Benazir’s birth anniversary observed in Pakistan

June 21st, 2008 - 1:26 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, June 21 (IANS) The 55th birth anniversary of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was observed throughout Pakistan Saturday, with the country’s new rulers exhorting the country to follow her example of opposing extremism and dictatorship. The main function was held at Larkana district’s Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, the ancestral village and family graveyard of the Bhutto family.

The day started with the recitation of Quran and prayers for Benazir who was twice elected prime minister of Pakistan (1988-90 and 1993-96) and was killed in a gun and bomb attack in December last year while leaving an election rally venue.

Her Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is now the leading member of the country’s ruling coalition.

Benazir is the fourth member of the Bhutto family to die an unnatural death. Her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged by the military regime of General Zia ul Haq in 1979, his brother Shah Nawaz was found dead in mysterious circumstances in his apartment in Paris when the family was living in exile in 1982 and her second brother Mir Murtaza was killed in a clash with the police when Benazir was prime minister in 1996.

Co-chairman of PPP and Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari in his early morning message over the media asked party workers to rededicate themselves to the mission of Bhutto.

The nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi got a Bhutto touch as the government renamed the city’s airport, the main road running through the city and a hospital, after her. A monument at her assassination site was also being planned.

“Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani has announced this as a mark of respect and reverence for the martyred leader and in recognition of her unparalleled services for the nation and the cause of democracy,” said an announcement from the Prime Minister House.

Gillani said that on her birthday the best way to pay homage to Benazir would be to follow her mission in letter and spirit, shun sectarianism and militancy and work whole-heartedly for the betterment and upliftment of Pakistan.

He also granted 90-day remission to prisoners in “recognition of the slain leader’s sacrifices for the supremacy of law and cause of democracy in the country”.

“She is not amongst us today, yet she lives in the hearts and minds of the people,” he said while talking to media persons at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh.

Zardari said that her life was dedicated to defending the country against dictatorship, extremism and tyranny and to give to the masses respect, dignity and honour.

He called upon the party workers to donate blood for the ailing as a token of remembrance that she shed her blood for the cause of the country and the people.

He said: “While we pay her tribute for what she did for democracy, for the country and for the party, the birthday was also an occasion to pledge that we would continue to tread the path illumined by her with her blood.”

Slain Benazir Bhutto was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state and to date the only female prime minister of Pakistan.

She was the eldest child of late former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and was born June 21, 1953. Her paternal grandfather was Shah Nawaz Bhutto, who came to Larkana district in Sindh before independence from Bhatto Kalan, which is situated in India’s Haryana state.

Benazir was sworn in as prime minister for the first time in 1988 at the age of 35, but was removed from office 20 months later on the order of then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan for alleged corruption.

In 1993 she was re-elected but was again removed in 1996 on similar charges, this time by her own handpicked president Farooq Leghari. She went into self-imposed exile in Dubai in 1998.

Bhutto returned to Pakistan Oct 18, 2007 after reaching an understanding with President Pervez Musharraf by which she was granted amnesty and all corruption charges were withdrawn.

She married Asif Ali Zardari Dec 18, 1987 in Karachi. The couple have three children: Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Aseefa.

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