|Benazir Bhutto at Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi|
It was winters in Lahore; December was as cool as it used to be. But politically it was election’s season. Election campaigns and Lawyers movement were at their peaks. Media was under threat; political statements and other election related news were popping up from all sides.
No doubt year 2007 was one of the worst years for the newborn media in Pakistan. Media houses were under threats, Journalists were beaten up. They were protesting against the ban on different News Channels implemented by General Pervez Musharraf. On other side, struggle for restoration of democracy had started. Exiled leaders had come back to the country.
December 2007, I could never forget that time. It was early career of my journalism. Being a young journalist and learner I was following every bit of news. Covering elections and writing about it was never been an easy task for anyone.
During that time Benazir Bhutto also came to Lahore Press Club to show her solidarity with journalists. I was there when she reached at Lahore Press Club. She was welcomed by an enormous enthusiasm. I was one of several dozen journalists. Standing and watching her so closely. It was like a dream. Though I had seen her before once during my childhood in 90s in a Jalsa at Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi.
But this moment was unforgettable. A foreign journalist asked me “Are you as supporter or reporter” I said “Reporter, but a supporter”.
We saw her, We welcomed her. She Smiled, She talked, She showed her love and solidarity with us.
December 27, I remember that very day very well. I was in the Magazine Section of Daily Waqt, Lahore. It was Thursday, and we had to finalize the copy of Sunday Magazine. But the highlight of the day of Jalsa of Benazir Bhutto at the historical place, Liaqat Bagh ( The park where Pakistan’s First Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan shot dead) Rawalpindi, my hometown.
“BB is looking prettier than ever today”
“This lady has a charisma m just like her father Bhutto sahib”
“BB will clean sweep”
“No one can stop PPP from winning next elections”
“She is the only hope”
These were comments I heard in Newsroom and Magazine section while Benazir Bhutto came up at the stage in her blue dress and white scarf. I perfect persona! A confident lady, there was no sign of fear on her face. Thousands of crowd chanting slogan “Bibi Tere Janisaar, Beshumaar Beshumaar” and Benazair Bhutto came up to the microphone, waving her hand in response to crowd’s slogans. No body knows that I was a silent spectator. Physically in the newsroom, but mentally I was at Liaqat Bagh.
She started her speech with:
“These are the slogans I have come to Rawalpindi today, I understand this is the city of brave and sacrificing people; I consider Rawalpindi as my second home. When Bhutto Sahib was a minister, I used to live here; I used to go to a school at Rawalpindi. I have seen moments of joy and gloomy times in Rawalpindi. I must say that the brave people of Rawalpindi have been with me in moments of happiness; brave sisters and brethren of this city stood by me in hours of our sadness; they have never let me alone.
She further said;
“This is the same city which saw that when Yahya Khan was not leaving, they thronged to the Liaquat Bagh to hold a huge and powerful rally and that forced dictator Yahya step down; it was after that the government of the Pakistan People’s Party was established. Rawalpindi is the same city from where Zulfikar Ali Bhutto started his struggle against the dictatorship of General Ayub Khan and young Abdul Hameed sacrificed his life for democracy. This is the city which has defeated all dictators and Inshallah its people will once again inflict a crushing defeat on another dictator and usher in an era of democracy; the sun of democracy will again rise on the horizon of Rawalpindi”
She came, She spoke, She smiled and She won the hearts of haters too.
She was also aware of the fact that her life is in danger as she said in her speech
“I put my life in danger and came here because I feel this country is in danger. People are worried. We will bring the country out of this crisis.”
Everyone in the Newsroom and other sections of the newspaper were excited. Admiring Her courage, Her stance against Taliban, Her criticism on Military establishment, Her ambition to restore democracy!
SHE HAD ALREADY DONE THE CLEAN SWEEP!!
Everything was going in right direction. Then we saw the breaking news of attack on Benazir Bhutto and later her death confirmation.
This was big shock to everyone. Every person I saw at that moment was weeping, whether he was a supporter of Benazir Bhutto or not. Everyone’s eyes were wet. Weeping and crying.
A hope had lost.
Later, I went to the Lahore Press Club, which was nearby my office. Scenes there were also horrifying. Most of the journalists were crying out loud. Police forces surround the Press Club as there was threat of violence in reaction. Two police vans were burnt down in front of Lahore Press Club.
Heavy police was deployed on roads and other important places. It seems like that whole city is mourning. Lahore was not Lahore that evening. Terror was in the air. Sorrow was in the blood.
Going back to my place from office, riding my bike on those gloomy roads my heart was echoing these last words of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto
“Go and spread my message that I have returned to serve masses and the country. What is Pindi’s symbol; what is workers symbol; what is laborer’s symbol; what is masses symbol; it is only and only arrow. Thank you very much. Victory will soon bow before you.
Jiye Bhutto, Pakistan Zindabad”.