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Commentary: Bhutto undeterred by cowardly bombings

  • Story Highlights
  • Wajid Shamsul Hasan says Benazir Bhutto will not be deterred by bombings
  • He says the former Pakistani prime minister has long faced violent threats
  • Hasan believes "terrorism and intolerance" have pushed Pakistan to the brink
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By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: Wajid Shamsul Hasan is a former Pakistani High Commissioner in Britain. He is a friend and adviser to Benazir Bhutto.

LONDON, England -- Born into one of the most famous political families on the Asian sub-continent, Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan, was raised to withstand constant public scrutiny.

Hasan

Wajid Shamsul Hasan (right) argues the threat of violence will not deter Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's former leader.

A bright student, Bhutto had academic insight that brought her success at Harvard University and the University of Oxford. While in school, she wanted to be a journalist or a foreign policy expert, but she soon found herself plunged into politics.

I got the first glimpse of Bhutto when she accompanied her father, President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to the Indian city of Simla for a summit with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to negotiate an agreement for peace in 1972.

As a member of the media team in Mr. Bhutto's entourage, I saw in the younger Bhutto the making of another great female leader. In her early 20s, she carried herself with grace, stately dignity and striking confidence.

The military coup against her father in 1977, followed by his judicial murder in 1979, catapulted her into politics to complete the elder Bhutto's mission of empowering his people.

As the leader of the country's biggest party -- the Pakistan People's Party -- Bhutto has not given up her father's mission of transforming Pakistan into a modern democracy with equality for all its citizens.

Because she has dared to challenge Pakistan's regressive forces and a pro-status quo establishment, Bhutto has braved more than two decades of persecution and prosecution. She has proven her political prowess by holding the People's Party together while in exile.

Bhutto's popularity has been sustained even though she's been a target of disinformation and faced a host of unproven charges of corruption --- charges that even her main political rival, General Pervez Musharraf, acknowledged as politically motivated.

It came as a rude shock to Bhutto's opponents when she received an unprecedented welcome in Karachi last week as "the daughter of their destiny." The people's carnival that converted Karachi into a "mini-Pakistan" was marred by two suicide bombings aimed at killing her. She survived, but more than 130 others were killed, over 500 injured.

So far no one has claimed responsibility. Meanwhile, the government has rushed to introduce Bhutto-specific laws to curtail her political activities.

Will she be deterred by such cowardly acts of hidden faces to keep her away from her people? Most certainly not!

The attacks have strengthened the confidence of the masses in her leadership and in her democratic mission of empowering the people. She wishes to empower the people not only to better their own lot but to get rid of extremism, terrorism and intolerance, forces that are pushing Pakistan to the edge of failed statehood.

I have known Bhutto closely. She is brave, bold and courageous and she will not be intimidated.

Once, I accompanied Bhutto as she went to offer her condolences after the death of a party worker. When we reached the family's street, located in the heart of armed opposition, gunfire could be heard.

It was intended to scare Bhutto off, so she wouldn't go to the deceased worker's house. We advised her to return home as the gunfire boomed all around.

"Nothing doing. We must go on," she said. "If we turn back now those trying to scare us will ingrain permanent fear in the locality especially for the aggrieved family of the victim. We must break the siege of fear and send the message to the gangsters that no amount of gunfire can deter us."

It is a message that resonates today.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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