December is indeed a sad month in the history of Pakistan. Pakistan was severed in December; the APS tragedy happened in December; and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto (BB) got assassinated on December 27, 2007. BB was the leader of the largest political party, and her assassination brought an abrupt end to what could have been a long, fulfilling political career. Her death was not only a loss for her family but also her party and the country.
She had charisma, was an eloquent speaker, and was an ambassador of Pakistan’s interests at international forums and in interaction with international leaders. She was a leader whom everyone wanted to meet, listen to and be photographed with. At the national level, she had a following in all four provinces of Pakistan and wherever she went, the masses came to hear her. She was the first woman prime minister of Pakistan but political success did not come easy to her. BB was not acceptable to many because she was a woman and there were campaigns that a woman cannot be the head of government in a Muslim country. However, she defied all the odds with her wisdom and political acumen. I might dare say that the political mess we are in would have never been if she was alive. However, I beg to differ on the way her legacy and vision have been portrayed.
In the mid-seventeenth century, an immense mausoleum of white marble-Taj Mahal was built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Noor Jehan, who died while giving birth to her fourteenth child. The mausoleum took years to build and taxed the treasury. The Taj Mahal is considered to be the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage. Every year thousands of tourists come to India to visit the Taj Mahal and admire its beauty, architecture and splendour which is remembered as a symbol of love. In sharp contrast, at the more or less same time, the kings and queens of Europe were promoting research and researchers in the field of obstetrics for improved maternal care, new institutes were being set up, books were published and translated to various languages to disseminate the knowledge on obstetrics and gynaecology. New tools and techniques were tested and improved upon for better maternal care.
A few centuries forward, after BB’s sad and tragic assassination, a grand mausoleum was built in Garhi Khuda Bux (GKB) in her remembrance. Every year, Peoples Party commemorates BB’s death anniversary, with caravans coming to GKB from various parts of the country. Thus, thousands and thousands of ordinary masses gather, political leaders land in droves and deliver speeches: extolling the party’s history and successes, and then depart with promises of a better future for the coming generations. However, no quantifiable metrics are mentioned to show how the party has improved the lives of people, who still love BB and come to her mausoleum to pay their respects.
These occasions and instances are a manifestation of our priorities and affinities: the West and its leadership established R&D institutes in the seventeenth century, and we, despite being resource-rich, are a least developing, debt-ridden, impoverished, a Muslim country in the twenty-first century; and our leaders are still feeding us empty promises while enjoying all the bounties our country has to. If we want to progress then we have to delink from the existing political mindset, set our priorities right and set up and promote institutes that contribute to the betterment of the people, the country and humanity.