Benazir was the best possible chance Pakistan had

0
253

Every generation of Oxford life produces characters who form an indelible impression on a new intake of undergraduates. Benazir was one such person. Her character and lively personality dominated the Oxford of the late 70s and even at that early stage, marked her out as an historical figure for the future. Nothing is more tragic and dangerous for the world than the assassination of senior politician at the height of her powers, struggling to address the challenges of a country that sits at the fulcrum of world security.I was one of those enthusiastic freshers who came up to Oxford in 1976 at a time when our domestic politics was bubbling with ideological fervour, and the world was moving towards such seismic events as the fall of the Shah in Iran.Benazir had been to Harvard, had read for a further degree at LMH and was completing a further year at St Catz. Her presence in the Union was fiery and fun and at the end of Michaelmas 76, she romped home in the Union elections. Her combination of seriousness and humour sparked a series of crowded debates in the chamber, ending with a hilarious evening on the motion ‘That this House likes dominating women’.For some absurd reason she decided to repaint the President’s office powder blue and some of us willingly helped her; only I don’t think we ever removed the books first. I took a call on the President’s red telephone while Benazir was up a ladder with a paintbrush, only to find myself speaking to her father. He was the first Prime Minister I’d ever spoken to. A few weeks later he was deposed by Zia ul Haq and, in an act of unspeakable act of viciousness, hanged a year later.The bullets and bomb on December the 27th struck a cold and poignant parallel with the fortunes of her father a generation earlier. Two days prior I’d enjoyed an email exchange with Benazir in which I wished her every success for 2008 and hoped I could come to her swearing in as a third-time Prime Minister. As always with Benazir she never forgot her friends and the reply was swift, insisting that if the elections weren’t rigged she was likely to win, and that I had to come to the inauguration. Although optimistic and determined, her email ended with the words; ‘what man proposes, God disposes…’ Some people deride the Oxford Union for being an elitist and artificial forum for self-important student politicians. Nothing could be further from the truth. In Benazir’s early days the Union helped her hone her evident skills into a formidable political force.Pakistan is a nuclear power, it borders Afghanistan and it has swung perilously between democracy and dictatorship. Benazir was the best possible chance Pakistan had for moving in a practical way from army rule back to democracy. The country’s institutions are flawed and fragile. Behind every former general there is a new one to take his place. Behind every elected politician, there are forces and practices which can pollute the democracy the country needs.Benazir knew she was in danger but she refused to remain in exile and turn away from the duty she felt to her country. Her courage is of the sort none of us in our lives will probably ever have to face. She was just at the point in her life when she had learnt from her past mistakes – and she made a few – but was equipped to become the most notable political leader Pakistan has had since its original foundation. Her death is a crime, a tragedy and a backward step for a country so deeply in need of the leadership she was displaying so bravely.by Alan Ducan MP

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here