Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto

Tarek Fatah has written a moving and personal tribute for Pakistan's slain leader-in-waiting. I am excerpting quite a bit of it:

............

She died as her father did: bravely

By Tarek Fatah

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.

...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 of power.

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.

...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?

...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.

Tarek Fatah's complete article is online at the Globe and Mail.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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