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What if Bilawal Bhutto actually joins PML-N?

Published: January 22, 2015

Are the reports of the prodigal Bhutto son – yet to return fully – Bilawal Bhutto Zardari joining Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) true?

The reports of Mark Twain’s death were greatly exaggerated. So were the reports of Imran Khan’s marriage. But as they say, there’s no smoke without at least some fire. Are the reports of the prodigal Bhutto son – yet to return fully – Bilawal Bhutto Zardari joining PML-N true?

PML-F would be outrageous enough.

But PML-N would be even more outrageous.

Or would it? Not really.

Reality remains that the present day PPP and PML-N may be different in terms of inherent ideology, but what they do to Pakistan remains essentially the same. One may be on the right and the other on the left, but they have a middle ground where they meet, join hands and work happily in unison. And that middle ground is plagued by words that we are today all too familiar with – nepotism, corruption, bad governance, lack of accountability, disconnection with people, the list goes on.

While hard core and genuinely sincere PPP supporters are trying to hide inner fears by publicly laughing at the idea Arbab Ghulam Rahim has presented, they know that all there is definitely trouble in paradise.

If ever this actually happens, nothing will change for Pakistan and its people. The faces change but the predicaments of this nation remain the same. It doesn’t really matter whether the battle is raged with the help of a teer (arrow) or a sher (lion), and it doesn’t matter whether it is Bilawal or Shahbaz Sharif in rubber boots in flood stricken parts of Pakistan. Children will continue to die in Tharparkar and Punjab police will continue to beat up blind persons and even children. The lifestyles of the rich and famous will not change. Pakistani mothers will risk their most precious children when they send them to school, while the children of the leaders of most Pakistani political parties will be in safe insulated havens of top notch universities abroad.

However, if Bilawal were to join “them”, one thing would happen for sure. The many sincere ‘jiyalas’ who hope that one day, maybe, just maybe, Bilawal miraculously proves critics wrong, will be heartbroken. It is not that if Bilawal were to become the saviour they are hoping, he can do it only from the platform of PPP. Because if someone wants to work for the betterment of Pakistan sincerely, it doesn’t matter what the platform is. However, the problem with PPP is that dynastic inheritance supersedes everything else, sadly. If at all, the young Bhutto-Zardari were to change camps, a blow which the jiyalas will not be able to withstand, because sadly, a majority of them support the PPP less for its ideology, whatever is left of it, and more for the lure and romance of the Bhutto name. If PPP supporters had more sense, there would have been not one but many forward blocks within the party by now, and Bilawal’s dad would have been out of business.

Those who actually look up to Bilawal, much as this idea amazes the rest of us who are more realistic, have a miniscule flicker of hope. That hope is actually increased with rumours and factual reports of disagreement between father and son. Many of those who are too loyal to the Bhutto name to openly declare PPP in-contextual, are secretly excited and happy when they hear that Bilawal strongly disagrees with the father regarding how the party is working.

What we are seeing right now is just speculations and rumours. But in politics, there are no permanent friends, nor foes. Only time will tell which way Bilawal will steer himself. But if at all Bilawal decides to move away from the party of his papa, PML-N would be a sad choice – he will just end up being another brick in the wall called “the status quo”.

I am sure Bilawal has read up on these “rumours”, and back door channels are in the process of convincing him to negate this as mere gossip through another emotional tweet. As a Pakistani, one can just hope that one day, the young man sees the light and does something substantial for his people; maybe from a newer forum, or no forum at all by serving the people in an individual capacity. That would be real news, the kind of news that lasts.

7 years later, what is BB looking down at?

“Dartay hain bandooqon walay aik nihatti larki se….”

