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Pakistan Grieves

January 10, 2008 - Pakistan

Dr. Rubina Mumtaz

Benazir Bhutto is dead. She was brutally murdered on 27th December 2007 and Pakistan was plunged into darkness. For my country, 2007 was a year full of sorrow and bloodshed and as a gesture of farewell, left by extinguishing our last ray of light.

Shocked, stunned and speechless are three words which completely define my feelings when I heard about her death. I was never a Bhutto fan; in fact I was a vocal critic. Her two tenures as Prime Minister were disappointing, marked with corruption and personal gains and despite all her promises; she had made no tangible attempt to address the issue of women’s rights. Yet, her death felt like a personal blow, as though I had lost a family member who is a key provider. The depth of grief was intense and tears flowed for a long time after. The entire country came to a crippling standstill, mourning for hope lost; mourning for the three young children she left behind; mourning the legacy that was yet to deliver; mourning the rape of Pakistan by terrorists.

Her death has left a void in our hearts, fans and critics alike. This beautiful, charismatic Oxford and Harvard educated woman was the only Pakistani leader of international stature, a platform which no other Asian woman had reached. She was a salvage for the image of Pakistan; an image that has been badly tarnished with suicide bombings, terrorist activities and abuse of human rights. I don’t see any leader of her caliber, male or female, from the current crop of politicians. She was a rarity that comes once in centuries. Amazingly she stood as a symbol of hope for both the downtrodden and the liberals, groups on opposite ends of the spectrum. That I believe was her magic. She spoke the language of all the people of Pakistan, irrespective of ethnic, socio-economic and religious background. She had her faults but we loved her.

Her previous tenures had tarnished her reputation but this time round, Benazir was finally in her element. As a politician, she was wiser, older, more cautious and diplomatic but alongside equally loud in the face of injustice. She had polished up her act and finally balanced her personal and professional life. Immensely courageous, she was ready to jump headlong back into the office that had twice unceremoniously thrown her out. She had battled out all the shackles that had previously hindered her professionally. Perhaps this time round, she would have finally done all that she had been promising Pakistan for the past twenty years. Perhaps is such a powerful word and we will never know.

Usually in times of civil unrest, NGOs in Pakistan have often become targets for anti-American sentiment but our healthcare unit in Balakot has passed this litmus test. Our two years in this region after the earthquake have entrenched us well in the community we serve, therefore we enjoy the protection. Our collaboration with Hashoo Foundation, the Islamabad based NGO, with its established reputation of caring for the needy and vulnerable, further ensures this protection. Therefore, it gives me great satisfaction to say that RMF project is weathering well in these uncertain times and based on this indication, we hope it will continue to do so in the future.

Liberals, like me, despite all opportunities have made Pakistan their home. I want to live in this country, to raise my children here and to serve my people. Through RMF, I live out my philanthropic dreams and ambitions. I hope 2008 will be a year that will rid this sadness that engulfs us and bring about peace so that we can all live out our little dreams.

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