Benazir Bhutto had visited the Boston Pakistani and Pakistani-American community several times over the past several decades. Over time she had developed friendships, and strong political support from some of her friends here. I was not a big fan of her politics, but I also got a chance to meet her on some such occasions in Boston. She walked with grace and had a band of followers who stood close by wherever she went. She spoke fluently (at least in English) and said pretty much what she thought her typical US based audiences would like to hear: democracy, women’s rights, poverty, progressiveness. When politely confronted for her shortcomings, she would equally politely refute them, and carry on with her speeches on injustices meted out to her and her family.
Adil Najam led a discussion after the ceremony and the community shared their thoughts on this occasion. People remembered their interaction with her, her grace and determination to go back and take her rightful place as a democratic leader of Pakistan, her defiance of all odds against her life in the past but succumbing this time, her being upset at not being given a chance by the military to complete her last 2 tenures as prime ministers, her realization of the trust and support she had lost due to allegations of corruption in her government, whet her death meant for Pakistan, was this a Kennedy momnt where the idea of Bhutto could live on for something positive, who would take leadership now, etc.
Most importantly we were all reminded how afraid and scared we all are now that this has happened. Adil Asked us an important question: Why did we all feel literally/physically shaken when we heard the news? and would we not have felt the same had the news been about General Musharraf or Nawaz Sharif? His answer was yes, we would have felt the same, and we were shaking because we had realized how violent our society had actually become. What is this culture of violence, especially political violence as a legitimate tool, that we have bred amongst us. It is haunting us from one end of the country to another, and threatens the very unity of our federation. Adil had ominous words for the audience: There is 40/60 chance that Pakistan’s unity will threatened as a result of this death. And the worrisome part – he didn’t know which had the 60% probability!