And so it was. Those armed with weapons and the ideology of dictatorship were afraid of the frail twenty-something Benazir Bhutto who was armed with an ideology. She had on her shoulders the heavy task of taking forward the legacy of her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was, after Jinnah, a true leader this nation had been gifted with, even though there were some taints on his name. BB fought back, and she fought back well. She was received well by the people who adored her. She was not the orate speaker her father was, and often had to rely on a display of histrionics to divert attention away from her compromised Urdu and Sindhi, but she was true to her cause. She suffered for the sake of democracy and won in the end. Our dear BB, the darling of the crowds, the emblem of a movement “by the people, for the people”.
BB
But what happened later is a horrific tale of something right going so wrong. Somewhere, her father’s beloved Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) fell prey to corruption and nepotism. The efficacy of BB’s second term as prime minister for the cause of social justice is questioned even by staunch PPP followers. Yet, with all her faults, the brave daughter of a brave father, she came back after nine years in exile, mingled with the people, and paid the ultimate price for her bravery by being martyred.
And this is where the ultimate downfall of her party began.
Seven years after her, we look back at her legacy. And when we think of BB’s PPP, we think of it till December 27 2007. What followed, and what remains, is a disfigured mutation of the ideology that once represented this populist movement. Like every 27 December since the last seven years, crowds have gone to Garhi Khuda Bukhsh and are showering flower petals on her grave and sanctifying her, and they insist that “Bhutto zinda hai”. Of these, there are those who have used her martyrdom for their own agendas. Then there are those who are there simply because they love BB and are unable to get over the romance of the Bhutto name. Also there are those, and these are many, who know well that the present PPP is not even a shadow of what it once was, yet it is too late in the day for them to change their political allegiances. The rest of Pakistanis, like myself, are disgruntled bystanders. Some of us have turned towards more promising political parties, and have hopes in another populist leader who has risen in Pakistan, while others have become political atheists. While out of respect for BB, we still listen to her young son shouting himself hoarse that Bhuttosim is alive, we sadly know all too well what the reality is. Only time will tell if Bilawal or his sisters, or preferably a non-dynastic heir to BB’s ideology can give PP the boost it desperately needs. For now it seems improbable, if not possible. While her heirs succeeded in completing their term, their inefficient governance and corruption has cost the party heavily in terms of public support.
With all her faults, I believe BB meant well, which is not what can be said for those who took over her political throne. If BB is looking down, we know that she is equally saddened by what happened to her legacy. RIP BB.

Narrative around VIP-ism

Published: October 11, 2014

The writer is a senior sub editor at The Express Tribune and tweets @FarahnazZahidi

It was long before Rehman Malik was offloaded from flight PK-370. I was driving in a one-way lane of Khadda market, Karachi. I was on the correct side. From the wrong side came an entourage of cars. Two police vans in the front, one at the back and an SUV in the middle. A security guard hopped over to me and said, “Madam back karain. Aap ko pata naheen gaari mein kon hai.” I was tired and wanted to get home. This was too much hassle. So I backed off, let them pass, the sirens and flags et all. Who knows, if I would have dared to push my way in, I may have been shot at, even though I was not a threat.

The recent incident of the young man, Malik Tahir, being shot dead by the guards of ex-PM Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son has once again made the debate over what is being termed ‘VIP culture’, a burning issue. This is shortly after Arjumand Hussain and other passengers offloaded Senator Malik and MPA Ramesh Kumar for making them wait aboard the PIA flight. Without taking away any due credit from Hussain, who possibly lost his job due to this show of bravery, the fact remains that this nation has had enough. These incidences are now being seen as a metaphor for the ideal of equality. Ironically, the very champions of democracy have harmed this ideal the most in the past.

Such is the norm in Pakistan: queues are broken, traffic signals are disregarded, palatial mansions of absentee politicians are guarded by blocking off entire areas with containers, and we all stay quiet with resigned acceptance, seething with anger inside.

As a bureaucrat’s daughter, I grew up travelling in a flag-bearing car of the government of Pakistan. I never stood in lines at the airport and my luggage was whisked off by the ‘protocol’ hours before I casually reached the airport’s VIP lounge 30 minutes prior to the flight. Over time, I grew an aversion to this. It was all too unfair, too senseless and also too fleeting. The same people, who would go out of their way for you, couldn’t care less once you were out of service.

