Thursday, December 27, 2007

Only the Good Die Young

One of my heroines died today. Benazir Bhutto, a modern-day Joan of Arc, succumbed to an assassin's bullets after a rally in Pakistan, the country she returned to after many years in exile. She was 54 years old.

It was believed that her party, the Pakistan People's Party, would win the upcoming election in January, making her Prime Minister once again. She had occupied that office twice before, the first time at age 35. She was one of the youngest chief executives in the world, and the first woman to serve as Prime Minister of an Islamic nation.

Modernizing Pakistan was her priority, She brought electricity to the countryside and built schools all over Pakistan. She dedicated herself to solving the problems of hunger, housing and health care and bringing her country into the 21st Century. Her agenda was one of reconciliation among various factions, peace, ending militancy, eradicating poverty, building institutions of civil rule and democracy, spreading education and providing hope to the people of Pakistan for a better future.

Ms. Bhutto was born in Karachi in 1953 to a prominent political family. At age 16 she left her homeland to study at Harvard's Radcliffe College. After completing her undergraduate degree in Political Science, she earned a second degree at England's Oxford University, followed by a law degree a few years later.

Meanwhile, her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was elected Prime Minister, but within days the military seized power and her father was imprisoned. In 1979 he was hanged by the military government of General Zia Ul Haq.

She was arrested many times and served three years in solitary confinement before being permitted to leave the country in 1984. She settled in London, where she and her two brothers founded an underground organization to resist the military dictatorship. When one of her brothers died in 1985, she returned to Pakistan for his burial, and was again arrested for participating in anti-government rallies.

Despite her prestigious Western education, she agreed to an arranged marriage in 1987. The couple had three children.

Bhutto's husband was imprisoned in 1997 on charges of corruption and served eight years in prison. Once again, she was forced to leave her homeland. For nine years, she and her children lived in exile in London, where she continued to advocate the restoration of democracy in Pakistan.

In October of this year, she returned to her native country despite death threats from radical Islamists and the hostility of the present government.

She was greeted by enthusiastic crowds but within hours of her arrival, her motorcade was attacked by a suicide bomber. She survived this first assassination attempt, although more than 100 bystanders died in the attack. Even this did not deter her from her mission to finally restore peace to her country.

Today in Rawalpindi a gunman fired at her car, fatally wounding her. The assassin then detonated a bomb, killing himself and numerous bystanders.

Rioting erupted throughout the country, intensifying the dangerous instability of a nuclear-armed nation in a highly volatile region.

The world has lost one of its most eloquent voices for peace, moderation, and democracy, and also one of its bravest citizens. We are all diminished for it.

"I find that whenever I am in power, or my father was in power, somehow good things happen. The economy picks up, we have good rains, water comes, people have crops. I think the reason this happens is that we want to give love and we receive love."


furiousBall said...

Very, very sad. She was a hope for the Mideast in my eyes

thailandchani said...

What a great quote from her!

I think she is a person who, when all is said and done, was committed to respecting her culture and improving it at the same time. That can be a very difficult balance to execute.. and she did it with honor.

Nick said...

Absolutely tragic. She was incredibly brave persisting with her campaigning despite the death threats and attempted assassination. Though in hindsight, given the determination of her enemies to kill her, maybe she should have been a bit more cautious. A major loss to politics and the civilised world.

Lex said...

I was stunned by this news. This is a wonderful tribute to her.

Sienna said...

Oh no Hearts, I hadn't heard this; she is gone, it's a shock, I realised she would be risking her life to go back (no doubt she knew that too), just can't believe it, was watching a documentary on her not long ago.

She inspired her people.

That's just incredible.

Nice tribute.

Anonymous said...

Seems a much too familiar refrain -- if one fights for peace and love, one will ultimately be stopped in a violent manner. I cannot imagine the feeling of vulnerablity someone like that must feel, knowing it is a matter of time. It makes their every move that much more heroic.

My heart goes out to her family, to her followers, to her country, to mankind.

Rachel said...

Wonderful post! I didn't know all these things about her. Puts the information I gleaned from my own readings into perspective. I am linking this post in my own for today; my readers need to read this.

Thank you for this wonderful tribute. The Islamic world has lost a truly important figure of peace. I am horrified and sorrowed by the whole thing.

Ian Lidster said...

I was so shocked when I learned of this. On the other hand, despite the tragedy for Pakistan and the rest of us in her loss, she was obviously pretty philosophical about the realities she faced on a daily basis.
So very sad.
A lovely tribute by you, my dear friend. No wonder I like you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


In my eyes, too. And by extension, for the world.


