“You can imprison a man but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea.” Benazir Bhutto

Few people in the world leave behind incredible legacies which are remembered for decades and even centuries. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto is listed among those personalities whose national and international impact can still be felt even after they have gone from this world. An enduring icon, with a larger than life personality, her persona was not limited to a geographical region; in fact, her personality and vision transcended boundaries and continents. She was equally popular in the Western world, as she was in the East.

From a very young age, Mohtarma Shaheed Benazir Bhutto skillfully adapted herself in each and every role which was required by her family, party, and the country from a very young age. Her personal and political journey is perhaps also reflected from the title of her autobiographies, ‘Daughter of the East’ and ‘Daughter of Destiny.’ As she started her journey from being the daughter of the East, but eventually, her life was shaped by destiny.

She achieved a number of accomplishments in her political career, thereby setting a benchmark for others and even future generations to follow. Mohtarma Benazir assumed control of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) at a very young age after the politically motivated murder of her father and former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. She was the first twice elected female and the youngest Prime Minister of the Islamic world at the age of 35. She was also the first Prime Minister who gave birth while in office, only followed by New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern in 2018. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed was also the second democratically elected Prime Minister after Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, as a result of winning a majority in the elections, since the creation of Pakistan.

Despite the fact that Shaheed Benazir started her political career at a young age, she achieved what most people could only dare to dream. She broke many glass ceilings and changed the landscape of Pakistan’s politics. All her life, she strove for a democratic, peaceful, tolerant, and prosperous Pakistan. Her list of achievements is often downplayed, but they cannot be overlooked.

Shaheed Benazir Bhutto is the only Pakistani Prime Minister to deliver a joint session address in the US Congress and received a thunderous, two-minute standing ovation from the US lawmakers. Owing to her international influence and clout, Pakistan’s image and standing improved significantly on the world map during her tenure. It was under her leadership that, for the first time Pakistan during the OIC Summit at Casablanca, acquired a unanimous resolution asking for a solution of Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions. Pakistan’s membership in the Commonwealth was also restored during her government.

Strengthening the country’s defence was one of the top agendas of the Benazir government. A number of steps were taken in this regard, including the introduction of missile technology, Expansion of Port Qasim at Karachi, Establishment of a Nuclear Power Plant under a bilateral agreement with China, and ensuring that heavy mechanical complex was made profitable from a loss-making entity, to name a few. She also paid a personal visit to the Siachen Glacier, reinforcing its significance in the defence of the country. Most importantly, it was during her regime that the US adopted the Brown Amendment, which partially released the military equipment and hardware, which had been stuck long in the US due to the Pressler Law.

In her bid to truly establish a just and egalitarian society, in-line with the PPP’s core objective to empower people, multiple people-friendly policies were adopted. Monthly stipends for widows and orphans were initiated for their welfare. Education spending was increased, and 46,000 new schools were built. 50,000 youth were inducted as school teachers to help in the promotion of education and overcome unemployment. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, electrification of more than 4000 villages was done, and 590,000 households from all over the country were provided electricity in a single year. It was during BB’s tenure that electricity providing departments were made legally bound to provide new connections within 30 days in cities, and 45 days in rural areas, to end the massive prevailing corruption in the sector at the time.

Moreover, a vast improvement was brought into the telecom sector. Sixty-four thousand four hundred new telephone exchange lines, 99,391 telephone connections, and 14 additional cities were linked via telephone. For the first time, a direct dialing system was introduced between various cities in Pakistan. It was a monumental achievement, owing to the lack of development and meager resources at that time.

Similarly, women were truly given representation in the policymaking circles. They were inducted in the higher judiciary for the first time ever. A Women’s Ministry was established for gender development and to address women-specific issues. Moreover, a Woman Bank was set up to economically strengthen the female population of the country, which had largely been ignored in the national policymaking circle.

PPP has always focused on the young population and considers them as an asset for not only the party but for the country. In the bid to resolve youth-related issues, a separate Ministry for Youth Affairs to address issues and offer opportunities to the young people of Pakistan was set up for the first time in the country. 60,000 new literacy centers were established, and the youth loan scheme was made easy and effective. Ban on student unions was also lifted. Even after death, poor people are getting relief and benefit from the globally recognized welfare program known as the Benazir Income Support Program.

Despite a long list of achievements, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s personal and political life was tumultuous and full of daunting challenges. Time and again, she and her family were politically victimized. She was ousted from power both times, unlawfully. The unfounded allegations and stigmas which BB faced in her lifetime, continue to haunt her family even today. Currently, Former President Asif Ali Zardari is bravely fighting all allegations as he is being persecuted on politically charged claims despite suffering from several serious health issues. But he too, like Shaheed Benazir, is firmly standing in the face of all these unfounded accusations.

Shaheed Benazir was one of the first leaders to foresee the grave danger of the growing violent extremism in the country, and even in her last address at Liaquat Bagh on 27th December 2007 warned of this menace, and how it could destroy the socioeconomic fabric of the country.

Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was a lifelong proponent of democracy, and firmly believed in the power of people, as the slogan of PPP says – “Taqaat ka Sirchashma

 Awaam Hain” (All Power to the People). Posthumously, she was awarded the UN Prize in the Field of Human Rights for outstanding work in human rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 2008.

Benazir made an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of the people. Even after her life, she remains an icon, a symbol of hope for the downtrodden, a figure of women empowerment, a champion of democracy, and a representative of a unified federation of Pakistan. Even though her life was cut short by a cowardly terrorist attack, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s ideals and vision will continue to live in the hearts and minds of the people across the globe. Years and decades from now, her name will remain to be taken with the same reverence and respect in the world, as it is today. Her legacy of courage, perseverance, and commitment to the people, will live forever.