Mrs Benazir Bhutto was tragically assassinated on 27th December 2007 which is a date I remember very well. I was in fact in Amritsar at that time and my wife & I wanted to cross the border to go to Lahore on 28th December. After the assassination the Waga border was closed and we were not able to enter Pakistan.
When Mrs Bhutto was shot she was departing from a PPP rally in Rawalpindi. The rally took place two weeks before the scheduled General Election of 2008.
Mrs Bhutto believed strongly in Democracy and in fact after an earlier bomb attack in October 2007 she said:
“We are prepared to risk our lives.
The attack was on what I represent. The attack was on democracy and very unity and integrity of Pakistan”.
Democracy is something she believed in and she paid the ultimate price and was martyred for her beliefs. I think this is something we must all appreciate and it is very appropriate that a memorial is held to remember her martyrdom.
I believe that you can kill a person but the idea will always live on.
Mahatma Gandhi believed in non violence and he was assassinated but the idea of non violence still lives on. This has been praised and practised by a number of people including Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.
Martin Luther King had a dream in 1960’s and he was assassinated, his dream came true when Barack Obama was elected President of America.
I personally strongly believe in democracy and the rule of law. Recently in the House of Lords I tabled and led a debate on the subject of Commonwealth and Democracy. There are now 54 members of Commonwealth and all members of the Commonwealth have agreed to practise democracy and work together to strengthen democracy and the rule of law. Unfortunately Pakistan’s membership to the Commonwealth had been suspended but I am very pleased that following the establishment of democracy this has been reinstated.
In addition to democracy prevailing in Pakistan there are two points which are very important and need to be addressed.
The first one is building of capacity and institutions. It is extremely important that Pakistanis work together to strengthen institutions in order to ensure that there is peace and rule of law in that country.
The second point is dealing with the problem relating to terrorism. Sometimes it is easy for people to blame Pakistan but it must be remembered that Pakistan has itself been subjected to terrorism and intensive fighting as well as suicide bombings in various parts of the country.
The militants were defeated in SWAT and Pakistan has paid a very high price. There were deaths, injuries, destruction of property and infrastructure and importantly a considerable number of people have been displaced. To bring normality to that part of the world is a considerable effort; Pakistan does need help in this regard.
There is also fighting going on in Waziristan and 20 per cent of Pakistan’s forces are now fighting on its Western border with Afghanistan. Poverty and depravation are being exploited by the terrorists to lure young impressionable minds and recruit them as foot soldiers and suicide bombers.
We have discussed terrorism in Pakistan in the House of Lords and the United Kingdom is standing by and assisting Pakistan in the fight to combat extremists and terrorists. The United Kingdom has agreed to provide financial support of about £9.5 million pounds this year.
We need to do our utmost to combat terrorism in Pakistan by increasing funding as well as offering our expertise in various fields including intelligence. Pakistan will not only need help to combat terrorism but also in the building of the country’s infrastructure and winning the hearts and minds of the people.
Pakistan is an Islamic state and has suffered badly because of suicide bombings. The people who have committed these acts call themselves Muslims. In regard to suicide bombing Islam forbids the committal of suicide. In the Holy Quran it is written:
“whoever kills a human being then it is as though he has killed all mankind, and whoever saves a human life it is as though he had saved all mankind”
I conclude by saying that the concept of Democracy which Mrs Bhutto believed in must be continued and strengthened and we need to look into and address the various points which I have raised today.