I always admired her so much because she could have become a pampered civilian princess adored for her wit, her gorgeous appearance and her dinner parties. Yet she chose to use her considerable gifts to make the world better for all.


She remarked after the earlier failed assassination attempt that she expected to die, yet she never hid from danger because she was so committed to her cause.

That kind of courage is so incredibly rare.


I hope her children are safe in an unknown place. The terrorists who murdered her would think nothing of murdering her children to make a point.


She was an amazing woman, a true shining light on the world political stage.

I'm not really surprised that this happened, but terribly sad.


Yes. To all of it. You've expressed in few words what I am feeling, as you are wont to do.


We are all impoverished by her death. She was not only a voice of sanity and compassion in the Islamic world, but an inspiration to women everywhere.


She knew it would happen, just not when. And she accepted all of it.

Few among us have her kind of courage, and it's also true that few of us need to have it in our lives.

TIV: the individual voice said...

I have been so sad today about this. I posted as well, but just briefly. Your post is an articulate and informed tribute. I will add a link t this post, because I just don't have the heart to write anymore about it.

WNG said...

Thank you for this post, Hearts. I had not heard much about her before her return to Pakistan this year and the more I learned the more I thought she might actually be able to help her people. I wish she had more time to complete her work for her people. I agree it is a great loss for the world.

Bob said...

I am so afraid that Pakistan will now devolve into sectarian violence. I think she was the best hope they had for stability.

James Burnett said...

She was impressive. I'm sad she was murdered. I hear TV pundits calling it everything but that, talking only about political implications. She was flat out murdered, and it's a huge loss to the planet.

I commented on her death too, but not from this deep an angle. Kudos, and well-written.

jstele said...

"Despite her prestigious Western education, she submitted to an arranged marriage in 1987."

I don't know exactly how her marriage was set up, but I do know that an "arranged marriage", may not be so "arranged". Nowadays, a lot of arranged marriages are more like blind dates set up by the couple's family. It is up to each partner to decide whether they want to marry or not. I know that's true for India, which has quite a similar culture to Pakistan.

I do believe she was a very progressive woman. But education does not necessarily lead to a progressive mentality. One time, I met a woman who received her master's at a top American university. She seemed so progressive and so intelligent, but was shocked that a woman could be as amazing as Gloria Steinem. Knowing what I knew of her, I expected her to be more worldly in her views.

Jocelyn said...

It is incredibly sad...yet a part of me thinks she knew it was inevitable. Her loss will stand for something the same way her life did.

Thank you for this compelling summary of what she meant, who she was. I went skiing for two hours today and had to wear my headphones the whole time to listen to NPR's coverage of her death. What a contrast between the silent shushing and pine trees around me and the cacaphony of voices in my ears.

Josie said...

Hearts, she was one of my heroes. She made me feel there was hope for women in a part of the world where women are regarded as second-class citizens. She outshone them all. The only word I can think of with regard to her death is "heartsick".

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I dashed this off right after I heard the news. If I had thought about it longer, it would have been impossible to write.

How will we ever progress as a species if we consistently kill off our best and brightest?


I've been aware of her for a long time and admired her so much that it feels as if someone close to me was murdered.


She was one of the few hopes for stability and freedom in that part of the world.

Her influence will be missed for a very long time.


She was a truly great person, one of few politically active people in the world today who actually believed in the concept of civil service.

Does it seem to you that those who murder to gain or retain power are winning?


I understand that arranged marriages are the norm in many cultures, yet I was surprised that she chose to go that route after being educated in the West.

You make a good point that schooling doesn't necessarily change attitudes toward traditions, nor should they unless the traditions involve mutilation or other harmful practices.

While an arranged marriage would never have worked for me, it does, beautifully, for many.


It was inevitable, and she seems to have known that she was on borrowed time, yet she chose to spend it working to bring her country as close as possible to the ideals she held dear.

We won't see another like her for a very long time.


I am heartsick, too.

She was a shining light, almost a miracle considering how women are regarded in that part of the world.

If she could accomplish all she did, there is no reason we Western women cannot also make a difference in our lives.

DMB said...

Thank you for such an informative post on a great woman. I didn't know anything about her until now, sadly.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Great tribute. A true loss to the world and even more so for her people.

blooming desertpea said...

I agree with your title - only the good die young - not only Benazir but other people I've known. I was just wondering if there is any sense in this pattern ...??

Nick said...

Reading the news articles this morning, I was struck by their never saying what she did, and wanted to do, for the people themselves. They yak on about how she cared for her country, how brave she was etc, but they don't mention the important practical things you listed - electricity, housing, health care, schools, enough food. I imagine those improvements to ordinary everyday lives are what many will remember her for.

heiresschild said...

hi, i come via Josie's blog. this is an excellent, well-written tribute to Bhutto.

