Remembering Benazir


News alerts on my mobile phone usually come from my Mom. In spite of her busy work schedule, she religiously updates me of any political upheaval around the globe. I was on my way back from Amnesty International India’s office in Delhi, when I received a message from my Mom stating that Ms. Benazir Bhutto had returned to Pakistan after an eight-year-long exile and a suicide bomber had just made an attempt to exterminate her while she was on her way to address a massive rally. I sighed in relief to know that she was safe, while my heart went to those who lost their lives in that attack. Today, it is hard to believe that she is no more. Benazir’s death was certainly an abysmal tragedy but could not be deemed unexpected, considering the threat she had been facing since her return to Pakistan to fight the 2008 election. The world is currently engaged in the process of discussion and debate over who marked an end to the life of this outstanding brave leader and how. Of course, the most significant question has been answered; Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Benazir’s son of 19 years, now steps in her shoes, named as the Chairman of the party and her successor. Ms. Benazir Bhutto was the first woman to be elected to lead any Muslim State. This charismatic leader was the face of Pakistan Peoples Party founded by her father and the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, whose life, too was tragically cut short. Bhutto’s death raises a number of issues. What strikes to me the most is the inability of the sub-continent to guard its democratic, charismatic leaders. We have similar misfortunes occuring to many of the exceptional leaders who gave their nations a place on the map of international politics. Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi of India and Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman of Bangladesh planted the seeds of democracy in their countries. India witnessed the assassinations of Ms. Indira Nehru Gandhi and Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, who too were former Prime Ministers of one of the strongest democracies in the world. Militancy, communalism, terrorism, fundamental extremism, insurgency, autocratic military powers and the like have been delaying the process of democratization and deflecting the logic behind a democratic nation.My passion for women nation heads met with despair on hearing the assassination of Bhutto. Her brilliant oratorical skills were simply adorable. Her last speech that was being telecasted repeatedly on television showed her confidence to lead a nation in the path of democracy, a principle to which she dedicated her life. The world would remember Benazir as a dynamic leader with an unflinching resolve to fight the fundamentalists who opposed liberal and free Pakistan. She was a steely woman, who sounded clairvoyant and fatalistic about her end. Had she been alive, she would have, in most likelihood, occupied PM’s office for a third time in Pakistan. Like Ms. Gandhi, Ms. Clinton, Ms. Kumaratunga and BB, as Ms. Bhutto was popularly known, carried a personality that was unmatchable.At this moment of grief, it is hard to digest the long-standing difference between India and Pakistan. Whatever may be her approach towards India, the world has lost a promising leader who laid her life for democracy. I remember the conclusion of my term paper on Comparative Government and Politics, where I expressed my desire to see a ‘change’ that would occur in the stage of 21st century, where women leaders would carry the torch of democracy around the globe. The circumstances suggested my hope for ‘change’. Perhaps, it is incorrect to believe that the hope is in dark because Ms. Bhutto courageously met her undeserving end, reinforcing her faith in a democratic Pakistan. We still can rest our hope in leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, known to be the greatest living champion of democracy in the world, to wake up to a democratic world of ours.Though Ms. Benazir Bhutto is not visibly present amongst us, her memories would always remain etched in many of our hearts, for she is the epitome of liberty and democracy.

Annapoorna Karthika