A tribute to Benazir, the eighth queen of Bhittai

Published: December 27, 2011

If Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai were alive today, he would write about Benazir, the eighth queen of Sindh and would make her the queen of all the seven queens. PHOTO: FILE

Benazir Bhutto was loved as much as she was hated. Unfortunately, those who hated her were victorious on that freezing evening in December four years ago, when she was shot dead.

Benazir belonged to the land of Sindhu (River Indus) – the very same land of Bhittai and his seven Queens Marvi, Momal, Sassi, Noori, Sohni, Sorath, and Lila who are valued for their bravery and courage. Benazir is fit to be the eighth queen, the leader of all of these.

Opposing the vehement character-assassination campaign against her that was run by the inventors of “Chaadar aur Chaar-deewari” and Hudood, Bhutto chose to stand up to the misogynists who had refused to salute her for being a female prime minister. Her struggle as a Muslim woman was historic. The sky could not even be seen above the crowds of hundreds of thousands of people chanting her name and supporting her. She recounted the day when her plane landed in Karachi in 2007:

“A display of emotion by a woman in politics and government can be misconstructed as a manifestation of weakness, reinforcing stereotypes and caricatures. But as my foot touched the ground of my beloved Pakistan for the first time, I couldn’t stop tears pouring from my eyes…I felt that a huge burden, a terrible weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was home at long last. I knew why. I knew what I had to do.”

Dauntless and unshakeable, Bhutto never succumbed to the mullah-military mindset, and always took the lead in condemning bigotry. While on her trip to the United Kingdom in 1990, Benazir Bhutto visited Dr Abdus Salam, a Nobel laureate in Physics, and paid great respect to him. The act gave rise to tremendous fury from fundamentals, and she was termed an Ahmadi only for paying homage to an Ahmadi scientist. However, the brave woman that she was, she never backed down and was undeterred.

Then, in May 2007, she rebuffed comments made by Muhammad Ijazul Haq regarding the knighthood of Salman Rushdie, citing that he was calling for the assassination of foreign citizens.

“I’m glad there was no cease-fire with the militants in the mosque because cease-fires simply embolden the militants,” she was heard saying this on Britain’s Sky TV after the Red Mosque Incident.

Her firm stance on the Lal Masjid fiasco, too, lost her significant support in urban Punjab and made her a legitimate target in the eyes of bloodthirsty beasts.

Benazir Bhutto dedicated the last years of her life to unveiling the root cause of the decline in Muslim societies, with special focus on the Pakistani society. In her riveting and most insightful posthumous book Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West, she candidly unravelled the quandary that befell Muslims:

“One billion Muslims around the world seemed united in their outrage at the war in Iraq, damning the deaths of Muslims caused by US military intervention without UN approval. But there has been little if any similar outrage against the sectarian civil war, which has led to far more casualties. Obviously and embarrassingly, Muslim leaders, masses and even intellectuals are quite comfortable criticizing outsiders for the harm inflicted on fellow Muslims, but there is deadly silence when they are confronted with Muslim-on-Muslim violence.”

Benazir had always maintained that the minority had hijacked societal values for their own interests. She had unshakeable faith in the collective consciousness of her people and never backtracked from her firm resolve.

She went on publicly calling out to the handfuls:

“Who jin ke siwa sab kaafar hein, Jo deen ka harf-e-akhar hein, un jhooton aur makaaron se, Mazhab ke thekedaaron se, Main bhagi hun main bhagi hun”

She was well aware of the universal truth that change, if any, had to come from within and couldn’t be imposed from outside. Moreover, she had this proud connection to her homeland that she had embarked upon to reclaim:

“I am the daughter of Indus, I am the daughter of Taxila, I am an heir of this 5,000 year old civilization”

If Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai were alive today, he would write about her, the eighth queen of Sindh. He would make her the queen of all the seven queens and would ask them to respect her. If he were alive, he would mourn the death of Benazir along with his seven queens.

“”Tell me the stories, oh thorn-brush,

Of the mighty merchants of the Indus,

Of the nights and the days of the prosperous times,

Are you in pain now, oh thorn-brush?

Because they have departed:

In protest, cease to flower.

Oh thorn-brush, how old were you

When the river was in full flood?

Have you seen any way-farers

Who could be a match of the Banjaras?

True, the river has gone dry,

And worthless plants have begun to flourish on the brink.”

