Still Shocking

Not to romanticize a subject of which I know little, but I think you could do worse than Benazir Bhutto if you were looking for an example of courage in public life. She returned to her country this year knowing that violent extremists, forces who wanted to harm her, were on the loose. She returned knowing the leaders of the government — that is, the leaders of the army that had overthrown her — had little reason to protect her. She stayed despite an immediate and devastating first attempt to kill her. Despite the dangers, she didn’t shrink from her battle with either the generals and the government or the assassins arrayed against her. No, she didn’t go into the street without protection — she escaped the first attempt on her life because was riding in an armored truck, and at her last rally today, plenty of security was in place to deter bombers and gunmen. She must have known that those measures wouldn’t thwart her attackers for long.

I don’t pretend to know what motivated her. I don’t think the answer is as simple as “freedom” or “democracy.” Her cause was to oppose those who had deposed and assassinated her father by judicial means; and her cause was bigger, too: Pakistan, whatever that is, so far removed from our quiet streets, busy malls and safe elections, ruled by something more than fear and force.

It’s good, I suppose, that events like this are still shocking.

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