While observing the reactions to Benazir Bhutto’s third death anniversary on Monday, I was saddened to see the number of people who mocked those who posted or Tweeted memories of the late Prime Minister as merely jiyalas who willfully overlook her flaws in order to promote a political message. I was saddened because I hate to believe that we would actually be so cynical that we don’t allow ourselves to have our own national heroes and our own
The Czechs have Lech Walesa who led the Solidarity movement and helped free his country from communist oppression. He suffered imprisonment under martial law and was persecuted by the communist government. Still, he held strong and helped free his people.
Despite this, Lech Walesa was lost election in 1995 and 2000. He has even been accused of being a secret informer for the Polish secret police in the 1970s.
The South Africans have Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison for his activities with the African National Congress party’s anti-apartheid activities. After his release from prison, he went on to lead negotiations that resulted in the country’s first multi-racial elections and was eventually elected President in 1994.
But Mandela also has been criticised for supporting the ‘blood diamond’ industry which has ravaged parts of South Africa.
The Americans have Abraham Lincoln who is considered the leader who ended slavery and fought a civil war to ensure the rights of all men.
But though Lincoln made a lot of speeches about freeing the blacks in his country, many contend he was personally very racist. Certainly nobody will claim that he solved the problem of discrimination against minorities in America who lived under a form of apartheid for over one hundred years after the American civil war ended.
While each of these leaders was flawed in his own way, they are still held up as examples of courageous leadership in their own countries and around the world. Nobody pretends that they are or were saints, but people honour the risks and the sacrifices that they made in efforts to better the lives of their people.
Why can’t we have our own Benazir Bhutto, also?
Pakistan already has a God and Muhammad (PBUH) is His messenger. We don’t need another god or another prophet. What we need are leaders who we can be proud of, who can serve as a source of inspiration for our youth. We need mentors and model leaders who tomorrows leaders can learn from and build upon, not worship as saints.
I hear this all the time from my friends – we need new leaders who we can be proud of. What about BB, I ask? Oh, well, you know, she recognized the Taliban. She didn’t overturn the Hudood laws. There is always some reason that someone can find – a misplaced hair, a slightly stained dupatta.
But Benazir Bhutto also suffered immensely when she could have just as easily walked away and lived an easy life. She fought against a military dictatorship that murdered her father so that the people could choose their own government. She fought against religious extremism and intolerance so that all Pakistanis could live in peace in their own homeland. And she sacrificed her very own life in her effort to move the country forward.
Let us have Benazir Bhutto. Her courage and her memory should not be tossed aside out of petty political spite or because she made some mistakes or because she did not complete all of her goals. Her story is inspirational when we need inspiration, and her message offers hope when we need hope. I hear so many people say, ‘She was human like everyone else, so why give her a coronation.’ But I would like to post another question: Benazir Bhutto was human, but she was an extraordinary human. More importantly, she was and extraordinary human who was also Pakistani.
Why can’t we all be proud of that?