Not a regular day in Pakistani history
An estimated three million people cheered at Iqbal park as Benazir kept her foot on the Pakistani soil after an 8-year long self-imposed exile, standing as a fearless symbol of opposition Zia’s regime. The iron lady who rallied unarmed for the restoration of democracy amidst powerful generals taking the country into a dark period of dictatorship. People soared with smiles that glistened with expectations for freedom of expression amidst military rule and the undemocratic Islamization of Pakistan where socialists, intellectuals, and journalists were arrested.
In a country where political activity was at the brink of extinction,the face of Benazir had suddenly sparked the activism in people to fight for their right and get their voice back.
A leader for the people was celebrated that day, and every day that followed by the name of BB, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, who sworn in as the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan on 2 December 1988 and the first female Prime Minister in the Muslim world. This was not just Benazir’s victory, who did not strive alone for the democratic right of her land. It was a day of victory for every political prisoner, every journalist, every socialist and every citizen of Pakistan, whose hearts yearned to see a day where their homeland was run by the people, for the people, from the people. The victory was beyond the constraint of jiyalas and politics.
Democracy, a two-way process, insufficient and inefficient without the participation of the common man, was restored.
Could Democracy have won with just Benazir?
A dull street deserted and left for the daughter of the East would have sent out a weaker message to those kept the Pakistani lands away from the rule of people. The scene would have perhaps even robbed BB of her stirring energy and resolute vision to engage in a political dialogue with the people of Pakistan, at a time when anything political was almost seen barred by the military dictatorship. The strife would have been reduced from masses to just a person, who would be challenged to give up on it by the absence of her supporters. Disheartened, BB may have even given up her mission seeing no future prospects for her vision in Pakistan. Even if BB would have made it win the elections, it wouldn’t have mattered to the people since they were, in this hypothetical situation, politically apathetic.
An old African saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child” and it’s pretty much true for democratic processes too. For any democracy, be it at the brink of simply finding grounds for surviving or thriving, it takes more than a leader.
It took more than just Nelson Mandela to abolish the apartheid, just like the proverb goes “it takes a village to raise a child’. It took more than just Jinnah to create Pakistan.
Movements that have been catalytic in changing inequitable, even oppressive political scenarios to fairer ones didn’t just take leaders. The oft under-estimated power of the common man was imperative to bring a lasting change.