I just sat one day and thought how Benazir Bhutto – two times elected Prime Minister of Pakistan – would have felt when she was first sworn in as Prime Minister. How proud she would have been of herself to face all the odds, for fighting such a bloody war with a dictator and on becoming the true face of a democratic Pakistan.
Her life, with all the scandals, political and personal upheavals, setbacks, seemed like a roller coaster ride. It was after watching her 1999 interview with Simi Garewal that I realised that she carried a huge baggage of an unwanted career with herself. Politics wasn’t something that she wanted to do. Belonging to an affluent political family, she could have chosen her own path, the path which she would happily follow, where she could only be herself. A real, true Benazir Bhutto, papa’s darling girl, could have been a doctor, a musician, a professor, a painter or anything she wanted to, but a politician, a leader.
Speaking to Simi Garewal, Mrs Bhutto couldn’t resist speaking her heart out, “I hate politics, I have always hated politics but somehow it’s made me its prisoner. The more I want to leave it, the more it puts its tentacles around me like some sort of an Octopus; it binds me down. I always used to think when my father will be freed and I would dream of the day when I’ll forget about politics. I always had to do it for my obligation to my party and people”.
Benazir Bhutto might not have wanted it but her father, the founder of Pakistan People’s Party, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had always wanted her to join politics, and he would train her to become the leader she eventually became. When Charlie Rose asked her in 1996 about ever imagining going into politics as young girl, she had this to say, “He [Zulfikar Ali Bhutto] would always say that ‘my daughter is going to make me more proud than Indira Gandhi made her father proud’ and I would say ‘No Papa I am not going to go into politics; that’s never going to happen’.”
But the torturous judicial murder of her father in 1979, and the situation that followed, changed her life forever. It snatched her right of making her own choices and she had no option but to carry her father’s legacy forward. The legacy was to fight to bring democracy back to Pakistan. “I did it because he was in prison and all the party leaders were behind the bars and I felt it was a grave injustice to him and I got motivated, committed to not only fight for his life but fight for the democratic society which he had envisioned as the first step to social emancipation,” she said in an interview, back in 1996.
Come to think of it, Bhutto is a family without which Pakistan’s modern politics is unthinkable; a family which gave Pakistan its first elected Prime Minister, first female Prime Minister of the Muslim World, its first parliamentary Constitution, set it on the path of becoming a Nuclear State and set the bar so high for successors to follow and it’s leaders became leaders without ever wanting to be leaders.
This has now carried on to the third generation of Bhuttos. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, at barely 19 years of age, saw his mother Benazir Bhutto assassinated in 2007. Barely out of school, he was flung into the midst of a party that once again found itself snatched of its talisman. Like his mother before him, and in some part his uncles and aunts, he has to now carry the baggage of people’s obligations upon his shoulders.
Answering to Charlie Rose’s question, a young Bhutto-Zardari said that his mother would not force him to join politics; instead she encouraged him to complete studies albeit in her footsteps – first at Oxford, and then Harvard, then have a family and come back to Pakistan if he wanted to. Politics, though, was certainly not on the cards for him, it seemed.
That bullet in 2007 – one bullet – changed Bilawal Bhutto’s life forever. After his mother’s assassination, Bilawal, who had always been encouraged to make his own choices, had no choice but to come back to Pakistan at the age of merely 19.
Did that bullet change Bilawal Bhutto’s life in terms of his dreams and aspirations?
“Absolutely; I was an under-graduate and had just started university. Unlike her father she groomed us well but not specifically for politics. She wanted us to complete [our] education and she wanted us to have freedom she didn’t have. She wanted us to be able to make our own choices in life. That became impossible the day she was assassinated in Pakistan,” Bilawal Bhutto told Charlie Rose in 2013.
He goes on to explain the love of for his mother, “She was everything, you don’t appreciate something until it’s gone, because unconditional love of a mother is impossible to replace. That’s why at 19, I was happy to run for an election as chairman of my party. I was happy to have the burden” Bilawal said.
No matter what their individual dreams or aims may be, politics never leaves the Bhuttos.
Now, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is an emerging Leader on Pakistan’s political scene. It can be a tough ride for him but he has no choice but sail these seas, just like his mother and grandfather before him.
And It might be the only choice for their generations to come.