The month of December brings sadness. Emotions run high and flashbacks to the tragedy of December 27 along with the intrusive memories which traumatised the people of Pakistan as a whole, regardless of their political affiliation. The one leader who united us, who taught us the meaning of dignity and courage, who was a symbol of federation and a visionary to lead the nation in a respectful manner on the international horizon is missing today.

The people always look towards a leader who can solve their problems, give them relief, lift their spirits and reinvigorate the masses. During the eleven long years of martial law, PPP workers were lashed, tortured and confined in Shahi Qila and their struggle for democracy led to party-based elections in 1988. She was a moderate person, richly embedded in Pakistani culture and Islamic heritage. On November 16, the public participated in party-based elections and voted for her to become the first woman Prime Minister of an Islamic country. Immediately after taking oath in 1988, she released all political prisoners held by the dictatorial regime of Zia-ul-Haq, commuted all death sentences, lifted the ban on labour and student unions and gave greater freedom to the press. She was clear in her thoughts to protect the women, minorities, children and under privileged from the rich and the mighty and to build a just society where every Pakistani child has access to education, basic health facilities and a better social structure. Her government was dismissed twice and she was dragged from court to court and city to city but she remained resilient and faced all odds with the utmost bravery and courage.

After withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in 1989-1990, Pakistan’s relationship with the US was fragile due to the US government’s suspicions about Pakistan’s nuclear-programme, but she didn’t compromise on Pakistan’s national security interests. Today, Pakistan holds a central strategic position in the global world, particularly in South Asia. On the other hand, terrorism, extremism, growing corruption and protecting our nuclear assets are major concerns of an average Pakistani. In these circumstances, Pakistan’s stability is important. There was a need for Pakistan to have a visionary and an outstanding leader like Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto whose first priority was Pakistan.

Apart from terrorism and poor governance, political instability and an economic mess, massive corruption by the top political leaders has led to despondency amongst the public. Our society is clearly divided between the moderate and radical elements and between different ethnic and sectarian beliefs. Growing militancy on both sides of the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan has created a trust deficit and developed suspicions and doubts at both ends. A glaring example is Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recent speech about Pakistan during the Heart of Asia conference on Indian soil. The relationship with Afghanistan was cordial during Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s government as her policy on Afghanistan was very clear. She always wanted that Afghanistan should be stable, free of foreign interference and the Afghan people should have a political system of their own choice.

Today, the absence of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto is felt even more when Indian atrocities are at the maximum against Kashmiri freedom fighters. There was a need for the PM to protect and highlight the Kashmir cause at the international for a, but since there is no Foreign Minister nor any clear foreign policy, Mian sahib’s government is taking advantage of building personal relationship with the Indian leadership.

Although Ms Bhutto herself paid a very heavy price for democracy, but all these difficulties strengthened her resolve and commitment to build up a just society to look after the economic interests of the poor people of Pakistan and to uplift their living standards. She was a ray of hope for the people for a better future. She was a vocal advocate of the democratic system in Pakistan to protect her countrymen from human rights abuses and to give them political freedom so that they can freely choose their government.

She is no more in the world, but millions of people in Pakistan and around the world consider her an iconic figure as far as her struggle for democracy is concerned. She had deep faith and trust in the people’s power. She knew that dictatorial forces may kill her but cannot eliminate her from the political landscape of Pakistan nor can they erase her name from the pages of history. She would remain a living factor in democratic politics for all times to come. Bibi you will always be remembered.