Understanding how Benazir was immortalised

How could moral courage obtained through several years of a dismal struggle be thwarted in a single explosion?

Taha Kerar December 27, 2010
On the evening of December 27, 2007, we edged along the crowded Shahrah-e-Faisal road in Karachi. A cold winter breeze drifted in from a car window that had been left open for ventilation. Air-conditioners were a redundant luxury now that the temperature had plummeted to a cold extreme. And yet, there was a strong undercurrent of political friction that constantly reminded us that we were living through an era of sweeping changes.

There was a flood-tide of expectations from the forthcoming elections.

Optimism was virtually a non-entity as suspicion governed thought-processes. Many judicious observers had gone to the extent of stating beforehand that the elections would be rigged, damaging the political process entirely. However, not everyone was thoroughly convinced.

Against this backdrop of uncertainty, we drove leisurely towards our destination – the house of an ailing grand-aunt. But before we knew it, things took an unpredictable turn. A phone call announcing Benazir Bhutto’s murder left us astounded. The instinct of self-preservation prodded us to turn back.

Political murders were catastrophic events, particularly in turbulent countries like Pakistan. They could trigger a spate of socio-economic uncertainties. Mob tendencies would grow fearfully extreme and life would reach a standstill.

But there was a general consensus that this assassination had greater symbolic significance than any other mission of sabotage. To some it implied the derailment of democracy and to others it indicated the growth of radical Islam. In a sense, the murder had been expected much before Benazir Bhutto had returned to Pakistan to rally support for her political goals. Unfortunately, no one had anticipated it that evening.

As we drove homewards, fear enveloped my mind.

How could life be so brittle? I asked myself.

Here was a woman who had floundered for the upkeep of social justice, equality and the restitution of democracy. In the months following General Zia’s totalitarian takeover, she emerged as the true embodiment of righteousness when she untiringly fought to claim justice for her father. Her efforts may not have been of much avail but they steeled her to confront countless adversities she faced during her years in and out of public office.

How could moral courage that was obtained through several years of a dismal struggle be thwarted in a single explosion? More importantly, how could death justify a divergence of political opinion?

It was these questions that plagued my thoughts that night as the trepidation of Benazir’s murder turned into resignation. Their urgency astonished my sixteen-year-old mind. I felt the restive urge to understand this murder. But I knew that facts would not offer an accurate representation of its purpose. They would simply provide a string of politically motivated excuses for this crime. All I could understand in those brief moments was that life was precious. One simply could not divest it from anyone. It seemed so futile, so completely immature.

As the hours passed, I continued to ponder over this. But on a more pragmatic level I was convinced that no one in a world ravaged with political violence would understand this. Thus, I endeavoured to seek answers for myself. In a frenzied spurt of agony, I walked to my desk, equipped myself with a pen and several reams of paper and began to write.

Initially I had contemplated a lengthy perusal of the many manuals on Pakistan’s history that had been tucked into a book shelf but the ideas came across as absurd. After all, how could something as fragile as death be explained through politics? Did it not surpass its influence?

I was certain that it did. And so, I chose to write in an attempt to immortalise Benazir’s life. I realised that so long as her life had been productive, the idea of its denouement would not seem bizarre. In fact, it would make death seem like a necessary phase of respite.

Moments later I was prepared with a poem that celebrated the life and times of a courageous woman:

Enthused by that graceful soul,

We throng to her sepulchre in cries and doles.

Our mind eclipsed in disbelief,

As her mission remains adjourned.

We recall those hours, unsightly and grim,

When she willingly floundered, fulfilling our whim.

She decreed for us the bounties of liberation,

Vowing to succour this poverty-stricken nation.

In a mesh of foreboding, she slithered to our rescue,

Wallowing in our woes; exulting when necessary,

Until her demise forced her to eschew.

Now, the Empress of Sindh, a saviour and kin,

Is ensconced in a mausoleum of martyrdom.

As melancholy hymns permeate in hopeful dins,

We wail and wait akin.
Taha Kerar A blogger on social events and has previously worked as Assistant Editor for a media magazine. He is currently pursuing Law Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He tweets @TahaKehar.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Taha Kehar | 13 years ago | Reply @Mastishhk - I'm glad you've raised this question and wholeheartedly agree with your approach. I want to clarify that the poem deliberately presents an exceedingly optimistic view of BB. This optimism serves as nothing more than a literary device which presents the perspective of those who saw her as an inspirational leader. The views expressed and the word choice are tailored accordingly. But to answer your question, BB's achievements as PM were mainly metaphorical. After assuming public office in 1988, she was perceived to be a representative of democratic principles. However, her tenure between 1988-90 indicates otherwise. Of the numerous reasons that led to her government being sacked, the divisions within the Pakistan People's Party, rifts over policy initiatives, personal ambition and corruption are the most important. The PPP's unwillingness to work with the MQM in a coalition and the violent confrontations that resulted in the Pucca Qila massacre of 1990 were the final assaults on the transparency of her political programme. Unfortunately, her second stint at power was also afflicted with the same problems. There is no doubt that Zardari was to blame for the whole debacle. Benazir, it appears, did not acknowledge this fact. In her book "Reconciliation - Islam, democracy and the West" she alludes to "Zia elements" conspiring against her government by "working on" President Leghari and the CJ.
Mastishhk | 13 years ago | Reply Dear Taha Kehar, You have chosen Adjectives like Saviour and kin to describe late BB. Would you care to explain when and where did she display such deeds. Can you give an account of her achievements or accomplishments as PM of Pakistan.The number of fingers on your left hand would outnumber her achievements.He husband Mr Zardari is known as the most corrupt person in Pakistan. How did she deal with that.Mr Zardari enhanced his wealth with impunity right under her nose. Please don't argue that she wasn't aware of this.The term Martyr cannot be applied to you just because you were murdered in a public rally . Its your work when you are alive that helps you earn the tag and in this respect BB fails completely.
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