Monday, January 21, 2008

Benazir Bhutto : World lost a great leader and a Caring Human Being

Benaizr Bhutto : World lost a great leader and a caring human being

Benazir Bhutto, the bravest of all, more steadfast than all the men of Pakistan put together, the voice of sanity, secularism and democracy, was so shamefully silenced in Pakistan, devastating not only me and my country but the whole world.
My family's journey with the great Bhutto family started in the late 1960s. My father was a friend and dentist to Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir's father. Bhutto was a regular visitor at our dental clinic and house.

In 1977, our lives changed when Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, the ruthless military dictator, took power in a coup d'etat, toppling the only democratically elected prime minister we had had in our country's history. With everyone deserting him, my brave father was one of the few who stood by Bhutto's side untill the bitter end.
I remember the last time I met Bhutto was in early 1979. I was a little boy, and he kissed me on my left cheek and gave me a hug, asking me to be brave. Bhutto was sent to the gallows on concocted charges in 1979, devastating my country and us.
Forced into exile to Britain in order the escape the constant torture and imprisonment, we, along with Benazir and her mother, found new homes in central London. During the exile years in the early 1980s in Britain, I recall Benazir as a young, brilliant and charismatic individual. She had an answer for everything. I could never win an argument with her. As you know, she was the president of the prestigious Oxford University debating society. I guess I had no chance winning an argument with her, but I tried.
In 1986, Benazir made a triumphant return to Pakistan. My mother went to greet her and was on the truck with her during her historic arrival in the city of Lahore.
A sea of humanity greeted her. Like Hercules, she was carrying the nation on her shoulders, a beacon of light after years of darkness, the lightning rod we were waiting for. My countrymen thronged to see her, hear her and be a part of history.
The historic speech she gave in Lahore, where more than 2 million people turned out to greet her and hear her speech, dawned the era of democracy in Pakistan after years of dictatorship. Even today, my countrymen thronged to hear her — a woman in a man's world.
From 1986 onward, Benazir used our house for her residence and political activities. She made men look weak and her enemies feeble, and she thrived when she was among her people. She was made of steel, her resolve unfaltering, unwavering.
We saw her father's charisma in her, her dedication to the poor, her love for her people, all so obvious for us to see. In a male-dominated Muslim country, we saw her as our savior and our leader. The five years of torture and solitary confinement could not break her resolve or belief in democracy and secularism in Pakistan.
When she spoke, we stood still, listening intently, as if under a spell, mesmerized. We wept when she wept, laughed when she laughed, smiled when she smiled, frowned when she frowned.
In 1988, elections were held, and despite the rigging, neither she nor the people of Pakistan were to be denied their destiny. It was a sight to see, because in my country women are not in the driving seat usually, and to see a reversal of roles was so enjoyable. While forming a coalition, she treated everyone with dignity and respect. Everyone and anyone, no matter how rich or poor, had access to her because she was for the people, lived for the people and eventually died for the people.
She was fulfilling her destiny and carrying the mantle of our hopes and aspirations. We were overjoyed, and our tears were unstoppable.
Dawned the day we had all fought so hard for. Restoring democracy and ending the era of tyranny and dictatorship was here at last. Benazir won the elections in 1988 and became the first female prime minister of a Muslim country.
As she exited our house for the prime minister's residence, she went to each servant in our house who had served her with undying love and affection for so many years, and thanked and hugged each one of them. She turned toward us, and we hugged, laughed, then cried as we bid her farewell.
I remember standing with my family, feeling it was the end of an era for us. We had lost so many years as a family, all the torture and emotional heartbreak we endured. But it was worth it: worth it for democracy, worth it for human rights, and worth it for the destiny of our country. And we as a family will do it again if we have to.
I console myself knowing that Benazir's spirit and message will live with us forever. We, the ordinary people, will carry on her message of love, democracy and humanity. As she said, "Democracy is the best revenge."
The sad events of 9/11 and Dec. 27, 2007, are a reminder of the dark and evil enemy we face. With resolve and conviction, we the people, all over the world, will overcome the forces of evil and tyranny.
Rest in peace, our lovely daughter of the East, rest in peace.
Dr. Sultan Niazi is an Evansville physician.

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