A queen for a pawn

It was like one of those moments when you absent-mindedly touch a light switch and get an electric shock. I was idly checking a news website today morning and was startled to read the “Breaking news” of Benazir’s assassination.

Perhaps politics is a game of chess played by ruthless, cold-blooded players. A knight sacrificed, a rook given up, a pawn here and there can be dispensed with unemotionally. But we are talking about people here, not chess pieces hopping off the board.

If you cannot agree with someone, you should stand and argue with them. Why do you decide to silence them with bullets?

I shall steer away from discussing Benazir’s political views, the corruption allegations and all that sort of thing. Tonight I can only see the one thing that rises high above all other issues – her sheer courage.

Benazir means “incomparable” or ‘having no equal”.  Benazir’s life was definitely unique, but it was also uniquely tragic. A father hanged, two younger brothers dead, one shot, the other suspected to be poisoned, a sister dead. Benazir herself faced one assassination attempt after another, and finally one of them claimed her life.

There are the usual reactions of blaming the victim. Typical examples thrown about in various forums are:

Who asked her to return to Pakistan? Obviously, she was power-hungry.

Who asked her to stand on the roof of her car ?

If she really cared about Pakistanis, why did she not go back after 130 odd people were killed in the first attempt? Today, 20 others have been killed because of her, that no one talks about.

Though it all does not really add up. If she really had all those billions stashed away outside Pakistan, why choose to return to face certain danger?  Isn’t it much easier to sit in air-conditioned comfort in London and make empty speeches?

What kind of courage does it take a fifty four-year-old woman to go back to the country of her origin, a country where she is not exactly Public Favorite #1, and dice with daily death?

What kind of courage does it take a woman to shrug off one assassination attempt, dust herself up and go on? When Death is suddenly not hypothetical any more, and you know that this time, you were lucky?

What kind of courage does it take a person to see all her close relatives fall one by one, know her day will surely come, and still battle on? Can you stand in a crowd and yet feel all alone, for you know that somewhere, someone is watching, and you alone are the target?

They tell me, she was a power-hungry politician. Right, like we have never seen those before. But she was also a courageous politician, and that is quite a unique breed.

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8 thoughts on “A queen for a pawn

  1. Wow, I wanted to say something to the same effect ever since I heard the news ….thanks.. Even I heard the negative comments about corruption etc. but somehow I admired the lady!

  2. I would say politicking in the sub continent has always been bloody, right from the days of the mahatma. Those who tread it have to come out in the crowds, even if it means fatal danger. And look how PPP will run for elections now & may win it because of the sympathy vote , something that was not quite probable before.

  3. I would say politicking in the sub continent has always been bloody, right from the days of the mahatma. Those who tread it have to come out in the crowds, even if it means fatal danger. And look how PPP will run for elections now & may win it because of the sympathy vote , something that was not quite probable before.

  4. She may have been corrupt (not proven of course) but at least she stood on the side of democracy.

    PS: I wonder what it is with democracy and corruption (look at the Congress) making us dislike ourselves for siding with the lesser evil.

  5. rajk, dipali: Thanks, it’s good to know you share my feelings.

    VM: I am waiting for the elections to be held..

    Cynic: It’s all so sad..I can only guess what people in Pakistan are feeling now..

    ArSENik: Maybe because corrupt politicians can still be voted out; corrupt dictators cannot?

  6. What kind of courage does it take a person to see all her close relatives fall one by one, know her day will surely come, and still battle on?

    I have a quotation from William Dalrymple’s article in NYT (“Bhutto’s Deadly Legacy”):

    She rejected her brother Murtaza’s bid to challenge her for its leadership and when he persisted, he was shot dead in highly suspicious circumstances during a police ambush outside the Bhutto family home.

    Full article here

    A thought that just came to me: Dawood Ibrahim and many others like him are also quite courageous people. They too battle on, knowing that their end will surely come, just as it has for many of their close friends and family members.

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