BENAZIR Bhutto is dead. She died amidst her supporters who revered her, and her father before her, and from whom she derived her strength, her legitimacy as a leader. She died because the state proved inadequate in protecting her.
She died at the hands of an assassin, a suicide bomber, God knows at whose behest. She epitomised courage and courted death because she said it was important for her to reclaim the political space lost to the extremists by the current government's policies.
Among sinking hearts, an emptiness, and doom and gloom many questions will need to be answered. Did she die because she was a woman politician swimming against the tide of obscurantism? Did she die because she was in the process of staging a comeback after being dismissed twice on charges of corruption and misconduct? Did she die because she represented the aspirations of millions of her supporters -supporters so committed that they refused to blame the party leadership for many unfulfilled dreams?
The reception accorded to her as she returned home, ending years in exile on October 18, was a demonstration of such selfless dedication by several hundred thousand supporters. More than 150 people, mostly PPP activists, died in the bombing aimed at her that night in Karachi. Her supporters knew very well she was the target and yet thronged each venue she appeared at. Such was their bond.
While we appeal for restraint, the anger and the frustration of PPP supporters is understandable. The sniper's bullet has snatched their dreams from them. Will we ever know who killed her?
She died literally yards from where Liaquat Ali Khan was felled by an assassin's bullet and probably a mile from where her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had his life snuffed out by the hangman's noose. We know nothing about Liaquat Ali Khan's murder and very little about Z.A. Bhutto's killing beyond what his supporters say was a judicial murder.
No amount of condemnation will compensate for the sense of loss that fills millions of hearts across the land today. We can't even begin to imagine the grief of her family who have been robbed of the jewel in their crown.
It is a tribute to the tenacity of Ms Bhutto, the politician par excellence, that she kept her father's political legacy alive in a male-dominated society. He had championed the popular cause and had given a sense of dignity to the common man in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto had the mettle to do the same.
The repercussions of her murder will continue to unfold for months, even years. What is clear is that Pakistan's political landscape will never be the same having lost one of its finest daughters.
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