Societies evolve, inevitably. Muffled voices of an anti-VIP culture began with political parties promoting the welcome trend of middle class leadership questioning these practices. With Imran Khan’s slogan of ‘tabdeeli’, which essentially means questioning the status quo at all levels, the May 11, 2013 elections saw irate voters pushing back VIPs who tried to break the queue. “All this is not acceptable in Naya Pakistan.”

However, a problematic and confused narrative is building up around the term ‘VIP culture’. Questions need to be raised about what is exactly meant by the term. Affluence is being misconstrued as VIP-ism.

It is important to differentiate between the two because everyone with an SUV does not disregard traffic signals or overtake others on basis of having a bigger car, which has become a symbol of arrogance. Gilani’s family cannot be without security guards, and that is a fact. Everyone hiring security guards on personal expense or owning licenced weapons for safety concerns cannot be viewed as oppressors. De-weaponisation and getting rid of the dependence on security personnel still remains an unrealised dream in Pakistan, which will take time and systemic efforts to be realised. It would not be prudent for any political leader or a person in a position of power to take unnecessary risks. They owe it to their followers and people who look up to them to stay safe.

The problem arises when public property is infringed upon, when money the public pays as taxes is used to protect VIPs, when arrogance becomes the order of the day and when someone goes one-up on the common man using unjust means. The issue is when respect for human life becomes subjective, and when the life and honour of a senator or an MNA becomes more important than mine. And the anger is justified when Abdul Qadir Gilani’s life or Rehman Malik’s time is considered more precious than mine.

Sadly, we live in a society where value of human life depends on your financial and social status. We are used to a system where people in power literally get away with murder. This lack of accountability is where the problem lies. This is precisely what makes security guards armed with weapons so reckless.

But this pent-up anger is both dangerous and blinding. If economic and social disparity starts being viewed as VIP-ism and each one of us becomes a hero wanting to fight it, there will be chaos without order. When narratives become jumbled, activism becomes anarchy, and that, too, not anarcho-pacifism, but the full-blown kind. In these dangerous and angry times, it’s important we understand the difference.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2014.

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Flight PK-370: Opposing VIP culture costs man his job

By Farahnaz ZahidiPublished: October 1, 2014

http://tribune.com.pk/story/769523/flight-pk-370-opposing-vip-culture-costs-man-his-job/

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Gerry’s official who filmed video of Rehman Malik dismissed from job. PHOTO: ARJUMAND HUSSAIN FACEBOOK PROFILE

KARACHI: That day, he went to work as usual. What he didn’t know was that by the end of the day, he would be without a job or a car, contemplating taking a rickshaw home.
“I packed everything up in my office and a colleague offered to drop me home,” says Arjumand Azhar, a man who calls himself an ‘ordinary citizen of Pakistan’. On September 16, a video Azhar filmed on his smartphone of irate Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) passengers forcing Senator Rehman Malik off the Islamabad-bound flight after his late arrival reportedly delayed it went viral.

While he was praised widely for ‘standing up to VIP culture’, Azhar was fired from his job at Gerry’s International (Pvt) Ltd, where he was employed as vice president.
“I was requested to resign, so I wasn’t really fired,” says Azhar calmly. He says he was not given a reason for the request, nor was he offered a compensation package or a notice period.
Gerry’s issued a statement early on Tuesday saying Azhar was terminated ‘purely based on merit’ and not for his involvement in the PIA incident. A message posted on the company’s Facebook page said the decision had been in the pipeline for some time.
“I have no regrets,” Azhar says, referring to the video he shot. “I was very polite, but I had to tell Mr Rehman Malik to leave PK-370. He is a very pleasant gentleman and I have nothing personal against him. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Staff at airports across the country have reported that many ‘VIP’ passengers, particularly lawmakers, have been extra cautious about arriving for flights on time and not cutting queues. “This is such a refreshing change,” an official at Karachi airport said.
Azhar reiterates that he is not affiliated with any political party. “I am not a political worker. I am a follower of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. My worry, right now, is my next salary, as Eid is coming up. I have a family to look after,” he says. He adds that his family has been very supportive of his decision.
On Monday, members of civil society in Karachi gathered in protest of ‘VIP culture’. PTI MPA Samar Ali Khan commented on Azhar’s video, saying, “Even though he has no political affiliation, we stand by him and all those fighting such injustices.”
Within hours of his dismissal, Azhar found a surge in support on online platforms and hashtags such as #ShameOnGerrys went viral on social media sites. Rehman Malik commented on Azhar’s dismissal, saying on Twitter, “I am upset to know that Arjumand has been fired by his employer. I strongly protest and appeal to his employer to restore him.”
Gerry’s is owned by another senator, Akram Wali Muhammad. However, Azhar said, “I will never go back to Gerry’s. .”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2014.

