Friday, December 28, 2007

Reflections on Benazir Bhutto

For the past 24 hours, since learning of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, I have considered what can and should be said of her. In particular, I have been pondering the numerous tributes I have been reading, lauding her for her commitment to democracy and human rights.

I never met Benazir Bhutto and so I am hesitant to disagree with those who did have that privilege. I am also aware, having met other political leaders, that a person's true commitments are not marked so much by what one says but by one's actions. And so we must examine carefully reports from her days in office as Prime Minister to see if her stated beliefs matched the actions of her government. I am equally cognizant of the fact that politics is a game of compromise and small steps in any country but perhaps especially so in a complex and tumultuous one like Pakistan. The task of moving from what is to what it ought to be can be slow and inconsistent.

So how will history judge Benazir Bhutto once the shock of her violent death is numbed with the passage of time and most of the memorials will have been written and filed away? Was she truly a significant voice for democracy and human rights in Pakistan?

As I mentioned above, certainly reports from her days in office need to be re-examined, reports that I believe will help to tell a more balanced story. While we at The Voice of the Martyrs condemn her assassination and grieve for the people of Pakistan for the good that she might have done for her country, we remember her legacy and wonder how to reconcile these conflicting realities. Like her country, hers was a tumultuous and contradictory life. Her time in office (1988-1990; 1993-1996) was not a time of unfettered democratic freedom and human rights. Reports from the time that tell of torture, persecution of religious minorities, imprisonment of opposition leaders, and suppression of freedom of expression from groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and our own archives cannot be ignored. While Bhutto often spoke of the importance of human rights, her government and courts often seemed out of step with her stated values. At the time, The Voice of the Martyrs and groups like us referred to these reports and protested to the Bhutto government on behalf of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Pakistan. How odd that today some of these same groups are lauding her as a voice for human rights. Surely a more restrained response would be in order.


Anonymous said...

Benazir Zardari (Bhutto) was no saint. In my view Benazir Zardari (Bhutto) paid for her behavior of past “People who play with fire always get burned”. Benazir is no martyr and was a devious and dangerous leader .. I am sure thousands of innocent people killed during her mismanaged leadership and corruption will be her legacy.

Glenn Penner said...

Well, Anonymous, you certainly represent the other extreme as opposed to the overly generous epitaphs mostly being written over the past couple of days. As you will have read in my blog, I suspect that there are elements of truth in both views.

The Seeking Disciple said...

I think it is certainly unfortunate for Bhutto. She well knew the risk she was taking by coming back from exile. The American media is offering both praise and condemnation for Bhutto. I don't really know much about her and am hesitant to show judgment.

I do trust your view though and from your post, Bhutto's reign was not a true reign of democracy and religious freedom.

Let us pray for Pakistan and for the family of Bhutto to repent.

Glenn Penner said...

I, too, am hesitant to be too hard on her, for the reasons I state in my blog. I think that we cannot afford to be too idealistic in our analysis of Bhutto nor, on the other hand, ignore her contributions. She was certainly a woman of courage, as pretty much everyone agrees.

east end jim said...

I think that we can say one thing about Ms. Bhutto for sure. She was a creation of God who fell short of His glory (just like the rest of us) and in need of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We should pray that she accepted that need before her untimely death.