Cross-posted from her blog
I just returned from watching “Bhutto” at the National Geographic in Washington DC. It takes me back to that moment, when I was getting my hair blow dried in the TV studios on my way to my friend’s wedding on December 27th, 2007. One eye in the mirror watching my 23 year old self get done up, another on the plasma screen above the make-up room lights. Rushing out as Geo TV ran the ticker that she had been injured.
And then staring in shock, when they said she was dead.
Benazir never joined the lawyer’s movement. She was more concerned with reconciliation with Musharraf, more concerned with selling herself, and selling Pakistan to the United States. It was something of a fashion then, to be critical of politicians. And while no one knew what crimes she was guilty of I guess just being powerful and determined was criminal enough.
And so for the life of me I couldn’t understand why I was weeping.
It’s a sad, sad story. When the camera swings behind her and pans over hundreds of thousands of people waving back at her, it’s a sad story. How quickly all her loving friends in the West forgot that Ms. Bhutto – charming, ruthless, liberal Ms. Bhutto – was a product of “the most dangerous place on earth.” Before they write us off, I wish they’d loop back that clip of the endless sea of people three times the size of anything that came out to Grant Park two years ago – screaming and cheering and waving at a woman. Not a bearded Talib, or a military dictator, or an Oxford intellectual, but a woman. The people, the people, the people. “When I look at the people, I am at peace…” Unfortunately the movie isn’t about the people, except tangentially. In which regard I’d like to thank Mark Siegel for making the point that “Pakistanis are like people anywhere in the world, and want the same things as any of us: jobs, education, a future.”
So why then be so insecure about the people, Bhuttos? Why not sell yourself to the middle class? Why spend less time with intellectuals from Pakistan and more with journalists and writers in the West? Why not create a cadre of technocrats who are assured of positions in your government, as senior economists and advisers and experts?
And why, for us intellectuals, why did we never learn from the mistakes of our leaders in the Muslim League and join the political parties in full force? Why must we be so goddamn intellectual all the time? We’ll give everyone a chance – the military, the Islamist parties, shit, even the Taliban themselves. But never the mainstream, secular, messy PPP. Not because Bhutto’s a charming politician: even if she was, she’s dead.
Moeed Yusuf says that we’ve become an increasingly polarized society. I agree. I think the hardest pill to swallow is that we’ve all got to live with each other. The shitty politicians (yes, if Nawaz wins the next elections I am obliged to honor the vote), the “uneducated” jiyalas, the conceited elite, the religious middle class. Nothing will change unless we have a personal stake in the democratic process. I’m not even part of a political party – how can I say with a straight face that I’m interested in the persistence of democracy in Pakistan? If we have no personal stake in this, nothing will change.