'Mohtarma would whisper or use gestures to discuss her security'

Former NA Speaker Fehmida Mirza recalls her interactions with the person who got her into politics

I’ve been dreading this. I think a part of my mind had already blocked the details of my last meeting with her.

Ten years without her, can you believe it? Mohtarma and I had known each other for a very long time. In fact, I had joined politics on her insistence. Although, I came from a political family I had no desire to follow in their footsteps. But then in 1996, right after her government was dismissed, she called me. I remember her words clearly, “Fehmida, I need you,” she said. This was also around the time Mir Murtaza Bhutto was murdered. Her family was shattered. How could I have refused?

Fehmida Mirza pictured here with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

When she finally returned on Oct. 18, Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza and I were in charge of looking after her security in Sindh. In those days, we would sit down with her every morning at 2:00 a.m. Mohtarma would mostly talk in a low whispery voice or use gestures to discuss her security with us. Most of the Pakistan People’s Party leaders, to be honest, did not realise how in danger she was until the Karsaz bombing.

Her electoral candidates wanted her to visit their districts and hold rallies and gatherings. But she could only travel to the areas that were safe. In every meeting, her planned trip to Punjab loomed large over us. She was not being given the security she needed.

Then, she was detained in Islamabad for four days at her residence. I was with her. In those days, she was anxious and restless. Most nights, she would stay awake long past all of us. On other days, she would wake up before us to work on her new book.

Her children did not want her to return. Maybe that is what was weighing in on her.

Fehmida Mirza, left, pictured here with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Once back in Karachi, she left for Dubai to meet them. She would have stayed longer than three days had Pervez Musharraf not imposed an emergency. Bhutto was forced to rush back. But this time, when she returned, she was glowing. There was a twinkle in her eyes. “I am happy to be back,” she told me.

There was another little incident I would like to quote here. I can’t reveal all the details of my last encounters with her as I am writing a book about it. One day, when I came home from the court. I told her that the election tribunal had approved my papers to contest the polls but delayed giving Mirza the go ahead. The judge kept calling Mirza, jija ji (brother-in-law). This had her laughing uncontrollably. From then on she would always tease Mirza about it, calling him jija ji.

I can still hear that laugh and see those smiling eyes.

The last time I saw her was on Dec. 17, 2007, after a PPP rally in Hyderabad. The next day, I had an appearance before an election tribunal. Dec. 18 was also Mohtarma’s wedding anniversary. So, I had Dr. Mirza deliver a bouquet of flowers at 12 a.m. to her house.

I never saw her after that.

Mirza is the former speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan