Soniah Kamal

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'Islam is not Pakistan's religion; Marriage is'

Friday, December 28, 2007

Daughter of the East: Benazir Bhutto 1953-2007


Two time serving ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on 27th December, 2007 in Pakistan. To my immigrant eyes Benazir Bhutto was an opportunity to be proud of my birth country for she was a female leader, and that too of a Muslim country and often, despite her unremarkable terms in office, I was able to say to skeptics in the US that of course Americans are ready to elect a female leader, Pakistan has already done so!
While it is a valid claim that the Bhutto surname gave Benazir a political leg up, it is also true that she was bold and brave in her own right for she stood-- the lone woman-- in rooms often packed with men only, the lone woman at a dais speaking to crowds of men only, a woman talking of matters predominantly associated with the male domain, and so challenged the stereotypes of 'what women anywhere can do', as well what a Muslim woman is capable of and, additionally, the stereotype of Muslim societies being naturally misogynistic.
Politically Benazir 'grew me up' . When she first stood for elections, I would have voted for her purely because she was a woman but, by the time I was old enough to vote, her terms in office had taught me to vote, not for gender, but for the best candidate. In her 1988 memoir Daughter of the East, a young Benazir talks of coming of age both as a woman and politically: growing up a Bhutto, living through her father's hanging by General Zia, her own years incarcerated in solitary confinement under General Zia's rule...I read Benazir's memoir when I was a teenager and have been meaning to reread it since. It will be with great sadness that I will do so now. Whether one liked or disliked Benazir's politics, whether one believed she truly cared about Pakistan or was just another politician greedy for power, for Pakistanis everywhere it is surreal that Benazir is gone, just like that, at age 54 when much of Pakistan was expecting that, in a few months, she would get yet another chance to lead Pakistan.
Here MicroPakistan reviews an updated edition (April 2007) of Daughter of the East, and HarperCollins is now planning a February 2008 release of Benazir's new book, 'Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West '.

* What disturbs me most about Benazir the person is her supposed hand in her brother's (Murtaza challenged her position as head of the PPP for life) shady murder during one of her terms in office. Murtaza's wife Ginwa, their daughter the erudite Fatima Bhutto (author of a published book of poetry), and even Benazir's mother believes in her culpability: no doubt one's family can be wrong about one....but, on the other hand, one's family can also be right...
To be Benazir and have had your brother murdered (out, out damn spot), or to be innocent and yet have your mother and sister in law and niece believe this of you (et tu, brutus): in either case, a sad case.


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