Translated by Prof. D. H. Butani (1913-1989) in The Melody and Philosophy of Shah Latif

Suleman Akhtar

Suleman Akhtar

A mechanical engineer belonging to Gujrat.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://www.ikazim.com Kazim

    Yes, I know there are people who hate her. But she was even favorite of her enemies. A hats off salute to her. Recommend

  • http://1223 Usman

    Her father set up the political wing of the ISI…he declared the Ahmedis as non-muslims…please don’t forget your history brother.Recommend

  • R

    why are people suddenly crying over her ? Please spare your sympathy for someone else.Recommend

  • samia

    As a pakistani woman Benazir was a role model to me and most Pakistani girls. She was strong. She led rallies, made speeches infront of thousands of men when alot of women in this country are even afraid to talk to the opposite gender. She stood up for herself. She showed us that women can be alot more than just housewives and mothers.

    I will never agree with her politics especially NRO but she was still an inspiration for me.Recommend

  • Ali

    @Usman:
    Read the book The Truth About The Split By Mirza Mahmood Ahmad, it clarifies Ahmadi beliefs. This argument has been repeated numerous times, please stop flogging a dead horse.Recommend

  • Karim Javed

    @Usman:
    Her Father had guts to take decisions. Can today’s politician’s take decision’s. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto & Benazir Bhutto were born leaders no doubt in this. Today’s politician’s can’t even stop drone attacks and America but Bhutto did this with his words only no need to fight. I think you forget Shimla Contract & Bhutto’s speech in United Nations.Recommend

  • http://1223 Usman

    @Ali…I am not flogging a dead horse I am trying to bring out the fact that whatever good or bad to this community was done in BB fathers days and if she visited the esteemed scientist Dr. Abdus Salam good for her…After all the founder of this nation asked Mirza Ghulam Ahmed to pray for his success in the sole meeting he had with him.You should read a little history is all I ask my bereaved fans of BB.Recommend

  • http://1223 Usman

    @Karim: Gosh …I guess I stirred a hornets nests with my innocent remarks…I have not forgotten the Simla Accord and also the much flouted speech of Mr.Bhutto…please remember if he (Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto) had agreed to accept his defeat in the only free and fair elections held in this country by Gen Yahya to the winner Mujib ur Rehman there would have been no need to have the dumb Shimla Accord in the first place…instead he choose to have the East Pakistani Leader arrested and kept under house Arrest…thus the War over East Pakistan which I hope you remember we lost since the promised 7th Fleet never arrived to help us get out of the mess Bhutto had created.By the way you must appreciate that Bhutto was the Foreign Minister to Gen Ayub…so much for your leader having guts and if there had been no NRO with PPP then there would have been no Benazir that fateful day of December in Pindi.A pity you (Mr Karim) get worked up over what you deem to be right and let the pages of history gather dust.Please forgive me if I hurt you and refrain from replying until you have something substantial to say.Recommend

  • http://1223 Usman

    IDIOTS: They can’t outsmart you, but they can outdumb you. Don’t misunderestimate their power.Recommend

  • Anon

    Why are these PPP jiyalas going overboard in furnishing eulogies for BB when her own son bilawal disingenuously could not write an original op-ed for ET in his mother’s memory?http://a7.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc7/40749210151088938310576552790575219881061533228988_n.jpg
    Cant they tell that by now there are no longer remnants of the old PPP or do they they like being pawned by their party?Recommend

  • MM

    she was just another politicians…. she was rich and foreign educated so that explains the confidence… otherwise she never made her stature but inherited it… and she only fought for her political career not for peoples interest….. pakistan would have been same even if she was alive….. tomorrow if zardari and shareef are killed they would also be made heroes.. its shocking even the bright minds think like thatRecommend

  • truepak

    i dont know wats so special abt ppp ,bhutto,benazir or bilawal zardari?Recommend

  • Sindhu

    Really love the concept of making her the eighth queen of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s seven queens and then the queen of all seven queens. Amazing!
    Amazing piece Suleman.Recommend

  • Shoaib Mir

    Benazir Bhutto Bhittai, VIII
    The People’s QueenRecommend

  • AAK

    No queens or kings for me – a working democracy would be nice. Are we just going to let the issues of corruption, gross misgovernment and general incompetence slide? I guess we are. To mourn a person doesn’t mean you whitewash history or altogether invent a new one…Recommend

