Thursday, December 27, 2007

Adieu Benazir

She was the second woman politician I recognised, the first one being Indira Gandhi. She had just become the Pakistani Prime Minister, in 1988. The pages of India Today familiarised her face to me. As a four-year-old boy then, she was the one among the three faces I could recollect. (The other two were Phoolan Devi and Madhuri Dixit!)

What made me remember was her surname. It appeared pretty for me then. As the calendars changed, the name became more familiar.

The next big thing about her was the large black & white photo in Mathrubhoomi. It was her second term as the Prime Minister. I was in third standard then.

By the time I joined my high school classes, I had garnered considerable knowledge on this lady. Her foreign education, how her father was killed, the number of her supporters in a male-dominated Muslim country... all were more-than-interesting facts.

But then, she also acquired another status in my mind: Corrupt.

It was 1999, Nawaz Sharif was in power. Corruption cases against her featured regularly in the international pages of local dailies. The Vajpayee-Sharif peace movement had increased my esteem for the Pakistani premier. Benazir and her husband had fled Pakistan to avoid prosecution. Soon, Musharraf came and stole the headlines. I had left high school by then.

She was almost pushed into the corners of my memory.

She gained back the prime slot, only after seven long years. I was no more a student, but a man on his own. She was trying to forge an alliance with the deported Sharif to combat the General. Opportunistic politician, my mind muttered.

However, that plan never took off. Then she chose the General as her ally.
After eight years of exile life, she dared to return to Pakistan last October, only to be welcomed by the blood of her 139 supporters.

Still, she couldn’t regain the charisma she once had in my mind. And today, a sudden panic in the news desk gave away the news.
She was assassinated!

I went up to see the television, it showed her death as breaking news. I was walking back when I saw a computer screen with the Reuters update saying that she was hurt badly, not dead.

In my computer, a Bloomberg copy updated 25 minutes ago was showing that she had escaped unhurt.

That ignited a hope in my mind: What if she escaped?

But she had indeed gone. Another memory. Adieu Benazir.

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