Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhutto is assassinated

It broke my heart. My first reaction was Holy Shit, I hope it is not true.

By the time I reached home, CNN was confirming that Benazir Bhutto, that charming lady, affectionately called ‘Daughter of the East’ by the world at large, was no more. The raspy, domineering voice had been silenced forever. Like her iconic dad, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and her two brothers, Benazir’s life was cut short. Cut young. Cut too mercilessly. Immediately people began to draw parallels between the Gandhi family in India and Kennedy’s in US. The jinxed Bhutto surname. One of the most elegant stateswoman in the world has been assassinated by some nutcase anarchist.

The shock is not surprising. There was a pizzazz about Benazir that can best be described as extra-ordinary. The first Muslim female head of a state, she had an amazing connect with both the grassroots and the powers that be. Benazir would amble across the corridors of White House and fields of Larkana with equal poise. She hobnobbed with the rich and reached out to the poor. The liberal lobby cheered for her, so did the Western capitals. The media considered the Oxford-Harvard educated Benazir honeybunch. She could outdo any informed journalist with her repartees and savvy. I especially read her interviews.

Wedded into criticism, Bhutto had a very polarizing persona. Her critics harangued her for being incompetent and on the pad. I used harsh language in some of my posts about alleged embezzlement charges against her. In hindsight, nothing was ever proved against her in any court. The charges may keep flying but that doesn’t make them true, always. A woman of grand aspirations with a taste for complex political maneuvering, Benazir was indeed ambitious and sought power. She died doing what she enjoyed the most, as my buddy Salah puts it: politics. Many have already started called her a martyr.

Criticized, cut-up and censured for her high profile image, modern outlook and bold policies, Benazir held firm. Flustered, her foes – and she had lots of them – attacked her first in Karachi on Oct 18, 2007 upon her arrival from exile. Remarkably it didn’t deter her. Benazir showed immense character and courage. On December 27, 2007 as evening prayers culminated in Pakistan, the blood-thirsty ultraists finally got to her. Ironically the last thing she said at the Rawalpindi rally -- held in Liyaqat Park -- moments before her death, is now going to make it to history books:

I am ready for any sacrifice.
[Less than 12 minutes before an assassin's bullet pierced her neck]

Less than twelve days later, on January 8, she could have been Pakistan’s prime minister for the third time. Instead she will be laid to rest, wrapped in Pakistani national flag, by her father’s grave tomorrow [Friday] in the mango orchards of Larkana.

Confrontational, flamboyant, moderniser, winsome, stylish and extremely likeable. With that famous head-scarf on her head, always. That is how Mohtarma would be remembered. I hope she rests in eternal peace amidst the mango fragrance of the beautiful Pakistan countryside.

The brave, they say, die never, though they sleep in dust. Their courage nerves a thousand living men.

Ms Bhutto will be dearly missed!

Benazir Bhutto
Daughter of the East
[1953-2007] RIP