Imran Khan’s Followers — His Weakness or His Strength?

Posted: 09/09/2014 5:00 pm EDT Updated: 09/10/2014 12:59 pm EDT
FARAHNAZ ZAHIDI

Pakistan’s political frenzy is continuing as the world looks on. It is almost a month since the wave of protests began in Pakistan’s Federal Capital Islamabad. Thousands have left their homes at the call of Pakistan’s most popular political figure, Imran Khan, and the relatively progressive cleric Dr. Tahirul Qadri. The demonstrators have camped outside the Prime Minister House and Pakistan National Assembly, demanding their voices be heard. The protests are in essence against Pakistan Muslim League-N’s elected government and the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who both Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awaami Tehreek (PAT) wish to oust. Their reasons differ, but the end goal of both parties seems the same: “Go Nawaz Go” is the resounding chant in Islamabad, reverberating across Pakistan. Whether Sharif goes or not remains to be seen, as for now, democratic forces have saved him from a forced resignation. Khan and his followers believe that Sharif came into power through heavily rigged elections, and so it is not a democratically elected government in principle. Evidence supports Khan’s claims, but heated debates continue whether democracy should be “derailed” or should Sharif be allowed to complete his term.

Through it all, Khan, already the nation’s “national hero” has emerged as a populist leader. Cricketer and philanthropist, Khan is undoubtedly one of the most followed leaders Pakistan has seen. His integrity because of his past record is unquestioned. Pakistan’s disgruntled masses love him even more for being non-political and non-dynastic. Khan’ s charismatic good looks and his image as one who leads from the front has added to it. He gives his supporters the much-needed hope of freedom from the clutches of dynastic politics, nepotism and corruption. His followers believe he will eventually be the prime minister of Pakistan and solve all of Pakistan’s problems and create a just, fair and secure Pakistan, which he calls the Naya (new) Pakistan.

It is natural then that parables are drawn between Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Khan. Bhutto was a revolutionary and mobilized Pakistan’s masses politically. His daughter, Benazir Bhutto (BB), carried the torch of democracy after her father was assassinated, and was eventually killed at the hands of extremists. Yet their political party, the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) remains a major political force in the country.

While the mass appeal is similar, Bhutto and Khan have many differences. If the Bhuttos were leftist in their ideology, Khan is considered right off centre. His ideology, his background and his political prowess differ from the Bhuttos. But there are, ironically, jarring similarities.

Let us take a look at Bhutto. Some 35 years later, Pakistanis still remember Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in an awe-struck manner. They never got over Bhutto, whether they agreed with him or not. Bhutto was charismatic, a visionary, one of the proverbial leaders who “come along in centuries”. He connected to the awaam (masses) and his voice resonated with them. His manifesto addressed the pains of the people. He seemed God sent. The way he was snatched away from this country made him an even bigger hero. And Bhutto is that point in the history of Pakistan where the Jiyalas (staunch loyalists) were born. Infact, the term so effectively described the state of mind of Bhutto’s followers that the word became synonymous with his loyalists. His were a breed of loyalists who were ready to protect their leader and to die for him because they believed in him blindly. Rich and poor, urban and rural, illiterate and from the intelligentsia, these loyalists were varied in many ways but common in their reverence for Bhutto.

