By Mark Siegel
For those of us who knew and loved Benazir Bhutto, not just as a great political leader but as an irreplaceable friend, the days between Christmas and New Years can never ring with joyous holiday spirit and celebration. December 27th is a dreaded day on the caledar of the people of Pakistan, democrats all around the world, and the family and friends of Benazir Bhutto. It is a day of remembrance, reflection, and inevitable thinking of what could have been had she lived to govern Paksistan once again.
To so many she was an icon but to me she was a friend, a colleague, an intellectual sparring partner, an aunt to my children and a soul mate to my wife. On top of all the great things that she had done, and the endless possiblities of what she could have accomplished had she lived, I genuinely miss her on a personal level.
Her courage is, of course, well known and appreciated. But I don’t think people fully understand the depth and quickness of her intellect, her extraordinary ability to aggregate and analyze data and then immediately apply knowledge to unfolding events.
I don’t think people can ever understand the selflessness of the woman, how she genuinely always put herself last and put her country first, sacrificing personal happiness and family. It was as if Asif was her second husband – Pakistan being her first. It was as if Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Aseefa had 170 million brothers and sisters vying for her attention.
She once said that she didn’t choose her life, that it chose her. She accepted this responsibility gracefully and stoicly not looking back to the life she might have had if history had not thrust the mantel of leadership of her party and her country upon her. The extent she sacrified for her country was always a source of amazement to me.
She was gifted with brilliance, the finest education on earth, great beauty, family wealth and a loving husband and adoring children. She could have had a beautiful, happy, productive and safe life anywhere in the world.
It was a choice that almost all of us would have jumped at. But she accepted a very different kind of life with grace and dignity and a courage that was almost super-human.
She was the modern face of Islam, dedicated to a pluralistic and open religion that embraced innovation and equal rights for women. She denounced the use of violence and terror without hesitation and without fear, in every continent in the world and in every province of Pakistan.
She was truly the Jihadists worst neightmare, everything they feared the most. For them, and for their allies that have battled democracy in Pakistan for decades, December 27th is a day of relief. For the rest of us, it is day of great pain and sadness. But for those of us who believed in Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and loved her, we cannot let those who took her life destroy her dream.
Her legacy must become our life’s work, of building a modern Pakistan that can lead Asia and the world in progress, innovation and quality of life for its people. That will make Shaheed Benazir Bhutto immortal.
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