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Remembering Benazir

If only she had lived. Pakistan might be a different, a better place. Indeed, all hope was pinned on her some 29 years ago when she was first sworn in as Prime Minister. Benazir Bhutto was not only the world’s youngest head of state — she was also the Muslim world’s first woman leader. And for the latter alone she deserves to be forever commended. But what would she make of today’s Pakistan? A country that has recently and outlandishly capitulated to the religious right. A country where those who are the very enemies of pluralism and democracy have now been given a chance to run for office. A country where a former military dictator who is a declared absconder in her murder case has casually announced that he will be contesting next year’s general elections.
Most likely, she would have said something along the lines of, “I told you so.” For she had been relentless in her campaign to warn her own country and the wider world about the threat of organised and armed militant Islamist fundamentalism. This, after all, was something that she’d had first-hand experience of. There have long been reports that Osama Bin Laden had funded Nawaz Sharif’s 1990 election campaign her and the Pakistan Peoples’ Party. In the run-up to her death she upset the powers-that-be — both here in Pakistan and elsewhere — when she assured the world that with her as PM the International Atomic Energy Agency would have access to AQ Khan, the father of this country’s nuclear bomb.
Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was an enemy of the status quo because she championed democracy above all else; even if she would ultimately drop the PPP’s socialist mandate in favour of a Thatcherite devotion to the free market. And had she lived, she could well have been the bridge between Muslim Pakistan and the West. Indeed, this was a role that she had envisaged for herself as her posthumously published book, Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West, bears testament to.
But, sadly, we’ll never know if she would have been successful. The only certainty is that her premonition of the threat of religious extremism came true. Indeed, she paid for it with her very life. And those at the helm today seem hellbent on trampling on a legacy that would have put Pakistan first. Thus they all have blood on their hands.



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