Till this point, it was all good, and natural. Except for one thing. These staunch supporters, somewhere, left their sense of judgment buried behind their admiration for the messiah. The purpose and the vision of democracy and equal rights to all citizens of Pakistan became packaged in one and only one package. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Without him, they were lost.

Fortunately for Pakistan, the reigns of the PPP were taken over by the defiant, strong, politically groomed and well-meaning BB as her father’s political heir. The military dictator General Ziaul Haq’s era of oppression and the fact that BB was a woman fighting a dictator further brought out the protectiveness in people. What came out of it was not just a belief in Bhutto’s ideology, but also a belief in the Bhutto dynasty being saviors and almost infallible. They, and not the vision, became the focus.
Sadly, this is what was exploited by those with hidden agendas. Absolute adulation corrupts. This is what many good leaders have fallen prey to in human history. Their followers stopped seeing their leaders’ shortcomings. What remained of a brilliant ideology were slogans and a reactionary brand of personality-worship.

BB’s widower Asif Ali Zardari made an entrance as a non-Bhutto yet the closest in line after BB. He may have successfully completed five years of a democratically elected government, and is today being lauded for his political wisdom, yet his very advent into politics was dependent on this unquestioned adulation. BB’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is the coveted political heir of the dynasty, ultimately expected to take over, whether he is deserving or not.

Let us come back to Imran Khan. People either follow him with absolute conviction or are against his fiery, often agitational brand of politics. But undisputedly, Khan’s biggest strength, like the Bhuttos, is supporters who are ready to lay down their lives for him. They believe in his sincerity of intention and his integrity when it comes to money matters. He has proven his persistence. And he is the one man who has the guts to challenge the status quo to the point of dismantling it. This is all good and all true.

However, the flip side is that the pitfall is ironically the same as what the Bhuttos faced. While the PTI is a completely non-violent party, members are known be hasty and reactionary if anything against Khan is pointed out.

As one who believes that Khan is well-meaning and can do a lot for Pakistan, the one thing I wish I can say to him would be, “O captain, my captain, the last thing you need is blind following. What you do need is a sincere following.”

The state of mind being pointed out here is not just limited to followers of Bhuttos or Khan. We see the same in other political parties in Pakistan as well, where a hushed silence ensues when the leader speaks, and there is no allowance for disagreement with the leaders who are seen as saints. Till now Khan has done well, because his followers love him despite knowing his shortcomings. The “human-ness” owing to these shortcomings either increases people in his love or his opposition.

For Khan, it is just the beginning. While he does need the sincere support of his followers, he needs, as a part of that sincerity, that they point out where he goes wrong. He needs to develop a culture in his party where the people who are his support are tenacious enough to stand by him, but awake enough to alert him to his mistakes. This will help Khan be the change he promises. A welcome fact is that Khan has repeatedly said that if hypothetically he were to be Pakistan’s prime minister, he would want that his faults be pointed out. Will that actually happen remains to be seen.

The hope is that the great Khan remains under check and balance. Only then we can hope for great things from him. Otherwise, it will be de ja vu all over again, where a good leader would fall prey to being idolized.

