Monday, February 04, 2008

Her march into history

By Adnan Gill

OPEN a newspaper or tune in a news channel and odds of Pakistan being in the headlines are at least 50-50. But Dec 27, 2007, would sadly be immortalised in the annals of history.

It is the day when the leader of Pakistan’s largest political party, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated. Despite the fact that Ms Bhutto was not a sitting prime minister, her assassination would be remembered as an event that shook the world, just like the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy did decades ago.

Who is to be blamed for her brutal assassination would be debated for a long time, but there is little doubt that her untimely death will shake the foundations of Pakistan. The gravity and the magnitude of the tragedy could be judged from the fact that virtually every single news media outlet was exclusively focused on her assassination. The news of her death triggered the sell offs on the Wall Street, dipping the stocks deep into negative territory. In impromptu press conferences world leaders like the US President Bush and UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon did not lose a moment in condemning her assassination.

It would be hard to imagine how the Musharraf government could have had any role in Ms Bhutto’s assassination; because even a person with marginal intelligence could foresee how even a hint of the government’s complicity in the crime would spell the end of Musharraf’s rule. And still, at minimum, Ms Bhutto’s assassination will write the final chapter of Musharraf’s rule.

Benazir Bhutto was the daughter of Pakistan’s first-elected Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Media savvy Ms Bhutto was considered to be a contemporary political genius rivalling the likes of President Bill Clinton. Outside the political arena, Ms Bhutto was widely believed to be a devout mother and a sincere wife. Regardless of one’s political differences, millions upon millions of Pakistanis revered the daughter of Pakistan for the distinction of becoming the first ever female prime minister of a male-dominated Muslim country. One can criticise her for the way she ran her governments in her two terms, but one cannot deny her invaluable services in strengthening the roots of democracy in Pakistan. She proved her resolve by courageously standing her ground in the face of not one but two military dictators. There is hardly any doubt that had she lived long enough, she would have swept the Pakistani elections, but her untimely exit at the verge of political victory over a military dictator will earn her political immortality. History will see to it that Benazir Bhutto’s name will be written alongside the names of political giants like Sir Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy.

I may add here on a personal note that I have been a hard-hitting critic of Benazir Bhutto’s party and her political career. But I believe in defeating or marginalising a politician through votes or arguments, and not through violence or the cowardly act of suicide bombing. The only time I spoke directly to her was on CNN’s Larry King Live show in the mid-90s. She was kind and courteous to address my concerns in detail. She left me impressed by the depth and clarity of her knowledge.

Rest well, rest well daughter of the east. May your ultimate sacrifice bring sanity and peace in the lives of tired and grieving Pakistanis.


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