Gone? finished? - Adiah Afraz - Sunday, December 26, 2010

Source : www.thenews.com.pk

Today I write in the memory of Benazir Bhutto. It is probably not my job to do so. I am not a PPP stalwart, nor am I a famous relative of hers. I am not a seasoned journalist who advised her on politics, nor am I the close aide whose emotional bond with BB needs to be shared with all. I am just an ordinary person with ordinary views, and yet I take it upon myself to write about Benazir.

The reason for this is simple. Benazir Bhutto was an icon, and icons are always made in the hearts of the ordinary people. I write about Benazir Bhutto simply because I belong to a generation that was raised at a time when the whole society was undergoing a great paradigm shift. It was the Benazir era, when her life and politics was redefining the very society itself.

For us who had never known the liberalism of the pre-Zia days, Benazir brought the possibility of never ending excitement, a plethora of liberal ideas and new age thinking. Our television screens lit up with colour when she took her oath, and our hearts beat a joyous rhythm with an upbeat PPP anthem that followed.

For me she was the bride who wore glass bangles on her wedding day, the pretty girl who married the man with the long moustache, the young traditionalist who dressed up to kill on her first visit to the White House, the politician who spoke excellent English and did the whole nation proud, the sitting prime minister who defied the puritan highbrows and embraced motherhood with open arms, and the writer who penned ‘Daughter of the East’- a book that made me cry.

Benazir was an extra ordinary woman for all the ordinary women. And that is what gives me the sense of ownership to write about her.

If I take a few minutes out of a busy life and reflect on my memories of her, it still shocks me that Benazir is dead. Tomorrow it would be three whole years since somebody killed her. Three whole years since we the ordinary people heard the news of her murder.

I heard about it standing outside a toyshop in the crowded Liberty Market.

“They have killed her”, said a man in Punjabi, shouting it across a corridor. Another one emerged out of nowhere, uttering profanities and spitting in disgust.

“They have killed her,” said the man again, looking at me as if to give me the news. There was a pause before I could react.

“Benazir” he said, as if to help. “Gone. Finished”.

Gone? Finished? Who? Benazir? Our Benazir? My first reaction was that of disbelief. I thought I had heard wrong. But then I looked around and felt the eerie silence hanging over a noisy street. A man kicked at a trashcan, and a cat squealed. I saw a few shutters go down and an unbelievable dread hit me. The kind of dread that makes your heart sink to the pit of your stomach, and turns your legs to lead. There was a siren blaring in the background, and I saw a PPP flag flutter nearby.

It was election time and Benazir was dead.

And now it has been three years. The shock has worn off, the dread is no longer there, but the sense of tragedy and the regret at the pointlessness of the heinous deed still persists.

It was three years ago when her son vowed that democracy would be the best revenge. It has been three years since the son’s party is in power, democracy has been achieved, and yet it is still not clear how it would avenge the death of Benazir.

It was Aitzaz Ahsan who said ‘Democracy may be a revenge of sorts, from the autocratic usurper of power. It is no revenge against killers and assassins. This is the matter of the law and the pursuit of truth, not revenge.”

Benazir’s people, the ones whom her death brought to power, were principled enough to honour her will. The same will in which she admires them thus

“I salute you for your courage and honour. I salute you for standing by your sister through two military dictatorships”

Yes they had courage enough to fight the elections despite their loss, had courage enough to talk about symbolic revenge.

But did they have honour enough to find the killers of their sister when they got all the power to do so? Did they have honour enough to live up to the faith she placed in them? They stood by her during two dictatorships, but what happened when there was no dictatorship and they themselves were in power?

The five-year term will soon end. Are we to believe that Benazir’s death will never be avenged? Is she actually gone? Finished?

And yet tomorrow will be another day. Eulogies would be written in the newspapers, documentaries aired on TV channels, speeches made at selected locations, and anecdotes shared in private conversations. People would remember a great leader, a compassionate human and a martyr of democracy. There would be debates and talk shows, promises and speculations.

And then the sun would set and a day’s work would be done for all those whose job it is to remember Benazir.

But for me it’s not a job to remember Benazir, so I will persist. I will persist for the bride who wore glass bangles on her wedding day. The pretty girl who married the man with the long moustache.

The man says he knows who killed Benazir. I plead with him, to please be honourable, and share it with the whole world. Let the killers be gone, and let the saga be finished.

The writer works for a non-government educational organisation. Email:adiahafraz@gmail.com

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