Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007)

Posted just a few short months ago about an essay that Benazir Bhutto had published in Huffington Post. We posted yesterday on her assassination, at age 54, in Rawalpindi, the city where her father was executed in 1979. He too had been Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Efforts to try to process this news have recalled parts of her essay. She wrote:

Pakistan is truly at a turning point. Almost a decade of military dictatorship has devastated the basic infrastructure of democracy. Political parties have been assaulted, political leaders arrested, and the judicial system manipulated to force party leaders into exile. NGOs have been under constant attack, especially those that deal with human rights, democratic values and women's rights. ... And in the battle against terrorism, we look on with dismay as the government of Pakistan ceded sections of our nation that previously had been governed by the rule of law to Taliban sympathizers and to Al Qaeda ....

She wrote of

a growing sense of hopelessness of the people of Pakistan, and a total disillusionment with the political system's ability to address their daily problems.

She worried

that extremism has been making inroads against moderation amongst the Pakistani polity. I have always believed that the battle between extremism and moderation is the underlying battle for the very soul of Pakistan. Yet moderation can prevail against the extremists only if democracy flourishes and the social sector improves the quality of life of the people.

She wrote of relations with incumbent President Pervez Musharraf:

I had a choice. Engage in dialogue, or turn toward the streets. I knew that street protests against the Musharraf dictatorship could lead to the deaths of hundreds. I thought about the choice before me very carefully. I chose dialogue; I chose negotiation; I chose to find a common ground that would unite all the moderate elements of Pakistan for a peaceful transfer to a workable political system ....

She asked:

Are we making progress towards that goal? I still am unable to say.

She returned to her country, and persevered despite immediate violence, despite Musharraf's declaration of a state of emergency in which human rights lawyers were among those detained. Before returning, she recalled her father's fate:

When my democratically elected father, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was arrested in 1977 and subsequently murdered, the mantle of leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party, our nation's largest, nationwide grassroots political structure, was suddenly thrust upon me. It was not the life I planned, but it is the life I have. My husband and children accept and understand that my political responsibilities to the people of Pakistan come first, as painful as that personally is to all of us.

She concluded:

I didn't choose this life. It chose me.

Not nearly enough said by this woman, who in 1988 had become "the first woman to lead a modern Muslim country."


Judith Weingarten said...

This photograph, taken on 18 October, on Bhutto's return to Pakistan, just touched my heart. Now it's too late:

Sonia said...

Well said. Bhutto is an inspiration for women all over the world and she was a true fighter for Pakistan. Her death is devastating.

Ryan said...

I can’t believe that she was assassinated by a 15-year-old! What a shock! This is a crazy part of the world, and we are going to have to reassess our handling of such situations. I have spoken with several people from the middle east, and they all say that she was assassinated because it would be a major blow to the Americans. What are we doing wrong?

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