Monday, June 11, 2007

One less glass ceiling...

Benazir Bhutto is a controversial figure, and one whom I must admit I don't know much about. I've just started reading her autobiography and was inspired and moved by the stories she recounts in the preface. I do know that there are many dimensions to her story and to her life. Still, I cannot help but respect Bhutto for her courage and determination. Read with an open mind:

"I am a woman proud of my cultural and religious heritage. I feel a special personal obligation to contrast the true Islam - the religion of tolerance and pluralism - with the caricature of my faith that terrorists have hijacked. I know that I am a symbol of what the so-called 'Jihadists', Taliban and al-Qaeda, most fear. I am a female political leader fighting to bring modernity, communication, education, and technology to Pakistan. I believe that a democratic Pakistan can become a symbol of hope to more than one billion Muslims around the world who must choose between the forces of the past and the forces of the future."

"The political battles that I fought were always for an end. The goals centered on liberty and social justice. And those values are definitely worth fighting for. But I do believe my career has been more challenging because I am a woman. Clearly it's not easy for women in modern society, no matter where we live. We still have the extra mile to prove that we are equal to men. We have to work longer hours and make more sacrifices"

" Once the political opposition learned I was pregnant, all hell broke loose. They called on the President and the military to overthrow me. They argued that Pakistan's rules did not provide for a pregnant Prime Minister going on maternity leave. "

" I rejected the opposition's demands, noting that maternity rules existed in the law for working women (my father had legislated maternity leave)."

" Hardly mollified, the opposition drew up a plan of strikes to pressure the President into sacking the government. I had to make my own plans. My father had taught me that in politics timing is very important. I consulted my doctor who assured me that my child was full term and, with his permission, decided to have a Cesarean delivery on the eve of the call for strike action."

"I received thousands of messages of congratulations from all over the world. Heads of government and ordinary people wrote to me, sharing the joy. Especially for young women it was a defining moment, proving a woman could work and have a baby in the highest and most challenging leadership positions. The next day I was back on the job, reading government papers and signing government files. Only later did I learn that I was the only head of government in recorded history to actually give birth while in office. That's one less glass ceiling for women Prime Ministers in the future to have to break."

From preface of Benazir Bhutto's autobiography Daughter of The East, May 2007


Affad Shaikh said...

Under her rule she also made her family amongst those who owned 90 percent of the land- which is made up of 5 percent of the population of Pakistan. Her estates also house some of the largest "share cropping" but i would say "slave labor" in the country of Pakistan. There is much more between the lines...then again I could be wrong.

Zahra Billoo said...

I'm jealous of Affad - the Paki who has the Paki 411 down!

Osman said...

Let's not forget how she was showering with, using, and abusing precious fancy bottled watter while her country was in a drought...not quite someone to be admired, but someone who should be in prison...corruption is her life story.

Hassan said...

Happy now?

Affad Shaikh said...

Hasan- its sad that you would think people would rejoice in the death of someone. Murder is never the answer for disagreement.

I may disagree with her and obviously you, but that is a legitimate disagreement. I hope we could respect each other enough to give one another the benefit of doubt that we are mourning for her and praying for her well being in the akhira.

If we can not give this to our brothers and sisters then how better are we then the extremists who treat life and differences of opinions in monochromatic terms.

As Muslims, no as humans, we should be mourning for her. Yet as her supporter, even you can not neglect to acknowledge that Bhutto knew what she was getting herself into, that she knew she would have to at some point face the reality of her decision, which would be the ultimate sacrifice, her life.

She knew, and stated, that she does not fear extremists and/or death. I commend her for it and even more so for being willing enough to go out there and continue to do what it took to get elected without wincing for a moment that her life might be forfeit at any one rally. That is a sign of leadership.

However, personally, it is not a sign of leadership in which I would support her, her politics or her party.

Huda Shaka` said...

Turns out it was good timing to start reading that book.

Overall, it gave me a detailed picture of Bhutto's struggle against the dictator who killed her father and her come back to power, plus an overall idea of the political scene in Pakistan during that period.

The book stops at that stage of her life (her being elected the first time), which makes it a happily ever-after story. One cannot help but admire her struggle, regardless of the motives or results.

The book also gave me an idea of why B. Bhutto was Pakistanis' biggest disappointment (as one Pakistani journalist put it).

Most importantly, I was able to get a better understanding of Bhutto's background and values from her own pen.

Watching the news of Bhutto's return to Pakistan was like a deja-vu, it was like reading the book all over again: the campaigning, the public support, the crack-down,...
It was obvious; however, that the Bhutto on TV, engaging in talks with the current dictator, is not the same as the heroine of her autobiography.

Watching the news of her assassination was a shock; as much as it was expected I don't think anyone really believed it would happen. The violent loss of an innocent soul is tragic- no matter who that soul belongs to.

The link below is to an article published on CounterPunch a few months ago, which I think is worth reading to better understand the role Bhutto was coming back to play:

May Allah (swt)save the people of Pakistan from more loss and chaos.