Farzana Raja We are marking the 64th anniversary of the independence of Pakistan today. It is a day that reminds us of the momentous struggle and sacrifices that were made during the Independence Movement. It was created for us where we could live in freedom and, thus, shape our lives while determining our own destiny. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah envisioned it as a State based on democratic values, constitutionalism and equality, as well as respect for human rights. Since then, the Pakistani nation has made tremendous sacrifices to attain the Founding Fathers dream about the country. As the flag-bearer of this struggle and to safeguard the rights of the people, the first directly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, sacrificed his life. Later, his daughter Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto also laid down her life as the continuity of the same struggle. She sacrificed her life to protect the country from the threat of militancy and restore democracy. She knew that only true democracy could guarantee the emancipation of the poor and downtrodden segments of the society. Today, the Pakistan Peoples Party, or PPP, led democratic government is striving to complete the mission of Shaheed Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir. Against this backdrop, the government has some milestone achievements pertaining to this mission and vision. However, it will keep endeavouring to give the people their rights, and ensure employment and education for the all. The struggle of Pakistan Peoples Party is the struggle of farmers, labourers, traders, teachers, doctors, intellectuals, students, as well as women and minorities. It is a struggle to protect the dignity of every Pakistani and to provide them opportunities for an honourable livelihood. The great Quaid, during one of his historic speeches, said: We must work our destiny in our own way and present to the world an economic system based on true Islamic concept of equality of manhood and social justice. We will thereby be fulfilling our mission as Muslims and giving to humanity the message of peace, which alone can save it and secure the welfare, happiness and prosperity of mankind. The words of the Founding Father clearly reflect that he envisioned Pakistan as a modern, democratic and welfare state established on the basic principles of fairplay and justice. Today, this vision needs to be applied at every level to confront the daunting challenges and combat with external and internal threats, as well as growing militancy and poverty. Likewise, the nation needs to comprehend the notion of greater national reconciliation given to us by Shaheed Bibi. As a forward-looking leader, she had the realisation of all the issues and challenges that we are confronting at the moment. Indeed, it is high time to revisit her philosophy, and the political forces need to sit together and resolve the core national issues, instead of indulging into petty self-serving politics. As a nation, the Independence Day is an opportunity to put our heart and soul together and create greater national harmony so that Pakistan could be turned into a stable and prosperous country. There is a need to realise the vision of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and the mission of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, and make collective efforts to transform Pakistan into a modern, progressive and forward-looking State. While Pakistan today is confronted with unprecedented challenges, it is high time for us to revisit the idea behind the establishment of this great nation. Fortunately, the pursuit of materialising this vision into a reality is not abandoned. The present democratic government, under the unwavering resolve of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, is committed to make Pakistan a welfare state as visualised by Quaid-i-Azam, and stick to the notion of national reconciliation as it was envisioned by Shaheed Bibi. The democratic government, with regard to the concept of a nation state and empowering the people of Pakistan, has taken numerous steps. As a comprehensive social safety net, Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) has also been established in accordance with the vision of empowering the poor and downtrodden segments of the population. Moreover, as a result of the transparent and efficient mechanisms adopted by BISP, it has emerged as the first ever national initiative in the social sector of the country that has gained the support and trust of various prestigious international organisations. The programme, besides attaining global appreciation for the transparent and efficient mechanisms, has achieved several milestones, i.e. in the arena of poverty alleviation, women empowerment, health, employment and education; indeed, all these measures are directed to uplift the lives of the poorest of the poor of society. These initiatives are perfectly in line with the vision of Quaid-i-Azam, which is clearly reflective from his policy speech delivered on August 11, 1947. He said: If we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor. Gradually, the initiatives taken by BISP to make Pakistan a welfare state are contributing significantly in materialising the dreams of Quaid-i-Azam and the mission of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. However, we need to follow the wisdom of these great leader to evolve a more peaceful, harmonised and tolerant society. A cursory look at the contemporary world also shows that the nations, which are far ahead of others in all social indicators, including growth rate, development and rising economy, strongly adhere to the modern notions of peaceful coexistence, tolerance, rule of law and equal opportunities for all the citizens without any discrimination of caste, colour, creed and religion. The Independence Day provides us an opportunity to reaffirm our strong commitment with the mission of uplifting the lives of poor and marginalised segments of society, including women and minorities. Moreover, to make our beloved country a modern progressive and tolerant society as well as a great homeland for every Pakistani, the vision of Shaheed Bibi must be revisited in its true spirit. The writer is the chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Programme.