Bhutto's Mixed Legacy in India

But critics said India should be publicly calling for Pakistan to fully embrace democracy. And 17 years after she asked Pakistanis in Kashmir to cut the governor there into little pieces, much of India viewed Benazir Bhutto as Pakistan's best chance for change.

The light "has gone out of Pakistan," the Hindustan Times editorial board wrote today. "With it, so seems any chance of peace, never mind of democratic peace, in that unfortunate, unfortunate land."

Bhutto's death is all too familiar in this part of the world, where the headlines today repeated a story that has been told often in South Asia: a popular member of a political dynasty has been assassinated.

In Pakistan, the dynasty was launched by Bhutto's flamboyant father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He founded the Pakistan People's Party -- the group that his daughter led -- and in 1972, became Pakistan's first popularly elected prime minister, later signing the agreement that created India and Pakistan's current borders.

In 1979, he was executed by hanging in the same city where his daughter was killed.

At the time, the matriarch of Indian politics, Indira Gandhi, was prime minister. Her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, had been India's first prime minister, and she was on her way to serving a fourth consecutive term when she was shot by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984. She died in the arms of her Italian daughter-in-law, Sonia.

Indira's son Rajiv became prime minister. He was killed by a suicide bomber in 1991. Today, his widow Sonia is the most powerful politician in India.

Bhutto "was full of admiration for Mrs. Gandhi," Union Minister Ambika Soni told the Indian Express. "For the way [Sonia] had taken over the mantle of the party and maintained the legacy of her family and contributed to both the party and the country. Benazir told me that her family was trying to do the same in Pakistan, and it was not easy."

As one Indian newspaper wrote today, "Pakistan without Benazir is like India without Indira."

But Bhutto shared more with Indira Gandhi than a mutual fate. Bhutto's father taught her to study the lives of great women as inspiration. She always said she had three role models -- her father, Joan of Arc and Indira Gandhi.

"'Well, if Nehru's daughter can become prime minister of India, my daughter can become prime minister of Pakistan,'" Bhutto once told the Times of London, quoting her father. "Of course, I come from a region that has produced women leaders, and so he would talk to me about Indira Gandhi and Mrs. Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, Golda Meir [of Israel] and also Joan of Arc."

Asked by the Times whether she considered herself a feminist while she studied at Harvard in the early 1970s, Bhutto said, "I was certainly emboldened by their writing because at that time at college there was still a debate between those women who wanted to get married and those of us who wanted to have careers."

It was Bhutto's career drive that made her the youngest prime minister in Pakistan's history and the first elected leader of a Muslim country. In the end, her drive to change Pakistan made her a target. She was just 54 years old.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...