Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Pinkie Bhutto

To those of you familiar with my other blogs, this post may seem a departure from my usual writing about the arts, but it isn't. Not really. I am in the midst of working on a mixed media installation about influential women in history....not just artists, but political figures, outstanding citizens and other notable women. My latest piece, in the wake of her assassination, is about Benazir Bhutto.

News clips have now confirmed that former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on December 27 by a gunman a split second before a suicide bomber blew himself up at the scene. Like most of the world, I was saddened, but not surprised. A number of newspaper reports stated that Bhutto told a supporter in the U.S. that if any harm came to her, Musharraf would be responsible for failing to provide adequate security. On many occasions, she had expressed concern for the lack of security provided to her. An attempt on her life had already been made under suspicious circumstances and there wasn't even an investigation of that event which killed 179 people. The government of General Musharraf absolutely refused to call in the investigators she had requested from Scotland Yard.

As I reflect on the tragedy of her untimely demise, I have a very different vision of Bhutto from most of the world.

I recall sitting in my now-deceased former father-in-law's luxurious Memorial Drive apartment in Cambridge looking through the family photo albums and seeing the face of a smiling, young Harvard student known back then simply as, "Pinkie". My then father-in-law was the assistant director of Middle Eastern studies at Harvard and her government professor. His wife, Anne, was Ms. Bhutto's adviser. During her time at Harvard, "Pinkie" became a family friend and attended teas and other family functions, often showing up one of her home made cakes. I remember one particular photograph of her at an Easter gathering, looking so young and full of hope. The family described her fondly as very intelligent and friendly, a beautiful, happy young woman who was a staunch defender of Pakistan.

The political situation in Pakistan has been steadily spiraling out of control since Zulfikar Ali Bhutto first came to power. Since then, there has been a succession of militarist dictators, coups, assassinations, judicial murders, and mayhem. Bushpal, Musharraf has now found himself in some serious trouble. His Ameripal had this to say:

"President Pervez Musharraf condemned the killing and urged people to remain calm so that the "nefarious designs of terrorists can be defeated."

...and, of course, the U.S. is beating the drum of al-Qaeda so hard, one can only wonder if Bushpal's comrads were somehow involved in helping with the assassination?? Sad this. The whole thing turns my stomach.

A skill acquired long ago, but honed more finely for me personally since mid-June of 2007, has been to use the power of art as a healing tool, to channel energies created by anger or pain into meaningful creation, so I sit here this morning with my sketchpad, feeling a little overwhelmed by the task in front of me. Even a small representation of this woman is a large personal responsibility. (I'm hard on myself like that.) ;-)

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Stacy Alexander