Face To Face With Former Pak PM Benazir Bhutto

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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 company.  He volunteers by fundraising for numerous non-profit associations in the US and has won numerous awards and commendation for his charitable efforts.

Brian with former Prime minister of Pakistan – Mrs Benazir Bhutto

Boston, Nov 21: I had seen former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto frequently on television during my college days in Mangalore when she was contesting the elections in Pakistan. Now, as I walked up to meet and chat with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, images of a fiery, dynamic and controversial leader conjured in my mind. Mrs. Bhutto was in Boston at the invitation of World Boston, which is a non-profit group that invites world leaders to Boston to speak about international affairs.

Mrs. Benazir Bhutto became the first woman to be elected prime minister of an Islamic state in modern times in 1988. At the age of 35, she was the youngest and the first woman Prime Minister to lead a Muslim nation in modern age. During her first term, she started Peoples Program for economic uplift of the masses. Benazir Bhutto also lifted a ban on student and trade unions.  She was deposed in a coup 20 months later, but was reelected prime minister in 1993. Bhutto, who was educated at Harvard University and Oxford University, is the head of the People’s Party of Pakistan, her political group. Bhutto is currently based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where she cares for her children and mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and from where she travels around the world giving lectures and keeping in touch with the party.

Still showing traces of her fiery public speaking that was her hallmark during her days in power, the former Pakistani prime minister’s message was one of protecting democracy at all costs. Her first words were those of sympathy for the losses suffered in the terrorist attacks of September 11. “The majority of the people of Pakistan join me in expressing our grief and sorrow to you,” she said. “We respect America as the beacon of the light of democracy for civilized people on this earth. Men and women come here by the millions upon millions seeking freedom, opportunity, equality, and pluralism. These are the values that the extremists and the fanatics deny, even as they promote violence and death.”

During her speech, Bhutto said that there were historical events this year: Bush’s reelection, the Palestinian elections, the Iraqi assembly and Syrian troops leaving Lebanon. She said ?Pakistan needs to be a part of these events by becoming a democracy. Although Pakistan is a close ally of the United States during the war on terror, the Bush Administration and other nations should not treat Musharraf lightly, since he did not come to power democratically. “

About leadership she said, ” Many believe that South Asian women leaders have inherited leadership. The other part is that each of us had to win our badge of honor by paying a political price.? She said that she believed that women leaders are more generous and forgiving. Male leaders tend to be more inflexible, and rigid. Women leaders are often Mothers. We see ourselves as Mothers of the Nation bringing an emotional commitment to protect and nurture our people.”

Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Jehangir Karamat, also spoke at a World-Boston event earlier. Bhutto said that the international community needs to help Pakistan become a democracy. One way in which they can help is in the next elections, which take place in 2007. Bhutto’s political party will be participating, though she will probably not be in Pakistan for the elections.

Bhutto also talked about Pakistan’s relationship with India. She said that she supports Musharraf’s recent visit to India, and she is encouraged by the new bus service between the two countries in Kashmir. Bhutto added that Pakistan could catch up to its economically upstart neighbors, China and India, especially as the middle class continues to grow in Pakistan.

She concluded her speech leaving us with these words ” Victory will come because victory always comes to those who fight for truth, justice and humanity. I leave you with the words and values of truth, justice and humanity. No matter where you go and what you do, no matter what you achieve, the only sense of satisfaction you will get is the satisfaction that comes from conscience. Conscience is satisfied when the struggle is not for oneself but for ones fellow human beings.”

Many in the audience were enthralled by her speech. One of the members in the audience who attended Karamat and Bhutto’s speeches said that the two speeches were from the head and the heart respectively. “(Karamat) is coming from the head and (Bhutto) is coming from the heart,” she said. ” Bhutto was approaching Pakistan’s problem in a humane way. She’s a strong individual” she said. “She presented her case very well.”

As I thanked Mrs. Bhutto for sharing her perspective with all of us at World-Boston, she smiled and said to me ” The United States is a great place for young people. Make sure you take advantage of the wonderful opportunities that the United States offers and channel that into making a difference in this community and world.”

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Author: Brian Santhumayor- USA

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