Tharparkar – Dying a slow, painful death

By Farahnaz ZahidiPublished: March 9, 2014

http://tribune.com.pk/story/680641/creeping-disaster-dying-a-slow-painful-death/
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Malnutrition is common in Thar with many children displaying classic signs of undernourishment. PHOTO: INP/FILE
KARACHI:
One hundred and twenty-two children do not die from drought in a day. They die a slow, painful death when the symptomatic effects of three years of drought in a parched arid area like Tharparkar reach a stage that it becomes a full-blown famine. As the world looks on in amazement how this “breaking news” was hitherto not paid attention to, what must be understood is that this was happening all along, slowly and gradually.
Officially, however, some 122 child deaths were recorded in Thar since December 2013. Local experts are concerned that this could only get worse unless drastic measures are adopted. Tharparkar district, with an estimated population of 1.5 million, is ranked by the World Food Programme as the most food insecure of Pakistan’s 120 districts.
Rukaiyya, a seven-day-old baby from Adam Rind village lost her battle for life. She was one of the casualties of the dire situation in Tharparkar. “My wife Zeenat herself is so weak. We are very poor people. I used to rely on some basic agriculture which is no longer there due to lack of rain. This was my first child,” said Ghulam Hussain, the father of the child. This desperate father took the sick baby to a private doctor in Umerkot. He chose not to go to the nearest public hospital in Umerkot, some 50 km away from their village. “We are too poor. The doctors there would not pay attention to us.” Hussain is convinced that lack of proper food and nutrition is the reason behind this tragedy.
In the Drought Bulletin of Pakistan July-September 2013, released by Pakistan Meteorological Department, a drought is described as a “creeping phenomena”. The bulletin states that “Drought differs from other natural disaster (for instance, flood, tropical cyclones, tornadoes and earthquakes etc) in the sense that the effects of drought often accumulate slowly over a considerable period of time and may linger for years even after the termination of the event.”
There are many overlapping factors that are at play behind the recent acceleration in deaths in Tharparkar. More than 90 per cent of the district’s population relies on underground water they get through dug wells. In the absence of rain when this water is not recharged, the water levels go down. If at all water is available, the concentration of salt in it reaches high levels which makes the water unfit for consumption. The people of Tharparkar rely heavily on cattle for their livelihood. Cattle gives them food and money, both. Absence of fodder forces them to migrate. Partial migration trends show that often the men migrate along with their cattle. The women, children and family members left behind are thus deprived of the little protein they usually get from the dairy products. The impact of the drought is thus exacerbated and malnutrition becomes even more serious.
The cause of the famine in Tharparkar is both a decline in the availability of food as well as a reduction in people’s access to, or their ability to acquire food.
Malnutrition is a common problem in Tharparkar, with many children in particular displaying classic signs of malnourishment at the first glance. Bleached out hair, thin upper arms and disproportionately enlarged bellies are common sights.
According to the National Nutrition Survey, more than 70 per cent of mothers in Sindh are deficient in vitamin D. Nearly half of the children under five years old suffer from stunting and around 40 per cent of children are underweight.
“When there was no rain till the 15th of August, a drought should have been declared. If it is declared a drought, the government can even ask the international community for help. Muhammad Khan Junejo, the then prime minister, had done this in when a similar situation happened in Tharparkar in the 1980s,” says a disgruntled Ali Akbar, executive director, Association for Water Applied Education & Renewable Energy (AWARE), Tharparkar. “This is nothing new for Tharparkar. The same happened in 2001 under General Musharraf’s dictatorship regime, and people woke up to the disaster back then only after 27 deaths. We all waited for democracy and hoped that it would bring us better days. But nothing has really changed.”
Children born to malnourished mothers and suffering from malnourishment over long periods of time have severely compromised immune systems. Thus even a bout of cough or cold will be enough to kill such a child, which explains why the cause of death in the records of many of these children will be reasons like Pneumonia, diarrhea and infections.
The newly appointed District Health Officer (DHO) Tharparkar, Dr Abdul Jalil Bhurgri, told The Express Tribune that media should base their reporting on facts. “The way it is being reported will spread a wave of panic among the people. It is partially incorrect that these children died due to hunger and malnourishment. There are other reasons too like unskilled birth attendants and child delivery in unhygienic conditions due to which mother and child can both contract infections.” Dr Bhurgri invited expressed willingness to share their official data with anyone interested to set the record straight. While he agreed that there are not enough doctors and health facilities in the district, he denied that all these deaths are famine related.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2014.

My political leanings may have changed, but I still love you BB

December 27, 2012

For me, she is forever loved, forever missed.. PHOTO: REUTERS

For me, she is forever loved, forever missed.. PHOTO: REUTERSFor me, she is forever loved, forever missed.. PHOTO: REUTERS

Maybe it has to do with the fact that she was a woman. She was a flame snuffed out much before it’s time….an everlasting Shakespearean tragedy. Perhaps, the candle in the wind. Maybe it is because I am a Sindhi, and somewhere it is in my blood and bones to have a soft corner for the Bhuttos (please leave the Zardari clan out of that allegiance).

