Thursday, January 24, 2008

no tears for a bhutto

I know a lady who lives in Canada. She is a widow: her husband died during the civil war of 1971 in the then East Pakistan.

She has had to bring up her two children by herself, and the best possible route for her was to emigrate. Now, when she comes to Bangladesh, she hardly wants to leave the country and go back to her adopted nation. She is in her seventies, and does not expect to live much longer.

When Benazir Bhutto was killed, I was overjoyed – but I noticed an outpouring of sympathy for that woman. Thus Robert Fisk observed: “however corrupt she may have been, let us never forget that this brave lady was indeed a martyr”! He calls her “this lone and brave woman who had dared to call for democracy in her country”.


In Bangladesh, we remember her father all to well: he was the man who unleashed mayhem on Bangladesh, mayhem that killed 500,000 people (I owe this figure to David Reynolds’ history, One World Divisible).

The Bhutto family’s respect for democracy is famous: Bhutto pere refused to accept that Sheikh Mujib had won the election throughout Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto was popular because her father was a demagogue who literally split the country for the sake of power: the people of Pakistan (like the people of South Asia) apparently believe that “virtue” descends from father to child. If virtue can be inherited, then so can vice. And South Asians have a passion for those – and the pathological products of their loins - who have failed their country.

A few days after Benazir Bhutto shuffled off her mortal coil, I spoke with the lady widowed in 1971. She sounded pathetically apologetic for feeling good that Bhutto had been killed – she, of all people!

“You see,” she explained, “I lost my husband in 1971.”

I assured her I was just as happy as she – which could have been nowhere near the truth, because nobody I loved had died in 1971.

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