I knew the name and the face, but not much about her until today, sadly the day of her brutal assassination at the hands of an as yet unnamed militant terrorist group. Benazir Bhutto was the most important political figure in Pakistan during the past twenty years, and someone everyone in the world should know and remember. With her untimely murder, the fate of Pakistan hangs in the balance: will the much maligned President Musharraf allow the free elections to go on, and if so, will there be a candidate capable of carrying on Bhutto’s progressive message of peace and stability in the most volatile of the world’s political theaters?
Benazir Bhutto was the first female leader of a post-colonial Muslim country, the daughter of a political dynasty (her father was the first popularly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan and was eventually executed by a military regime that later seized power), a champion for democracy in the Muslim world, and a world leader who experienced a roller coaster ride of ups and downs from winning elections to living in exile to facing assassination attempts by suicide bombers during her triumphant return to her homeland this October. Despite the attempt on her life, she vowed not to back down, comforted the widows and orphans of those who died in the attack, and her People’s Party was primed to win enough seats in the upcoming elections in January that would usher her return to the world stage as Prime Minister–this time, what could have been her third time, as a counter-agent to President Musharraf’s military rule and the strongest American ally in the Muslim world.
To put it in the simplest terms, Benazir Bhutto was the best hope of Pakistan achieving a stable democracy and the best hope of reigniting the search for Osama Bin Laden. If anyone could’ve prompted Musharraf to “grow a pair” and bring in Bin Laden come hell or high-water, it was her…if she had only been given the chance.
Despite controversy surrounding her political party and family (mostly involving kick-backs and financial corruption), Benazir Bhutto, for all her flaws was a brave woman beloved by the people she fought for (moderate, middle class and poor Muslims in Pakistan and around the world), ruthlessly hated by those she rallied against (militant extremists, the Taliban, al-Qaida) and viewed by the West as a harbinger of democracy in the Muslim World, an essential ally in the War on Terror, and a woman who could single-handedly bring stability to a nuclear-armed nation on the brink of crisis.
From AlJazeera, the YouTube video below gives the layman a quick run down of her life and times:
While it may seem cynical to use a tragedy like this an open door to political plotting, one can not dismiss the effect her assassination might have on the Presidential Primaries about to start just a few days from now with the Iowa caucuses. Hillary Clinton, who knew Bhutto well from when she personally visited Bhutto and her children in Pakistan while Bhutto was still Prime Minister with her own daughter Chelsea, responded in way that was intimate, heartfelt, and statesman-like. Quite frankly, she oozed presidential authority and appeared in her statements as a calm, confident woman who related to not only the fallen idol that has become Benazir Bhutto, but also as a leader who can connect with Bhutto’s supporters, and most importantly the American people. Meanwhile, the lack of experience and personal connections made the response from Barrack Obama feel cold, calculated, and without the proper perspective.
On the Republican side, John McCain emerged today as the gruff statesman who knows the players, knows the dangers, and can make the tough decisions that will be vital to protecting America and our interests abroad. Meanwhile, Romney displayed an icky case of the “blah, blah, blahs” while Huckabee found nothing meaningful to say beyond the obvious. Yes, any sane person mourns her loss and prays for her family and supporters. Thanks for the insight, Huck.
With the other candidates submerged in the typical sea of tailored responses calling the assassination a “cowardly act” and one that “won’t go unnoticed”, Clinton and McCain reminded U. S. voters today why experience counts.
Meanwhile, Benazir Bhutto reminded us how one woman could change the world, and how the game of politics will always be a dangerous proposition, especially when your message champions the common people elitists and militarists wish to control. Bhutto today became a martyr. The actions of her political movement before her death will echo throughout history, while this single succint moment of three gun-shots fired by a suicide bomber who then detonated himself into oblivion will have ramifications we might only understand years from now when hindsight is 20/20. Let us hope then that it is not too late.
Written by David H. Schleicher