Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Sacrificial Lamb? Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Assumes Figurative Leadership in Pakistan Politics

Perhaps it is a seasonal reflex to superimpose a story of martyrdom onto the chain of recent events in Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto’s 19-year-old son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, has been named the figural head of the Pakistan People’s Party, following the assassination of his mother, a former prime minister, on Dec. 27. He will finish his studies at Oxford University, while his father, Asif Zardari, manages party affairs in Pakistan. Democratic elections have been postponed, as violence in the wake of Bhutto's death is quelled.

Naming Bilawal party leader seems shockingly like offering the sacrifice of an innocent, as in ancient blood religions. I hesitate to call them primitive religions, because what could be more primitive than the religion-driven bloodbath that engulfs the Middle East and inflames global poltics? Storm Warning's question: Benawal Bhutto stepping forward (or pushed?) pithily expresses my concern.

Young Bhutto has witnessed the death of his mother to political gunmen. His grandfather Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the first democratically elected president of Pakistan, was hanged in 1979 when ousted by a military dictator. His maternal uncles, Benazir’s brothers, "died in mysterious and violent circumstances," according to Griff Witte of The Washington Post.

His father has been tortured and his mother was jailed on charges of corruption, before the family fled the country in self-imposed exile. Benazir had returned in October to run for office, stating that she felt that was her mission despite the risk to her life. Currently, Bilawal is not old enough to run for office in Pakistan anyway.

I am not very brave, so if it were me, I would say – Thanks but no thanks. I’ve spent a good deal of my life in England, and I think I’ll just go on living a reasonably comfortable life here and let you folks in Pakistan have it out.

That is not the sentiment of Bhutto, however. News reports are abuzz this morning with statements he posted on a Facebook site. "My time to lead with come," he reportedly claims.

Only youth, with its intimations of immortality, can rush headlong into gunfire, which is why old men send young men to war. Realistic perceptions of risk are an area of the brain that is slow to develop.

When I view from afar the lives of people in the public eye, I am glad for my own ordinary, ordinary life. I would not wanted to be Princess Diana, even if she had not died such a tragic, senseless death. The densely-packed public schedule and required smiles would be too stressful for me. I have read that Oprah Winfrey gets up at 5 or 6 a.m. to exercise and works until after 11 p.m. planning her programs. Are these people on methedrine? Where do they get this energy, focus, and determination?

Already, young Bhutto will live under 24-hour armed guard in England, which seems sensible but certainly not the life of an ordinary student. For now, Benawal is, hopefully, safe studying history, watching Buffy reruns and eating junk food, accroding to his self-report. I wish him well, and I hope he survives public scrutiny and lives to a peaceful old age.

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