A letter to Bilawal Bhutto By Benazir Bhutto on the 81st Pakistan Day – Senator Sehar Kamran

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Children: Hear the desert wind, Hear it whisper, Have faith, We will win.” – Benazir Bhutto

My dearest son Bilawal,

My heartfelt felicitations to you and entire Pakistani Nation on the 81st Pakistan Day. This country was made with the sacrifices as well as the sweat, blood, and tears of the great leaders of the Pakistan movement. Your grandfather Quaid e Awam Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and I, both the former Prime Ministers, laid our lives for Pakistan which is a testament of our family’s commitment and love for this great country of ours.

Today, the country is grappling with several external and internal challenges which pose a threat to its stability and security. The economic situation of the country has worsened over the last couple of years, and inflation is at an all time high. The mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic by the government has further worsened the matters, and every segment of society is affected by their short-sighted policies. In addition, there is confusion and chaos domestically, and a situation of fog seems to have engulfed the political scenario.

When the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of 11 opposition parties, came into being, my pride and love for you, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, increased manifold. You have shown aptitude through your political maturity, foresightedness, patience, and understanding of the political chess moves has impressed your supporters and critics alike. For the people of Pakistan, you have truly emerged as a leader who has the capacity to take timely correct decisions with your courage, conviction, and strength.

It should be remembered that during Musharraf’s military rule, it was JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman who was against resignations from the Parliament and insisted on fighting the regime both inside and outside the Parliament. Then why a different criterion is called upon today?

I am witnessing the difference of opinions within the PDM on the topic of resignations from the Parliament, I wish that the alliance of the democratic forces should be seen and tackled with wisdom and not emotions. The historical lessons which came with it cannot be forgotten. We all know what happened when we boycotted the 1985 elections. The repercussions of allowing non-democratic forces to run amok damaged the fabric of democracy in the country for the long term. The lessons that we learnt by not participating in the 1985 elections forced us to remain in assemblies in 1993 even after massive electoral rigging because we did not want to repeat the same mistake again. As it will be akin to allowing non-democratic forces to carry on with their agenda without any checks and balances and will cause greater damage to the already fragile democratic system of the country.

It should be remembered that during Musharraf’s military rule, it was JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman who was against resignations from the Parliament and insisted on fighting the regime both inside and outside the Parliament. Then why a different criterion is called upon today?

It would be a grave political mistake to give Imran Khan and PTI an empty political field because they will have the power to rollback poignant democratic gains made in the last decade which includes reversing the 18th Amendment and the NFC award, as well as pushing the country towards a Presidential system. We cannot allow it to happen.

The former President Asif Zardari’s statement of asking Nawaz Sharif to come back to Pakistan and jointly fight the sitting government is precise and based on ground realities. We all know that without party leadership’s on-ground presence, no political movement can be successful in the long run. Therefore, I decided to return to Pakistan in 2007, despite knowing about the grave threats on my life. Rest is history, but I am satisfied that the return of democracy in Pakistan was possible because of my blood sacrifice. I did so that the people of Pakistan and the upcoming generations of the country can live in an egalitarian, democratic and peaceful country which the founding fathers had dreamt and called for, in the 23rd March resolution.

My son, I am proud of you and the kind of empathetic, kind human being and leader you have emerged to be. You have shown that you truly are the scion of the Bhutto family with your levelheaded statements, and policies you have given over time. Your patience, tolerance, and dignity towards your critics and political opponents is praiseworthy. The fact that you not only share but propagate the same vision as the founding fathers of the country of a pluralistic, egalitarian, peaceful, and prosperous homeland, where all citizens would be treated equally irrespective of their religion, cast, culture, and background, is commendable.

Remember, do not look towards short-term political targets which result in instability. The responsibility upon your shoulders to look after the interests of the people of Pakistan is immense and will be a humongous challenge to tackle, but the Almighty Allah has equipped you with all the necessary abilities and tools to emerge victorious. Your ancestors smile upon you with pride. We are certain that you will never let your ancestors and the people of Pakistan down.

With love, Benazir Bhutto

Senator Sehar Kamran is the President of Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) and member of the Senate Forum for Policy Research (SFPR). She has also served as a member Senate of Pakistan for the term 2012-2018)