Bhutto’s murder is no surprise

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The Article

Gunned down for challenging the life-denying status quo in a nation she sought to govern for the better

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto yesterday, the 54-year old, two-time prime minister of Pakistan (1988-90 and 1993-96) and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party founded by her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto – was a deed foretold.

In a country unhinged by violence unleashed by radical Islamists and military rule, Benazir’s murder comes as no surprise.

As analysts ask how it could have been allowed to happen by the authorities, when everyone in Pakistan knew Benazir was the primary, publicly-declared target of radical Islamists – and that her would-be killers were stalking her – the world, in mourning her death, must not lose sight of why she died.

In the weeks ahead, Bhutto’s life and politics will be dissected, her ambitions and failings underscored.

Her opponents will inflate her alleged corruption and opportunism in attempting to cement a political comeback for a military dictator.

Her supporters will magnify her charisma, emphasize how, being a woman in a hugely traditional and conservative country where patriarchy rules – where the standing of a woman in law is quite literally half that of a man, and where women must know their place is behind men both in the public square, as in the mosque – Bhutto paid the ultimate price.

She was gunned down by a suicide bomber for challenging the life-denying status quo of a society she sought to govern for the better.

To be human is to be riddled with flaws, and the flaws of public figures are doubly magnified in the glare of never-ending publicity. Bhutto was no exception. She was indeed flawed.

But the circumstances of her death amply illustrate the one characteristic of her tempestuous life – her indomitable courage in confronting her foes – for which she will be greatly missed by her people and her nation.

Bhutto knew the lengths to which her enemies would go to deny her the public office she intuitively knew she could win in an open and fair election.

As a young woman, she had witnessed her father removed by the military from his position as a popularly-elected prime minister, and then hanged in 1979.

Bhutto knew well those who killed her father would one day come after her. But she was willing to stare them down and let the people of her country decide on the direction they wanted to go.

She could have remained in exile, keeping alive her father’s memory, and the promise of constitutionally-based democratic rule for Pakistan that her stints as prime minister symbolized for a country torn by regional-sectarian divisions and heavy-handed military rule.

But she chose to return even as her enemies were readying, and they almost eliminated her last October in a well-planned suicide bombing of her political rally in Karachi on the day of her arrival.

It needed profound courage to speak so publicly and so eloquently, as Bhutto did, against the evil darkness of Islamist terror consuming her country.

She was precise, cogent and determined in identifying her enemies and, moreover, in indicating her enemies were the same people driven by the same mad lust of a perverted and murderous ideology of radical Islamism, at war with the modern world of democracy and the most basic human rights.

This is why Benazir Bhutto was killed by her enemies who are also the enemies of freedom and democracy everywhere.

Salim Mansur
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