (particularly of the financial sector), flexible labour markets, the denationalisation of state-owned corporations, and facilitating the poor and destitute.

After Benazir became Pakistan’s Prime Minister on December 2, 1988, she addressed a huge crowd assembled at PM’s Secretariat. She said: “We gather together to celebrate freedom, to celebrate democracy, to celebrate the three most beautiful words in the English language: ‘We the People’.” She served the second term as premier from 1993-96. Throughout her life, she struggled against dictatorship. After she became PPP’s Chairperson in early 80s, she led the movement against the Zia regime, brought it to an end and restored democracy by winning the elections in 1988. After coming into power, Benazir Bhutto took aggressive steps to modernise and expand the integrated atomic weapons programme founded and started by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in 1972.

Undoubtedly, Benazir mesmerised the people for decades; she felt the pain for the masses. Her charisma, exuberance, and intellect gave her a string of qualities that rallied people around her. Her charismatic personality became a source of strength for her party, which she led from the front. Her role in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy was the most significant in 80s.

Even when she was abroad, she continued to struggle for her people and democracy. When General Pervez Musharraf tried to sack the Chief Justice of Pakistan, she asked her party workers to support the CJ and the rule of law. She was, indeed, a lady of principles and even her political opponents admired her abilities.

In 2007, she ignored all the threats to her life for her country and came back, led the processions, BB bravely said: “We are prepared to risk our liberty. But we’re not prepared to surrender this great nation to the militants.” She was the embodiment of democracy, who struggled for it throughout her life.

On December 27, 2007, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated while leaving a PPP rally held at Liaquat Bagh in the run-up to the January 2008 parliamentary elections. She is no more with us, but her ideas are with us and nobody can snatch them from her countrymen. Her memories would always be cherished by her workers. She will always be a source of strength and vigour for her workers as well as the nation.

    The writer is a freelance columnist.