Friday, December 28, 2007

Pakistan, Passion and Prayers

I was away for the day yesterday and only heard the news of Benazir Bhutto's death as we drove home. I was saddened and disappointed but it wasn't really a surprise (which made it even sadder). It's very hard for us here in cosy Eaglescliffe to understand or appreciate the passion which politics can arouse in people elsewhere. Pakistan is a country which was born from a struggle, had further problems leading to the division into modern Pakistan and Bangladesh, but has grown into a modern, mainly muslim, struggling towards being democratic nation. No, it isn't perfect but then nor is the UK nor anywhere else. Yes, it has some persecuted minorities and I and many others will work with agencies like Amnesty International to try to see that improve. It has a leader who seems very reluctant to hand over to anyone else but we've lived through that here in recent years! Thank God Tony it wasn't a military dictatorship. Its political parties don't yet have anything approaching internal democracy. And, sadly, it has a small minority of people who are prepared to commit murder to achieve their aims. I hope our government and others will support the people of Pakistan to put that right.
On the positive side there are thousands of people prepared to turn out to political rallies, march through the streets and try to persuade others to vote for their favourite candidate. That's a passion we've lost here (apart from when we tried to persuade Mr Blair not to join the invasion of Iraq and such single issue moments). Perhaps we should watch Pakistan and try to rediscover some of the passion without resorting to violence.
Meanwhile, my prayers are with the people of Pakistan and their relatives and friends in this country as they try to come to terms with yesterday's horrible event. The Bhutto family and friends are suffering a second tragedy through politics, but other families lost loved ones in yesterday's incident - ordinary men and women who went to hear a politician speak and were blown up in the aftermath of her death. Ordinary families who don't have a mother or a father or a brother or sister this morning, who maybe now are wondering who's going to earn the money for next week's food or clothes. Whatever Western leaders, including our own, say or do over these weeks, I hope they think long and hard before saying it so as not to make a tense situation worse.

Benazir Bhutto - rest in peace. May your country survive this tragedy and come out the other end stronger and more at peace with itself.

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