Friday, December 28, 2007

In a land far, far away. Yet so close.

Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on Thursday as she concluded an appearance at a political rally held in advance of the upcoming January elections. According to most reports, she was shot in the neck by a suicide bomber, who detonated his bomb and managed to kill 15 other people in the process.

I've been following the story all morning, one ear tuned to the BBC, the other trying to ignore the pitter patter of monkey feet and voiced demanding attention. Motherhood has a way of detracting one from too-deep political introspection. But every so often, something happens on the stage of world events that captures my attention long enough for me to look away from the Dora videos and coloring books.

As a first generation Pakistani-American, I've always had one eye turned towards events "back home," as my parents like to say. I don't refer to Pakistan that way, because my home is America. I'm an American. I was born and raised here, and am proud of this country, my country, despite its flaws - both real and perceived.

But I am also proud of the possibilities that Pakistan embodied from its inception. I know its deeply flawed history, and its fifty plus years of triumphs and failures. It's been a long time since I have been there, but I still remember first hand the deep divide that exists between those who have, and those who do not. But I also remember beautiful things, people and places that defy description.

Benazir Bhutto was the first democratically elected female prime minister of an Islamic country. And Pakistan was the country in which this happened. Twice. Her tenure was wrought with charges of pandering and corruption. I have yet to figure out what if anything she actually did to better the lives of the average woman in Pakistan, but the fact remains that she represented something tangible for those of us who still hold out hope that democracy and the rule of law can exist in the world.

I don't know why I continue to hope this way. People who criticize the state of democracy in the U.S. need only look at places like Pakistan. That is a country where people have something to rightly complain about. Military dictatorships. Tribal justice. Humanitarian abuses. Spend some time over there, and then contrast it with the relatively smooth transitions in government we have over here.

Anyway. Enough politics. On a personal note, my parents are planning to visit Pakistan in the next few days to see family. We shall keep them in our prayers for a safe trip and an uneventful vacation.
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