Benazir Bhutto was a brilliant, unique, foresighted, brave and tolerant leader and had the potential to make Pakistan a real welfare state. Unfortunately, whenever she came into power, undemocratic forces blocked her way and kept her under pressure.
December 27 was the death anniversary of BB and was observed particularly in Sindh. Pakistan Peoples’ Party is not visible in Punjab, although when it was established in 1967, its main stronghold was Punjab. I remember when Ms Bhutto asked me to evaluate her governance, I told her that during 1970 elections there were five hundred basic units of the Party in Lahore city alone. How many basic units are there now? Instead of responding to my question, she had called then Secretary General Shaikh Rafiq and asked him, “Look what Professor Sahab is saying?”
I appreciated the tolerance of Ms Bhutto. I had several meetings with her during her two terms and was always critical of her policies about the organisation of the Party. I remember that at a seminar at a Lahore Hotel on the occasion of silver jubilee of the PPP, I was invited along with the editor of View Point to read a paper. I saw a PPP worker from Sahiwal among the audience. I asked him to standup. Then I told BB that how great leaders are formed and how they behave? I narrated an event that had happened when Shaheed BHUTTO had visited Sahiwal during 1970 election campaign. Bhutto after a visit to Okara and Pakpattan came to my mother’s house. His secretary wanted to press his shalwar and shirt. Mumtaz, a party worker offered his services and took the clothes to a laundry and asked the shop keeper to apply starch and press it. When the Shalwar suit was produced to Bhutto, after touching it, he asked who had got it pressed? Mumtaz came forward and said, my name is Mumtaz, I got it pressed. Bhutto Sahab rolled the clothes and threw towards Mumtaz and said so much starch is intolerable. In 1977 elections Bhutto came to Sahiwal again and addressed a public meeting at the stadium. When he was boarding the helicopter after the meeting, he realised that there was some commotion at the security cordon. Someone was trying to come forward and security persons were stopping him. Bhutto gestured to let him come. When the visitor was about four five steps away, BHUTTO said, “Aao Mumtaz koi kaam hai?” (Come here Mumtaz, do you want anything?” Mumtaz said no sir, just wanted to say Salam, no body allowed me to go towards the stage in stadium. Bhutto patted him on the back and boarded the helicopter. I told BB that BHUTTO recognised an ordinary worker even after seven years, while I have to introduce myself every time, I meet the same leader of the PPP. It is the difference between a genuine and a fake leader. BB responded to my question with a smile.
In another meeting, I advised BB that those, who had supported Gen Zia’s martial law, should be tried under article 6 or at least they should be condemned through a resolution in the National Assembly. In response, she said, “Let’s have food.” When one of the PPP leaders sitting in the same meeting, requested BB to responded to me question, “She again with her typical smile and composed tone, said, “I totally agree with Dr Sahib but have nothing else to say.”
When announce her return in 2007, I and other friends sensed that she was in danger. Friends advised her to restrict her movements and addresses to public gathering but she always ignored the security advices, saying that she cannot break her contact with people of Pakistan as she already spent eight years away from them.
I still remember words of her last speech in Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi Rally, “We have to live with people of Pakistan and die with people of Pakistan.” And, she died amongst people of Pakistan bravely.