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Tragic end to a tumultuous life

ajosephs Icon Posted by Ammu Joseph

December 29th, 2007

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on Thursday evening has made front page headlines across the world. Many reports have used words like martyrdom and sacrifice to describe the violent death of the 54-year-old popular political leader who in 1988 became the first democratically elected woman to head the government of a Muslim-majority state. Then 35, she was also one of the youngest persons to become a prime minister anywhere (albeit with an inborn advantage as the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the charismatic former prime minister and founder of the Pakistan People’s Party, who was executed by the military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq in 1979).

Another set of words has been widely used by the media to suggest the likely impact of the tragedy on Pakistan: chaos, crisis, disarray, destabilisation, instability, turmoil, time bomb, brink of an abyss, edge of a precipice, civil conflict, civil war… Several reports have focused on its possible effect on international affairs, with some suggesting that the assassination represents a set-back for US diplomacy and/or the “war on terror.” And, of course, there is the usual speculation about whodunit, with the Pakistani government blaming the Al Qaeda and the Taliban while opposition leaders and even members of civil society blame President Pervez Musharraf for, at the very least, not providing her with the level of security she evidently needed.

Apart from the customary insertion of “mother of three” into her description, the coverage has been largely gender-neutral. Perhaps in time more attention will be paid to her legacy as a female politician and her record on improving the status of women in Pakistan. In 1995, during her second term as prime minister, she was one of the star speakers at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. She focused on violence against women, especially discriminatory attitudes towards female children and practices leading to the deaths of millions of baby girls.

During election campaigns within the country, too, she often voiced concern about a range of women’s issues and announced plans to establish women’s police stations, courts and development banks. She also pledged to repeal controversial laws (such as the Hudood and Zina ordinances) that curtail the rights of women in Pakistan, but was unable to fulfil those promises. Despite the Law Reforms Ordinance 2006, under which women prisoners on trial under the Hudood Ordinances became immediately eligible for bail, problems remain. And the passage of the Protection of Women Act, 2006 has not solved all of them either.

Still, as this requiem circulated by the Women’s Action Forum demonstrates, Benazir’s untimely death is being mourned even by those who often disagreed with her and were sometimes even disappointed in her:

28 December 2007

Requiem for Benazir Bhutto

Women’s Action Forum grieves.
It grieves with Bakhtawar, Bilawal and Asifa,
It grieves with Nusrat and Sanam Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari,
It grieves with all members of the Bhutto family,
It grieves with the PPP and all PPP workers and supporters,
It grieves with the poor and the oppressed,
It grieves with and for our country and the people of Pakistan,
WAF grieves.

Benazir Bhutto lived a tragic and tumultuous life,
Fraught with pain and loss,
A celebrated life,
Of success and exhilaration,
One that reached out and responded to the anguish and hope of people,
And articulated and converted these hopes, giving sustenance to so many.

Women’s Action Forum while sometimes critical of her policies
Took pride in the fact that she was a woman.
A woman who controlled her own destiny,
A woman who instinctively and wholeheartedly
Embraced equal rights and opportunities,
For women and religious minorities,
A brave woman, a woman of courage.

As with her father, Z. A. Bhutto,
Look for her in moments that need fortitude,
Look for her in moments that need courage,
Look for her in hope,
Look for her in all those she touched.

Women’s Action Forum grieves.

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Tragic end to a tumultuous life

ajosephs Icon Posted by Ammu Joseph

December 29th, 2007

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on Thursday evening has made front page headlines across the world. Many reports have used words like martyrdom and sacrifice to describe the violent death of the popular political leader who in 1988 became the first democratically elected woman to head the government of a Muslim-majority state. Then 35, she was also one of the youngest persons to become a prime minister anywhere (albeit with an inborn advantage as the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the charismatic former prime minister and founder of the Pakistan People’s Party, who was executed by the military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq in 1979).

Another set of words have been widely used by the media to suggest the likely impact of the tragedy on Pakistan: chaos, crisis, disarray, destabilisation, instability, turmoil, time bomb, brink of an abyss, edge of a precipice, civil conflict, civil war… Several reports have focused on its possible effect on international affairs, with some suggesting that the assassination represents a set-back for US diplomacy and/or the “war on terror.” And, of course, there is the usual speculation about whodunit, with the Pakistani government blaming the Al Qaeda and the Taliban while opposition leaders and even members of civil society blame President Pervez Musharraf for, at the very least, not providing her with the level of security she evidently needed.

Apart from the customary insertion of “mother of three” into her description, the coverage has been largely gender-neutral. Perhaps in time more attention will be paid to her legacy as a female politician and her record on improving the status of women in Pakistan. In 1995, during her second term as prime minister, she was one of the star speakers at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. She focused on violence against women, especially discriminatory attitudes towards female children and practices leading to the deaths of millions of baby girls.

During election campaigns within the country, too, she often voiced concern about a range of women’s issues and announced plans to establish women’s police stations, courts and development banks. She also pledged to repeal controversial laws (such as the Hudood and Zina ordinances) that curtail the rights of women in Pakistan, but was unable to fulfil those promises. Despite the Law Reforms Ordinance 2006, under which women prisoners on trial under the Hudood Ordinances became immediately eligible for bail, problems remain.

Still, as this requiem circulated by the Women’s Action Forum demonstrates, Benazir’s untimely death is being mourned even by those who often disagreed with her and were sometimes even disappointed in her:

28 December 2007

Requiem for Benazir Bhutto

Women’s Action Forum grieves.
It grieves with Bakhtawar, Bilawal and Asifa,
It grieves with Nusrat and Sanam Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari,
It grieves with all members of the Bhutto family,
It grieves with the PPP and all PPP workers and supporters,
It grieves with the poor and the oppressed,
It grieves with and for our country and the people of Pakistan,
WAF grieves.

Benazir Bhutto lived a tragic and tumultuous life,
Fraught with pain and loss,
A celebrated life,
Of success and exhilaration,
One that reached out and responded to the anguish and hope of people,
And articulated and converted these hopes, giving sustenance to so many.

Women’s Action Forum while sometimes critical of her policies
Took pride in the fact that she was a woman.
A woman who controlled her own destiny,
A woman who instinctively and wholeheartedly
Embraced equal rights and opportunities,
For women and religious minorities,
A brave woman, a woman of courage.

As with her father, Z. A. Bhutto,
Look for her in moments that need fortitude,
Look for her in moments that need courage,
Look for her in hope,
Look for her in all those she touched.

Women’s Action Forum grieves.

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