Echomouse said...

I was shocked by this news too.

Susan said...

This was a wonderful post about her. She was a wonderful woman who I seriously admired.

RED MOJO said...

I can see why they wanted her gone, I mean, peace and prosperity, electricity, education? Who wants all that? This is the kind of thing that sickens me to the core.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for adding to my knowledge of this courageous soul. Like Chani, I love the quote.
"...we want to give love and we receive love."


I was turning off the laptop when the Washington Post alert came up on my screen announcing the assassination. I froze in horror. It was reminiscent of my gut reaction when learning about the death of Princess Di.

For me, a ripple crosses the Universe when a great spirit touching the lives of many passes. This woman lived from her soul. Her impact travels far...

Ripple, ripple, ripple...

Lovely tribute.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I should probably add I was aware of an anger residue lurking beneath my surface (alongside deep, deep sadness) for the first six hours (at least) post assassination.

I was *keenly* aware of this mental soundtrack:
"Fuckin' idiots. God damned fucking crazy assholes. I am up to here with this shit in this reality. Crazy, just crazy."

I watched the outrage ebb and flow throughout the day and ease into a soft spot that opened after a while.


sognatrice said...

Beautiful tribute for yet another person killed while longing for peace. Heavy heart here as well.

FYI, Marta has done a wonderful sketch here and Laurelines a gorgeous painting here.

enigma4ever said...

What a lovely tribute to this very courageous woman...thank you for honoring her, and appreciating her....and what she meant to her people...and to all of us....namaste...

Franki said...

More dark days for Pakistan...and for the rest of the world.

Open Grove Claudia said...

This is a beautiful post, Susan. I am heart sick over this, just heart sick. I ranted on Josie's page, so I'll just shut up here.


heartinsanfrancisco said...


Her loss will impact even those who didn't know anything about her, for such is the way with great souls.

Thank you for your visit!


Yes, absolutely. She was Pakistan's best hope for a government of and for the people.

Desert Pea,

I hope not. There have been many greats who lived to be ancient, but it's always more tragic when they die young. (And I'm fond of using song titles for posts.)


I agree. Ideology doesn't mean much if your children are hungry. Her compassion was one of the qualities that set her apart, perhaps even more than her high intellect and great personal beauty.


Thank you for your kind words, and your first visit here.


I was shocked but not really surprised. And knowing that she was on borrowed time made her actions all the more courageous.

Thank you for coming by.


She first captivated my attention when she returned to Pakistan after her father was elected Prime Minister, and I followed her life and career with interest and admiration.

I've seen your comments on other sites. Welcome to mine!


Yeah, who indeed would want those things? What was she thinking? And those who murdered her are always the first to call others "infidel."


You know, it didn't even occur to me until you mentioned anger that I didn't react with such feelings, which seems very strange to me.

I am a person who has the capacity to process anger, yet her death made me feel terribly sad and also hopeless, frustrated in my own hopes that we are somehow building a better world.

Perhaps the anger will come later, but it seems inadequate in the face of such hopelessness.


Heavy hearts are definitely the order of the day.

I will check out those links, thanks.


We are all connected. In honoring a person of greatness, we honor the capacity for greatness in each of us as well.



I'm holding my breath because whatever comes next can't be good.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I would never overlook YOU. Blogger is playing tricks again.

She was important to me on a personal level for so many reasons. I feel as if I've lost a cherished friend.

It's just so wrong and senseless, and it hurts deeply. The future just became more frightening, too, as she was holding so much violence at bay. No one person should have had to bear that much responsibility or pain.

Granny said...

Just came over from Josie. You don't know me but I lived in SF for 25 years (off and on), retired in 1993 and moved to Merced. I'm still homesick from time to time.

I tried to write something yesterday but couldn't find words.

I was saddened but not surprised. There is so much hatred in the world and it seems to be directed at those who try to make a difference.

Ann (aka granny)

Nick said...

Yet another thought. What exactly do all these men think they are achieving, running riot and trashing everything in sight? Just how does that advance Benazir Bhutto's ideals? Surely the important thing now is to support the opposition and Bhutto's aspirations and show that killing her achieves nothing?

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It's a sad commentary on the human race that we tend to exhibit the very same behaviors we most deplore in others, probably because on some level we recognize them as our own.

We can only hope that when the furor dies down a bit, enough people will come to their senses and realize that they do not honor her with violence and that the best way to do so is to support her principles and her hopes for Pakistan.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It was difficult to write about someone I felt emotionally connected to.

I appreciate your sentiments and your visit, and hope you'll come back again. (Any friend of Josie's is a friend of mine.)

meggie said...

