Died As Her Father Did: Bravely
Globe and Mail
It was the summer of 1966. We
were mere teenagers meeting Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had just resigned
as Pakistan's foreign minister and was about to launch a new left-wing
political movement, the Pakistan Peoples Party.
Sitting in the front yard of his sprawling Karachi mansion, he engaged
us in a lively discussion about Islam, democracy and socialism, while
chewing on a cigar. That was the day I first saw Benazir Bhutto. She
came in, had a brief chat with her dad and then left, as we debated
how best to oust Pakistan's then military dictator, Ayub Khan.
Pinky, as Benazir was then known, barely nodded at us. The articulate
young girl did not participate in the discussion about democracy, nor
did she hear her father talk about the cancer of dictatorships, but
she would not have to wait too long to discover that herself. None of
us could have imagined how the disease, strengthened by Islamic extremism,
would wipe out almost the entire Bhutto family. Within 40 years, Benazir,
her father and her two brothers would all be victims of political assassination.
The macabre dance of death began on April 4, 1979, when deposed prime
minister Bhutto was hanged by the country's Islamist dictator, General
Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. The state-sanctioned killing stunned the nation.
Yesterday, they came for Benazir, the leader who posed a greater threat
to the established order of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan than even
her father - for she was a woman.
While Benazir represented modernity and a quest for gender equality,
the Islamist establishment and the Army's Inter-Services Intelligence
- that Islamists have so effectively penetrated - wanted to turn back
the clock of history and permanently exclude women from the corridors
When the first suicide bombings killed more than a hundred of her followers
in October, on the day she returned to Pakistan after years in exile,
Benazir's naysayers claimed she had staged the attack herself. The Islamists
and the left mocked her, labelling her as the poodle of George W. Bush.
The cruelty of the slander was matched by her resolve.
Why did they have to kill her? If she was as corrupt as her critics
claim, couldn't they have bought her loyalties? Her killers, however,
knew that the woman who spent years in jail, lived in exile for a decade,
had one thing on her mind: the end of Islamic extremism in Pakistan.
For that, and for the fact that she was a woman, she had to be eliminated.
As a student leader in Pakistan in the 1960s, I witnessed many failures.
The country I called home lost wars, got divided in two, suffered military
coups. Close friends died as a result of civil strife and comrades were
tortured, but the air of optimism would not leave us. Today, another
dark cloud of despair hangs over much of Pakistan. But the spirit of
the Pakistani people cannot be dampened.
When Bhutto senior was hanged, the streets went empty. Fright had overpowered
the people, who abandoned the man they had come to love. Last night,
hundreds of thousands of people poured onto the streets of major cities.
Some beat their chests and in anger while others set fires.
In Pakistan, the forces of progress and enlightenment are lined up against
darkness and death. How can we in Canada ensure that Benazir Bhutto's
quest for progress and democracy is not buried with her?
A lot. We need to stop dealing with military dictators who imprison
court judges, rewrite constitutions, harbour Islamic militants and then
present themselves as the saviours of the West. We need to say to these
men: As long as you harbour merchants of death and purveyors of hate,
we will consider you as persona non-grata and that our doors are closed
for you, your ambassadors and your messages of medievalism.
The elder Bhutto wrote a book from death row in 1979. Titled If I am
assassinated, its last pages contained a quote from Russian author Nikolai
"Man's dearest possession is his life, and since it is given to
him to live but once, he must so live as not to be scared with the shame
of a cowardly and trivial past, so as not to be tortured for years without
purpose, that dying he can say, 'All my life and my strength were given
to the first cause in the world - the liberation of mankind.' "
As death stared the senior Bhutto in the face, he stared back. His past
has no shame of cowardice. His daughter, too, gave her life in courage.
a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State
The author analyzes the diverging aspirations that separate the Islamist
from the Muslim, and the Islamic State from the State of Islam.
Published by John
Wiley & Sons.
Pre-order today at Amazon.com
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