No, Maryam Nawaz can never emulate Benazir Bhutto or her political legacy

Published: July 18, 2017

Maryam covers her head and waves to the public in a style akin to that of Benazir.

Amidst the uproar of the joint investigation team (JIT) findings over the Panama Leaks case, some people began comparing Maryam Nawaz Sharif to Benazir Bhutto. Personally, I was taken aback by such a comparison because Maryam may be the rising star of Pakistani politics but it is too early to compare her to a political icon like Benazir.

Efforts made by Fatima Jinnah and Benazir for establishing democracy in Pakistan are unmatched in the annals of Pakistani politics. Fatima, due to her deteriorating health, was unable to fight the vultures that conspired against democracy. However, Benazir was able to fight the dictators of her time and was able to restore democracy in Pakistan, which is an admirable feat.

Maryam is fortunate enough to have gotten the opportunity to partake in the country’s governance on a gold platter. Many do not receive such chances. On the other hand, Benazir fought tooth and nail with General Ziaul Haq for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had two sons and two daughters, but amongst his four children, he was able to see that Benazir stood out and could gain a strong foothold in Pakistani politics. It is for this reason that he started her political grooming and also took her to India for the signing of the Simla Agreement.

The Bhutto family sacrificed a lot for the sake of democracy. Bhutto was hanged, Benazir and her mother were beaten at numerous protests during the martial law period in the 70s and Murtaza Bhutto was killed mysteriously. Theirs is a family that suffered but they endured their suffering as well. Benazir handled everything gracefully and never used a word of foul language against the perpetrators of these incidents.

Benazir started her political career when she was barely 25-years-old. At that age, Maryam could not have even imagined putting herself through the uncertain politics of Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif left the country along with his family after he was exiled for 10 years, but Maryam did not call her father out on his poor decisions. Even today, she does not have the courage to apologise to the nation for the wrongdoings of her and her father.

People argue that Benazir entered into a sorry excuse of an agreement called the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) with former president Pervez Musharraf, which also raised questions about her credibility. But this was done in order to favour all the political parties of Pakistan. Furthermore, the main purpose of the NRO agreement was to make a comeback in active Pakistani politics. It was Benazir who allowed Nawaz and his family to return to Pakistan before their exile’s tenure was completed.

Although Zia was still ruling the country in 1986, Benazir took one of the bravest steps of her political career by returning to the country during his tenure. The reception she received in Karachi and Lahore upon her return from exile definitely sent a powerful message across to the people sitting in the corridors of power. Those were the days when we had only one TV channel and a handful of newspapers that were also under strict censorship of the government. It was through word of mouth that people got to know about Benazir’s arrival.

I was also a witness to her memorable arrival in Karachi, and the excitement we saw in the eyes of the common man was something that is hard to find even today. People were so mesmerised and charmed by Benazir that they used to watch her welcome video on their VCR repeatedly.

Political analysts of that era believe that allowing Benazir to return to Pakistan was the first nail in the long-standing dictatorial rule of Zia. Benazir, through her solitary efforts, became the first female prime minister of a Muslim country and also the youngest prime minister of an Asian country.

Benazir’s martyrdom was and still is a great loss for Pakistan’s politics. She is irreplaceable and the void left behind due to her shocking death is nearly impossible to fill. Even after an approximate period of 10 years, cronies of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) are running the party under her name while supporters continue to support the party, which just goes to show the strength of Benazir.

Sometimes I do admire Maryam for trying to follow in Benazir’s footsteps, but in actuality, she needs to step out from under her father’s shadow. She needs to show the masses that she is someone who is capable of replacing Benazir. Maryam and her supporters declared her summon to the JIT panel as an insult to women and some even went to the extent of saying,

JIT ne chadar aur char deewari ka taqudus pamal kiya hai.”

(The JIT has marred the piety of women.)

These very same people do not realise that Benazir was summoned to Pakistani courts on various occasions during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s tenure in the 90s.

In my view, up until a few years ago, even the Sharif family did not consider Maryam as a capable politician. This is the reason why she was not elected in the national or provincial assembly. However, Maryam does deserve some credit for the amount of effort she puts in towards improving the PML-N’s image. By doing so, she provides the Sharif family with another alternate, who up till now had considered Hamza Shahbaz as the sole torch bearer of the family’s political throne.

Maryam covers her head and waves to the public in a style akin to that of Benazir. It is a fitting tribute to Benazir that the daughter of her fiercest political rival is following in her footsteps to reign in the public’s acceptance.

Maryam is slowly and surely climbing the various ladders of political success. But in my view, she has a long road ahead in perfecting and emulating the political legacy left behind by Benazir.

