Some debts have to be repaid. Not
because they matter to the one they are owed to but because they are essential
for the cycle of life.
It is seven years into the end of
the life that was Benazir Bhutto. A life that inspired many in my generation
and the generations that followed. A life that can be marked in one word –
hardship, lived with a character that, too, can only be summed up in one word –
brave. It is tough to encompass a life
as yours Bibi, and yet I owe it and so I will try.
You were born in a life of
luxury, a life that turned upside down on a night of July 1977. What followed was
a life that was marked by hardships, a disintegrated family, struggle, hopes
dashed, dreams broken, and the loss of near and dear ones. Such misery and
hardship could make anyone insane. And yet you came out of it not only sane and
composed but dignified and compassionate. What you went through could make
anyone vengeful and yet revenge was never on your mind. During your second
stint in power, when few working under you attempted resorting to revenge, you
would intervene and mend. Bearing the hardship and misery with dignity and
compassion, alone, could qualify anyone as a superhuman and yet this dignity
and compassion was only the inception of your legend.
When I was a child, raised in a
Muslim household with strong emphasis on good and bad, and reward and
punishment, I would always wonder how one can be judged on something that is
not of one’s choosing. It was in the later years that I reconciled that the
hardships come to us for the path we choose. We choose the path and the path
has a price. Once those choices are
made, walking along the path, we need to deal with the troubles of it. The
harder the path, the more the price one pays. Once chosen, abandoning it leaves
us condemned; carrying on we pay the price. But it is these choices, bit by
bit, that make the universe move forward. It seems, at some point in those last
months of 70s, you chose your path too. You could have abandoned it all and
lived a life of luxury in Oxford or Boston or anywhere and yet you chose to
take up the fight, making it your calling. And once you did, you were ready to
pay any price for it, fully knowing it will be painful and hard, but it will be
the right thing to do.
For those living larger than the
ordinary, they needs not do things that they desire, nor do things the social
or any other code asks them of, but they should do things for they are the
right things to do. Your fight was one such and in your struggle the
mindfulness of it oozed out of your aura.
Anyone who followed your life
would know that you had a strong spiritual inclination. In fact, to a supporter
like me, it sometimes irked me. But spirituality is not something you ever
flaunted. You were accused of being a heretic, an anti-religious, a
“Westernized” (as if the word means anything) and what not and never in
response to it did you ever try to emphasize on your religion or spirituality.
And this is precisely how it should be. If one believes one is doing the right
thing, it has to be sold on the power of the idea, for the rightness of what
one is doing. It need not have crutches of piety, moral code, or conformity to
tread. If something is right, it will inspire on its own. If one needs to
invoke (and in most cases exploitatively) religion or honor to sell an idea of
new age, the idea has some inherent wrong in it. You were not a saint but a
beautiful human being who would keep treading what you believed was right;
keeping your faith, belief and spiritual enlightenment to yourself, never
misusing them for a fight that was yours, a fight for the right cause.
The bravery that summed up your life could not be understood
better than in your last months. Mindful of the threats that were ahead, you chose
to do what was to be done. You were the only leader who would openly call
Taliban a threat to Pakistan, who would openly take on the government on surrendering
Pak territory to extremists. You were the only leader who had the courage to
support operation on Lal Masjid for the writ of the state, and when dictator’s
own party turned cold feet, you were the one to endorse and support Women’s
Protection Bill because all those were the right things to do. The conviction
of doing the right thing was not deterred by the blames of colluding with
Musharraf or the West, neither was it deterred by the threats to your life.
Amid the threats you moved on with a firm conviction that
your idea will succeed sooner, that the time is on the side of your idea. On
one hand is the force that wants to hold these lands to the regression and
manipulation through ideas that have run their course but the ideas which are
central to their hegemony. On the other, those who are fighting for the order
here that will unleash the forces of liberty, progress, human dignity and
innovation, your side. You fought for it bravely and compassionately, and
through your fight you have pushed us closer to attainment. The fight
continues. It will have to be fought hard but we must move on with the conviction
of victory, a victory inevitable for being on the right side of the history.
These debts are to be repaid. Those pledges are to be kept.
That light needs to be protected. The march continues with the feet falling
firm on the ground.