Thursday, December 27, 2007

Courage Personified

She had seen the world -

Studied at one of the most storied universities in the United States, and then on to Oxford. Benazir Bhutto's years at Harvard coincided with the Vietnam War, and our nation's free spirited proclivity toward liberal demonstration was not lost on her.

Known as Pinkie to her friends, she was 16 when she started at the Ivy League institution - delighting in writing sports articles for the university paper and walking to the corner store for ice cream and magazines. People who knew her describe an electric young woman who wore Rolling Stone t-shirts while serving as the debate team president at Oxford.

Despite her world-class education, Bhutto wanted to use her talents to make her homeland a better place.

At 26, her father was executed and she became the head of the Pakistan People's Party. She swore to her father in his death cell that she would carry on his life work. I am astounded by Bhutto's sense of place and responsibility - that she had the courage to assume such a daunting role after her father's death is stunning.

Bhutto with her cat, Charly, at the family home in Karachi

She spent some time in prison and under house arrest (almost seven years for a confrontation with Pakistani General Zia) but persevered and at 35 became the first woman elected to lead the Muslim nation - chosen by her people in a landslide election.

(aside: isn't it amazing that a Mideast nation managed to elect its first woman leader in 1988? When is the United States going to catch up?)

The female prime minister brought electricity and schools to the Pakistani countryside. Bhutto focused on modernizing her nation - creating a place that offered health care and abolished hunger.

Her political life continued along a tumultuous, pebbled past - Bhutto was charged with corruption and nepotism and went on to live in exile in London and Dubai.

She even made People's list of the "World's 50 Most Beautiful People," but Bhutto did not get ensnared in the glamorous trappings of the rich and powerful. Instead, the driven woman followed the passionate, determined voice inside her - and returned to Pakistan for another foray in her nation's political movement.

Her ties to the Western World helped strengthen Bhutto's crusade against terrorism in Pakistan - and it was that sentiment that led to her assassination Thursday.

And now we are left with more questions and concerns for a cataclysmic nation with nuclear weapons.

We can only hope someone will protect the flickering torch of pride and commitment that burned within Bhutto.


Denae said...

Excellent tribute, Kate. Thank you for this. This story is leading the news in London again today. She was the one who spoke out when things got so rough recently in Pakistan and the government was arresting attorneys in the streets in front of the court houses. Thank God her influence allowed for a change. So sad that the terrorists were able to silence her.

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