Tragic End to a Charismatic Leader

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I woke up this morning to the shocking and sad news of the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Mrs. Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpandi, Pakistan today. She was the chairperson of the Pakistan People?s Party and was killed in a gunfire attack and suicide bombing minutes after she finished addressing an election rally in Rawalpandi, Pakistan.


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Brian with Bhutto


It immediately brought back memories of my lunch meeting with Mrs. Bhutto back in November 2005. I was enamored listening to this charismatic and eloquent leader who is also a graduate of Oxford and Harvard. She displayed absolutely no fear when she spoke out very strongly about her longing for democracy in Pakistan and how she and her people would take Pakistan in a new direction- a direction of hope, peace and prosperity. Some of the women among the guests stood up and cheered in awe for this woman. Millions of other women in Pakistan and other countries looked up to her as a role model and a visionary icon, who at the age of 35 became the youngest person and the first woman to head a Muslim Nation.


There were those critics who harped on the corruption charges that plagued her. But to Mrs.Bhutto, she dwelled more on the political impact she could make on a country that was at the forefront of her mind throughout all the long years of exile; a country to which her family has dedicated the lives of her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who founded and led the Pakistan People?s Party before passing the mantle on to his daughter, two of her brothers and then Benazir.


During our lunch with Mrs. Bhutto, one of the guests questioned the prudence of her desire to go back to Pakistan in the future given the tense political situation and the danger to her life. I watched with astonishment as Mrs. Bhutto with a very calm composure  said," I have three children of my own and I love them very much. To me, all Pakistani people are my children and I love them as much as my very own children. I want a better future for Pakistan and I need to go back to Pakistan whatever the risks are." 


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To another question about what advice she would have for people who want to get involved in politics, she said, "If you believe in something, go for it, but know that when you go for it there’s a price to be paid. Be ready to pay that price and you can contribute to the welfare of the society, and society will acknowledge and respect you for it. Don’t be afraid."


I was full of awe for this leader who could make anyone’s heart melt by her conviction and eloquence. She asked me if I was from Pakistan or India and when I told her that I was from India, she told me that I should visit Pakistan one day and, hopefully she would be back to Pakistan by then with her people.


I remember the statement she made to all of us in the room when she said, "My hope is really for a world of peace that provides people with opportunities to prosper. Each individual is given a life once to lead, and each individual deserves a chance to succeed, especially if they are prepared to work hard. People need peace and they need opportunity, in Pakistan and everywhere else. That’s the world I’d like to see."


Today with a heavy heart, I watched Pakistani women weep bitterly here at the various restaurants and stores in Edison, NJ (which has a large Indian and Pakistani population) as the TV screens beamed images of the assassination of Mrs. Bhutto and the violence that has gripped Pakistan following her assassination. Mrs. Bhutto has inspired millions of women and has certainly left her mark and the likes of which Pakistan will be hard-pressed to find again.







About The Author


""Brian Santhumayor of Nanthoor, Mangalore, has a Bachelors Degree in Engineering and MBA in Marketing and works as an Account Manager for an enterprise software firm in Manhattan. He actively writes articles on US Foreign Policy, UN and World Affairs. He volunteers by fundraising for numerous non-profit organizations including the American India foundation run by President Bill Clinton and has won numerous awards for his charitable efforts.


Author: Brian Santhumayor