It was one of those moments which everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing, and will continue to do so for the rest of their lives. Benazir Bhutto’s assassination came as a shock to nearly the entire world, but more so for her country, Pakistan.
I remember precisely where I was when I got the first text messages, and as more and more frantic messages started pouring in, I still remember the feeling of disbelief more than panic or anything else. It was only when my we were urged home because things were ‘getting bad’, that the panic and realization sank in – it really was true. That Benazir Bhutto, the first woman Prime Minister, the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party had actually been assassinated.
Amidst the shock, I very clearly remember the destruction that took place. Within minutes of the news being made public – the streets of Karachi were overrun with hooligans. Cars were destroyed, shops were looted – the damage to property was great, but perhaps as Bilawal Bhutto writes, not as much as it was to the heart of the nation, the hope.
No, I have not forgotten that Benazir’s government was a mighty corrupt one. I’ve not forgotten that there is a reason why her husband, now the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari was well-known as Mr. 10 Percent. Not forgotten the fact that her own brother was ruthlessly shot during her tenure as the Prime Minister of Pakistan among many other ‘events’.
No, all those details are as much part of the daily lives of Pakistanis as they are of the history of Pakistan – never forgotten. But fact is Benazir Bhutto was a very charismatic leader – perhaps even more than her father, the late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. As a woman, her coming into power opened a lot of doors for the then-sidelined women of Pakistan. Under her governance there were more women judges appointed, more emphasis on women’s rights and female empowerment and more schools that were built than under any other government.
The Benazir that I remember growing up was an eloquent charismatic woman – one that people wanted to listen to, gave examples of and one that made sense. In reality however, (and as is the case with growing up) Benazir was someone who spoke well and eloquently – someone who was in government, but never in power and someone who was prone to failings.
Perhaps that’s how we all should remember Benazir – as someone who could have done more when she was in power and as someone who was taken away from us prematurely.
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