Maybe it was her grace and eloquence. Maybe she was the rebel against forces of oppression that I wanted to be when I grew up.

She was my hero when I was an emotional little school girl with a scrap book of photographs that had cut-outs of BB’s pictures from various newspapers. Benazir Bhutto was a thin, frail, lone crusader who was fighting a battle against the formidable Zia. She won over the hearts and minds of people by the millions. That is when I fell in love with BB.

That love has not fizzled out. Today, it is five years since that horrific day when we lost her at the hands of a shocking act of cowardice. And it still slows down my inner pace and I have inward moments of silence when I think of her. Benazir Bhutto is still important to me. In my heart, I have a maternal sense of protection when her children are criticised. A voice inside me thinks of her children who do not have a normal life, they did not choose to be the children of their parents, and did not choose to be placed on alters either.

Just like BB once wrote:

“….This is not the life I chose; it chose me.”

While my love for BB has not changed, my political leanings have. In her life and times, before she actually came into power in particular, I, as a childish and myopic idealist, believed that everything should be painted red.

I thought that PPP’s brand of politics was the answer to the woes of the Pakistanis.

I thought that BB’s coming into power would mean everything restrictive this nation had suffered at the hands of dictatorship would be washed away. A new tomorrow. As a school girl, I knew too little and dreamt too much.

BB, beauty and grace in a female form with a signature white scarf covering her head, as she was sworn in. I won’t forget that day. I don’t wish to. But I wish to God I could forget the many disappointments that followed; the corruption, the scandals, and her inability to live up to the dreams of those who were responsible for bringing her into power. The disillusionment that our BB, an emblem of courage, would cave into forces that pressured her — forces known but not named.

I watched out hawkishly at her political graph throughout those years, wishing I could be apathetic, but was unable to be so. The first tenure, power snatched away; the second tenure, her time away from home.

What about her growing children?

BB in the UK, BB in Dubai.

Like millions of those who loved her, I waited and watched, breath abated, hoping one day she would fight all forces of evil and be the answer to our prayers once again. That if she got another chance, she would have learnt her lesson. That she was still a better option compared to the others. For no matter what, BB stood for democracy. Her tenures, despite the disappointments, had shown considerable improvements in certain areas that were close to her heart – health, education, and more women-friendly legislations and development work.

Through it all, BB remains BB for me. I cringe when her name is taken disrespectfully. The day of her death is a slow and sad day for me.

When I look back at the last three months of 2007, I remember her return to Karachi with Imam Zamin tied to her arm on one side and her tear-filled eyes on the other. Her hands were raised towards the skies, in what I believe was a genuine, earnest dua (prayer) thanking God for her return home. When I reminisce, my heart becomes sore, as grief overcomes and a sort of sadness completes me.

A resplendent looking BB, a bit heavy-set, ready to take on the mantle again, in a purple dress, garlanded, climbing the rickety stairs leading to the stage, shouting hoarsely, snuffed out moments later.

Assassinated.

Killed…BB becoming yet another name in the list of unfortunate young dynastic politicians gone too soon.

I still believe in democracy, though I may not have blind faith in her party anymore. And when I speak in the first person, I speak for many Pakistanis who I know have gone through the same metamorphosis. Allegiances and loyalties can be diehard but only up to a point. After that, sensibility and the inherent human mechanism of self-defence take over.

BB has gone. My love for her has not. For even though now I will vote not for the arrow but will vote for “change” as they are calling it, I know that when we lost her, we lost one of Pakistan’s most beautiful minds. She meant well. For me, she is not the saint they are making out of her at Garhi Khuda Bukhsh.

For me, it is a woman who tried to make this country better, and was sincere for the most part, but maybe did not succeed too well. For me, she is forever loved, forever missed.

Read more by Farahnaz here or follow her on Twitter@FarahnazZahidi

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/15358/my-political-leanings-may-have-changed-but-i-still-love-you-bb/