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Benazir Bhutto, victim of an often deadly process of change
Saturday, December 29, 2007 : Try to imagine a young Pakistani woman bounding into the newsroom of The Harvard Crimson in the early 1970s and banging out stories about college sports teams with the passion of a cub reporter. That was the first glimpse some of us had of Benazir Bhutto. We had no idea she was Pakistani political royalty.
She was too busy jumping into her future to make a show of her past.
I saw this effervescent woman many times over subsequent years, and I never lost the sense of her as an impetuous person embracing what was new - for herself and for her nation. I remember encountering her once when she was a graduate student at Oxford, shaking up the august and occasionally somnolent Oxford Union debating society as its president. She was wearing a Rolling Stones T-shirt, the one with the sassy tongue sticking out, and I recall thinking that Pakistani politics would never be the same once she returned home.
In later years, I would see her during her periodic visits to Washington after she assumed her family's mantle of political leadership and became prime minister in 1988, at the age of 35. She changed in her outward appearance, wearing a head scarf and traditional clothes as she matured, but not in her inner passion for change.
Bhutto was fearless, from her college years in America to her cruel assassination Thursday. She had an unshakable belief that Pakistan should embrace the modern world with the same confidence and courage that she had. She believed in democracy, freedom and openness - not as slogans, but as a way of life. She wasn't perfect; the corruption charges that enveloped her second term as prime minister were all too real. But she remained the most potent Pakistani voice for liberalism, tolerance and change.Read More
Saturday, December 29, 2007 : Sadly, but not surprisingly, this year draws to a close with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, a ghastly symbol of the organized political violence that plagues many parts of the Arab world and South Asia. The advent of a new calendar year will provide only a new log for tracking the terrorist bombings, wars by invading armies, local rebellions, ethnic clashes, criminal violence and political assassinations that have become routine in this vast area that stretches from North Africa and the Middle East to South Asia.
Historians will define the major underlying causes of the institutionalized instability and political intemperance in much of the Arab-Asian region. But, surveying the scene at the end of this year, I am struck by two contradictory trends: the prevalence of severe violence by a small group of actors - mostly governments and their security forces, terrorists, criminal elements, and the occasional enraged mob - alongside a vast majority of citizens in the region who live peaceful lives and practice nonviolent political, cultural, religious and social accommodation and tolerance in their villages and neighborhoods.
The decency and humanity of ordinary citizens are routinely overshadowed by the greater drama of spectacular murders and organized military violence, orchestrated by local and foreign governments alikeRead More
Saturday, December 29, 2007 : Leader of the parliamentary majority MP Saad Hariri denounced on Friday the assassination of Pakistan's former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto was assassinated at a party rally late Thursday in the city of Rawalpindi, on the outskirts of Islamabad.
"It is an additional black mark on the record of the terrorists, and it is added to the strikes on symbols of freedom and moderation in the Islamic world," he said. Hariri also expressed his condolences to Bhutto's family and Pakistani leaders. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Friday denounced the assassination, describing the attack "as an ugly crime." "I want to express my shock and sorrow for the loss of pro-democracy icon who was a true struggler and one of the leaders of Pakistan and the Muslim world," Siniora said in a statement. "The political terrorism and violence is always a way to increase the sorrow and agony of the world. They are both rejected by all the religions of the world," he added. "I strongly condemn this terrorist attack, which we in Lebanon are still suffering from," Siniora said. Lebanon has been gripped by a series of killings since February 2005, when former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in massive car bomb in Beirut.Read More