Khurram Zia Khan

Khurram Zia Khan

The writer is the media manager of Asiatic Public Relations and tweets @KhurramZiaKhan (

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

  • Furkan Bangash

    BB RIP was a corrupt leader just like Nawaz and Co…. BB was no better than Maryam.. Corruption binds them together…Recommend

  • Fahim

    Benazir was never a successful leader. Her legacy is ZardariRecommend

  • Sane

    Maryam is miles away than Benazir. Even Maryam spends whole life cannot reach near to Benazir. This way I’m not admiring Benazir. I am just talking about her struggle, vision, states person capabilities.Recommend

  • Farhan

    The amazing thing about this “Maryam Nawaz – Next Benazir Bhutto” debate is that none of the ladies being mentioned would think of this topic to be relevant or important.

    Only people discussing this are the fans on either side. LOLRecommend

  • Farooq ali

    And hands over PPP to his husband over a piece of paper. Maryam and Benazir are exactly the same.Recommend

  • rumi52

    BB always put Pakistan down when interviewed by western media. She always said negative things about Pakistan.Recommend

  • goggi (Lahore)

    Both of these are daughters of criminals and traitors.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    What a joke. BB’s entire political career was a shadow of her father’s legacy. She fought the dictatorship tooth and nail? When? When she was spending time abroad during the 80’s granted by sympathy and money left by her father?

    She only came back to Pakistan after Zia-ul-Haq died, married the most corrupt man she could find in the country, looted Pakistan (and Sind) with her husband, quietly watched as her husband murdered her brother and once again fled the country when Musharraf refused to make a deal with her.

    Only came back after Musharraf passed NRO and all cases against her were withdrawn. She never spent even a single day in jail or faced a moment of political struggle and pain that millions of Jiyala workers have been through on the streets. She lived comfortably her whole life, whether in US, UK or Dubai. Even Zardari struggled more than her when he was jailed and beaten up during the nineties.

    Maryam following BB would be a step down, not up.Recommend

  • Custard_Pie_In_Your_Face

    Well she makes me just as sick as BB used to.

    Enough with the dynasty politics already for goodness sakes!Recommend

  • Dipak Mehta

    They both are CHOR. The only difference is Maryam is just a a CHOR or THIEF. BB on the other hand was a MAHACHOR and a WORLD TERRORIST because she started Terrorism in the world after Soviet-Afghan war by first sending the Terrorists to India in the name of Freedom Fighters who eventually encouraged OBL to her Terrorism in the whole world.Recommend

  • Dipak Mehta

    BB’s husband is also Mr 10%.Recommend

  • ab

    The question is that what did BB did? she is famous for her corruption,surrey palace and Her fight with Zia-ul-haq. really such a meaningless article.Recommend

  • Patwari

    With a short attention span, you would be hard pressed
    to remember what you ate 2 days ago. So why worry about Benazir.
    You remember Gullu Butt?Recommend

  • Patwari

    Sonia Gandhi is worth about $ 63 billion [USD]Recommend

  • Bashir Tanger Butt

    I agree with you .fully.all politicians are good for themselves only.Recommend

  • Khurram Zia Khan

    BB was back in Pakistan in 1986 when Zia Ul Haq was alive and started her political struggle. Zia UL Haq died in 1988 and even before his death all vibes were suggesting that it will be difficult for Zia and company to stop PPP from wining elections. She fought with her mother in 1977-78 on the roads of Lahore.Recommend

  • Hassan Mirza

    Pakistan media is corrupt like others things in Pakistan first of all self acclaimed leaders. Both women are corrupt and opportunist can do any thing for power and money is that the leader definition ? Yes For pakistan may be as 99.99 % nation is corrupt as well so corruption is not an issue for Resident it is shame to know when people of Pakistan compare these two women each other or with real leaders .How can it is possible the people who not spend one single penny from there own earn money become leaders or people who not want to pay tax for there income nor pay Zakat can be Muslims m or so call leader?Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Alright. I stand corrected then. If she came back in 1986 or led PPP against the windup of her father’s government in 1977.

    However the BB I have seen growing up in the 90’s and 2000’s was a self-serving, corrupt politician who used Jiyala workers for her own political ambitions.

    I am sorry, but I don’t see the greatness that you do.

    And I see exactly the same script with Maryam Nawaz.

    Zia ul Haq executed Bhutto. If Musharraf had executed Nawaz after the 1999 coup, perhaps Maryam would have been just as active in politics from her young age? If Nawaz gets disqualified now, perhaps she will become active in politics now. Or maybe it will happen 10 years from now. Who knows.

    What did Benazir achieve AFTER the people of Pakistan put her into power? The biggest corruption stories of our history. Properties and bank accounts abroad while Jiyala workers are still struggling to get basic necessities like water. That is what she achieved. That is her legacy.Recommend

  • Ot

    I always wonder what are the standards/frame of reference in Pakistan… If it were for only women leaders to receive sympathy and be given the right to lead the nation just because of feminine acceptance, what are we heading towards.. What do Benazir and Maryam Nawaz posses different from other women? Perhaps nothing more than their relationships with affluent and politically strong fathers . I believe other women of Pakistan are as competent( even more honest for that matter) as them…Recommend

  • Hiba Moeen

    All of these people are and were corrupt. I just hope that our nation is able to rid itself of these goons. However, I agree that Maryam isn’t even close to the image of Benazir.Recommend