  • Muhammad Abdullah

    “and after her death we end up praising her”
    there is no doubt about her personality. her education, her boldness and whatever. but does everyone here thinks she did anything for the country? people say so many things about her education but do you people think that she did anything for the country’s education? if she was educated enough she could have given this country at-least her own village education. did she do that? let alone the country she did not even make her own village exemplary. if she does not understand the importance of education she is not educated sorry. People of Pakistan should wake up from their wonderland of fake heroes and heroines. We need to wake up and analyze things rather than feeling bad about someone killed. Yes it was bad but what about thousands of children growing up without education, roti, kapra and makan?
    People of Pakistan are very naive and instead of thinking logically they think emotionally. I am sorry to say but i have no respect for her. She might be a super hero for people living in the world of fantasy in which Pakistan is the best country in the world, with the highest literacy rate, with excellent social system etc. We need to grow up and think logically and keeping the facts infront of us. and people please don’t praise Bhutto, he is not worthy of any praise. Read REAL history and hen decide who is who. Recognize the enemies of this country who are treated as heroes and forgotten people who are real heroes. These bhuttos, shareefs and chaudries dont make the difference, its the people. Their qualifications and education never benefited Pakistan and live and died for themselves.Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    It doesn’t matter when she was so supremely corrupt. She was crooked. Why does anything else matter? Recommend

  • AsliShasli

    let me go and cry a river for this so called darling of democracy who sacrificed her life for the poor old people of Pakistan, as a price now we should accept her useless husband and not so bright son as our supreme ruler till eternity.
    Please spare us the heroics of Bhuttos, she had not done any thing great for the people of this country, she was only in Pakistan when she was the prime minister when not she was always outside of Pakistan. The last time she came to the country was for her own rule not for us, so please cut it already this so called martyr of democracy Recommend

  • Super pak

    We are writing these ridiculous articles over someone who did absolutely nothing for the country, anyone tell me what she did? We should be remembering people like ayub khan who did so much and yet we spit on them. You know its true the kind of people, thats the the kind of leaders we got. Our leaders reflect us today. Stop with the water works already, this nation is full of emotional children and now we are stuck with the worst government any country has probably ever seen.Recommend

  • Kafka

    After reading the ode, please read the following, from a neutral point of view

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/dec/30/pakistan.worldRecommend

  • Parvez

    A little over the to in your praise but I suppose that is your prerogative.
    I do think that she underwent a major change in the last few months before her death and if she were still alive today, things would be very different.Recommend

  • anna

    @MM:
    your hate never undermine her Sincere Struggle for Pakistan …. go a head with your jealousy …its favorite pass time of Pakistani urban middle classRecommend

  • Fida Hussain

    We aal Sindhi ,Allways rememmber,sindhi Leaders,Shaheed,BiBi,Z,A,bhuttoRecommend

  • http://Worhthington Anonymous

    @samia:
    Mam how Musharraf could have left and who would have reinstated general Iftikhar ch.
    Ask from yourself one question and analyze. General justice ch allowed NS to come to Pakistan and he came here . What happened he was sent back to Jeddah. What was way out of Martial Law other than compromising with Mush Momentarily . when Gen justice could not let any one to enter in a country who else would have done . If mush was COAS who would have reinstated him. It was all offshoot of BBs entry back by what ever mechanism . That brought back NS. Elections , departure of Mush and so on

    COAS don’t leave chair even when they lose half the country that is history of PakistanRecommend

  • http://Worhthington Anonymous

    @AsliShasli:
    People are voting for them for last 40 years. Why ….
    You probably believe in Majlis shoora system where senior Mulla will appoint people to advise him not democracy despite whole establishment, business elite of country and Mulla gang up against PPP.
    It is probably love whether you like it or notRecommend

  • Usman Khalid

    dude, i don’t want to read the same spill over of bhutto’s legacy and bibi’s Majesty… but where is the tribute as the title claims??? you just wrote about her apposition to mullah’s military mind set, she might be right because of what happened to her father…. BUT MY QUESTION IS; WHAT HAPPENED TO COMMON CITIZENS OF PAKISTAN BECAUSE OF BHUTTO n BIBI and WHAT HAPPENED TO THESE FEUDAL AND THEIR CORRUPT SUPPORTERS DURING LAST 4 DECADES? your answers to these question would be real tribute to herRecommend