My father always would say: “My daughter will go into politics? My daughter will become Prime Minister”, but it’s not what I wanted to do. I would say: “No, Papa, I will never go into politics.” As I’ve said before, this is not the life I chose; it chose me…….But I accepted the

responsibility and I’ve never

wavered in my commitment.

– Benazir Bhutto

Today, it is the fifth death anniversary of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. She spent 30 years of her life in prison or exile, in the opposition when in Parliament and as the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Despite the fact that she had no plans to join politics, Benazir bravely laid down her life for the sake of her country. Being a woman, she had many other responsibilities like marriage, children and their career, but, more than anything else, she preferred to serve the people of Pakistan. That she had learnt from her father Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Her charismatic leadership was a reflection of the powerful image of her father, who was loved by people because he understood their sufferings and made endless efforts to alleviate them. Nevertheless, Bhutto paid a heavy price for standing up to his principles, not bowing down in front of manipulative forces and keeping his head high during times of adversity. Benazir was also gifted with these qualities; and it seems that Bhutto had noticed it long before anyone else.

Indeed, she was blessed with an extraordinary intellect and leadership qualities. Ever since she became the PPP’s Chairperson at the age of 29, Benazir ventured the path her father had taken - brittle and rough, yet compassionate and humane. With the passage of time, she earned the titled of the “Iron Lady” from her Indian counterparts mainly when against all odds, she decided to return to Pakistan putting her trust in people whom she cared for most.

Benazir was a visionary leader. She compromised for the sake of the country. She forgave her opponents and raised slogans of reconciliation in its interest. For instance, her struggle against General (retd) Pervez Musharraf was difficult because Mian Sharif and his party, the PML-N, had opposed Benazir and the PPP from 1985 to 1999. Yet, she did not accept the dictator and instead opted to engage with her political rivals. She surprised the world by making a political alliance with the PML-N, which was named as the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) that led to the signing of the Charter of Democracy.

She was a courageous lady and believed that Pakistanis should face the threats posed to their country without fear. Indeed, Shaheed BB was an optimistic leader, who firmly believed in people’s power. When she came to Pakistan just before her sad demise, she maintained: “I’ve been having a party meeting and, believe me, the spirit amongst the party is one that I’m so proud of because they say we can’t let the militants dictate to us what’s going to happen, and that we have to try and save Pakistan by saving democracy. So my supporters are ready.”

Her cavalcade upon her arrival in Pakistan was not even a day old when it was hit by a bomb that killed hundreds of people. But those who wanted to see Benazir’s death failed to see one thing - and that was the consistent, persistent and stoic belief of the party followers whose trust in their leader did not go through as much as an inch away. Benazir once said: “We are prepared to risk our lives. But we’re not prepared to surrender this great nation to militants. The attack was on what I represent. The attack was on democracy and very unity and integrity of Pakistan.”

She firmly believed in democracy, openness and freedom. She made incomparable efforts to strengthen democracy in Pakistan. She took several initiatives for the revival of democratic institutions in order to preserve the unity and solidarity of the country. She said: “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.“

Having said that, the PPP is not merely the name of a political party. It is  a never-ending struggle for truth and justice; a gallant tale of the forfeitures of blood - young blood; a vision that bestowed people with the strength they were deprived of – the strength to stand on their own feet against all odds; and the biggest democratic power to fight all evil mindsets that have been destroying the system. Founded by the son of the soil, Bhutto, the PPP gave the concept of “One Man One Vote” and taught the people to unite under this platform.

Be it any dictatorial regime, the PPP and the Bhuttos have remained loyal and determined to the cause of empowering the masses and getting the country out of the bog of dictatorship. The PPP has made numerous sacrifices to make Pakistan a civilised and legitimate country.

But for those who think that the PPP, under the leadership of President Asif Zardari, has changed; I would like to remind them that it is the same PPP that restored democracy and sent Musharraf home. It is the same party that despite several conspiracies has kept democracy alive under the slogan of “Pakistan khappey”. It is the same PPP that has initiated several programmes for the welfare of the poor such as the Benazir Income Support Programme.

On Benazir’s 5th death anniversary, her son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is beginning his political career to advance the vision of his grandfather Shaheed Bhutto and mother Shaheed Benazir. We whole-heartedly welcome him in the best interest of Pakistan and its people.

The writer is PPP leader and former secretary information of ARD. Email:munir_ahmad_khan@hotmail.com