An Excellent Post!

kimber the wolfgrrrl said...

A beautiful tribute.

CS said...

I was so caughht off-guard and so very, very saddened by this news. What a stupid waste.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you for coming by today!


How could anyone do otherwise?


It IS stupid and wasteful as well as tragic. What was the point of all her education and determination if this was going to happen?

It's so discouraging.

Voyager said...

Above all else, she had such courage. She knew her life was in danger during this campaign, but she insisted on getting out there with the people of her country. What a huge loss.

storyteller said...

Your tribute says it all. This senseless tragedy leaves Pakistan in chaos, and the rest of the world mourning the loss of this courageous woman of change. May 2008 bring the sanity, peace and prosperity she sought and restore joy and wonder in place of violence and fear. Somehow we need to learn to respect our differences and live together on this small planet in the galaxy.
Hugs and blessings,

Mariposa said...

I was having my own personal battles and learned this a bit later though our hour difference is not much...funny, my bf whom I had conflict then, spoke to me to inform me about this bec he knew she was an inspiration to me in many ways...

Reading your post made think her efforts for peace and reconciliation echoes to different lives...even to me.

Thanks for posting this one...for every door that closes, another one opens...though she will be greatly missed...I'm sure there will always be another person who will stand up again and continue what she has started.

The CEO said...

Both Pakistan and the World lost enormously at her murder. What she accomplished transcends anything normal and puts her into the League of Super Achievers, like Elanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, etc. Well done, and thank you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It has come to light that she complained about the lack of security provided her by the government and said that if anything should happen to her, it would be on Moussaref.


If only everyone agreed with you! We are all connected. What affects one of us affects all, ultimately. Learning to live together is the only chance any of us has to survive.

This murder has set us all back more than we can begin to measure.


Thank you for your timely reminder that when one door closes, another opens. My mother always said that, and my own life has taught me that she was right.

Bhutto's life cannot have been in vain, so surely there will be many who rise up to take her place.

Let's hope so.


I agree. And it's particularly heart warming to me when such recognition is accorded an exceptional woman.

She was a wonderful role model to so many of us.

jali said...

I cried when I heard the news.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

This is an excellent post. She was a courageous woman and one of my heroes, too.

heartinsanfrancisco said...




There is far too little courage in the world.

Odat said...

I was saddened too by this!
thanks for sharing.

Peace and
Happy and Healthy New Year to you and yours.

Sienna said...

Hearts! I don't think people have given up yet.

Latest news out (just here-we are reasonably close to Pakistan) is that her 19yo son is to be the "figurehead" for her ....apparently it is his wish and his father will (if elected of course) actually do the work until son learns the ropes)

The spirit and desire for democracy is far too great; it will come...I can't help but worry for her family (esp husband and son's safety) but I think they are fully aware of the risks, the courage is absolutely amazing, very humbling, just speechless over it all.

Hope 08 brings you everything you could wish for.

I think I need a nap :)


heartinsanfrancisco said...


I hope you have a wonderful year of peace and joy.


I worry about her family, too.

The desire for democracy is strong, but so is the desire to destroy it.

Benazir Bhutto had a remarkable career and her death poignantly demonstrates the need for a system in which voting, not assassination, determines who leads the country.

We are all living in a most uncertain world now in which courage is more important than ever.

Oh, The Joys said...

Her death made me so sad.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Me, too. I feel bruised over the pain and senselessness of it.

Crankster said...

Thank you for this. My heart stopped a little bit when I heard about Bhutto on the news. I wonder what will happen next.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Welcome back! I hope Ella has made a magnificent recovery.

These times are not for those with hearts.

Craze said...

Thanks for posting this. I have seen so much about her on the news but nothing taught me more about her than this post. What a remarkable woman.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


She was quite remarkable. It's very discouraging that the best people often get murdered, leaving the villains in charge.

thirtysomething said...

It is a loss that will ripple through, for sure. She was hope and promise for that part of the world who need it so desperately. I certainly did not know all the fascinating info about her though, thank you so much for sharing her story.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


She was young, accomplished,beautiful and dedicated to saving her country. Such a sad waste, and I think we will only realize in the aftermath of this event how important her influence was in keeping the lid on Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

Well said. And your closing lines hit right in the heart.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


She was quite an amazing lady. The world is much poorer without her.

So sad.

katrice said...

She was on the cover of Parade magazine in this Sunday's paper. Her last interview was published within. It was chilling.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


The magazine had already gone to press when she was assassinated.

I was especially struck by her relating her last conversation with her father before he was executed in which he said, "You can walk away. You're young. You can go to live in London or Paris or Geneva."

She responded, "No, I have to keep up this mission of yours, of democracy."