(June 21, 1953 - December 27, 2007)
I was driving back to Tulsa from Jamestown, Indiana. I was about halfway through Missouri when I turned on NPR and heard the news that Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated by a suicide bomber after delivering an impassioned speech at a rally in Rawalpindi. My heart dropped and I drove on stunned that another fighter for democracy had fallen. I was immediately transported back to my fifth grade class when our principal, Mr. Edwards - a kindly, grandfatherly sort - came to our classroom to comfort us over the death of Martin Luther King Jr. who had been shot and killed in Memphis the evening before. This confirmed in my young mind that all great men (they had all been men up until that time) would sooner or later be shot and killed by an angry gunman who would deprive the country of a brave and valuable leader. More than that, in the case of JFK, MLK and Bobby Kennedy, the country was robbed of its future, of its visionary, of the one who had been anointed to take the nation into tomorrow and beyond.
It is this anguish that I imagine the people of Pakistan are experiencing today, this feeling of being cheated by a lone lunatic (or a group of mad fundamentalists who may or may not have the support of the military mad man, Pervez Musharraf, who is currently the head of the Pakistani state) out of a future that they could almost envisage, a future that dangled so tantalizingly close. Like JFK, MLK, and Bobby, Benazir Bhutto was not a perfect politician and was not without shortcomings as a leader, but like JFK, MLK, and Bobby, she inspired her fellow countrywomen/men to dream better dreams, to dare to believe that a country mired in chaos and ruled by a despot could achieve a measure of democracy. She will be missed, not only by the grief-stricken Pakistanis, but by a world that wants so badly to believe that the war-torn regions of the world are populated by more than warring tribes that give way to terrorism whenever the people become so disgruntled with their lives that they put down their plowshares and pick up AK-47s. Or perhaps worse, strap explosives to their bodies and detonate them in a crowded market or next to a car in which a courageous leader is riding.
Ms. Bhutto - go in peace, the peace that you were never able to realize on this earth. Let us all work toward the goal of peace with all our might.
The Guardian's coverage of Bhutto's assassination.
David Frost's inteview with Benazir Bhutto (November 2, 2007).