Monday, December 31, 2007

Bhutto's son and husband take the helm of her party

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- Acting in accordance with her last wishes, Benazir Bhutto's party Sunday named her 19-year-old son as its ceremonial leader and her widowed husband as the executor of its day-to-day affairs as violence that had flared in Pakistan after her assassination subsided.

The decision to bypass experienced senior politicians in the party hierarchy showed the slain opposition leader's steely determination to posthumously ensure the continuation of one of the country's most enduring political dynasties, even though her son is too young to run for office and her husband is shadowed by corruption allegations.

Bhutto was only 25 when her politician father, facing execution at the hands of a military dictator, told her he wanted her to carry on his life's work.

The party's move, three days after his mother's assassination, thrust into the spotlight Bilawal Zardari, a young man whom Bhutto had kept out of the public eye as much as possible during an upbringing that took place almost exclusively outside Pakistan.

Dark-haired, slender and composed, the Oxford history student bears a striking resemblance, both in looks and demeanor, to his mother. That has drawn comparisons by some to the public emergence of Britain's Prince William upon the death of a mother he too greatly resembled, Princess Diana.

Underscoring the weight of legacy, Bhutto's son, who has two younger sisters, was introduced at a news conference in his ancestral village of Naudero as Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the first public use of his maternal surname.

"The party's long struggle for democracy will continue with renewed vigor," he said, speaking in even-toned, lightly British-accented English. "My mother always said democracy is the best revenge."

Although there is generally warm sentiment toward Bilawal Zardari, his father is a far more polarizing figure. In the eyes of many of Bhutto's admirers, Asif Ali Zardari, whom she wed in an arranged marriage, has tarnished her legacy.

A Cabinet minister in Bhutto's two administrations as prime minister, Zardari subsequently spent eight years in prison on corruption charges. Although he has denied all allegations, so widespread was his reputation for taking kickbacks that he was known as "Mr. 10%."

In passing the political torch to Bhutto's son and husband, her Pakistan People's Party pointedly refrained from seeking any delay in the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place Jan. 8. The country's Election Commission, controlled by supporters of President Pervez Musharraf, is to announce a decision today about the timing of the vote.

Analysts said moving ahead swiftly with the polling would allow Bhutto's party to capitalize on what could be a large sympathy vote in addition to the party's already formidable voter base. That, they said, could more than make up for whatever organizational disadvantages the party would suffer due to disarray in the wake of its leader's death.

Because Bilawal cannot run for office until he is 25 and his father has said he will not seek a seat in parliament, the party's candidate for prime minister, in the event of victory, would probably be Bhutto's deputy, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who stood in for her during her years in exile.

With Bhutto's party saying it would run in the elections, the party of opposition leader Nawaz Sharif said it would almost certainly field candidates as well. Sharif, another former prime minister, had said after Bhutto was killed Thursday that his party would boycott the poll, but he also had previously reversed threats to sit out the contest when Bhutto's party refused to join in a boycott call.

Zardari said the party was determined to participate in the elections "despite this dangerous situation" because that was his late wife's wish. Emotional supporters invoked her name again and again, chanting, "Benazir, princess of heaven!"

Senior aides to Musharraf have indicated that the Election Commission would probably accede to the wishes of Bhutto's party in regard to the election date. It would be politically difficult for the government to force a delay if the other parties are prepared to go ahead, and if a lull in violence holds.

Sunday was the last of three days of government-decreed mourning for Bhutto; schools and offices are due to reopen today. The country was rocked by riots and looting almost from the moment her death was announced, with most of the violence concentrated in her hometown, Karachi, Pakistan's largest city.

The violence eased Sunday, but the death toll stood at nearly 50 and Karachi's streets were pockmarked with burned-out buildings and littered with the charred hunks of torched vehicles. Property damage ran into the many millions of dollars.

The Bush administration refrained from taking any position on the timing of the vote or the accession of Bhutto's son and husband, saying only that it hoped the polling would be free and fair.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Scott Stanzel, in Texas with President Bush, said, "It is up to the political parties of Pakistan to choose their leaders.

"We believe it is important for Pakistan to confront extremists and continue on the path to democracy by holding free and fair elections," he said. "The timing of those elections will be up to the Pakistanis."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Seeing Inside: Sight Versus Vision

Sight is the ability to see the physical world while vision is the gift of seeing beyond it. Sight enables us to take the physical world in so we can participate in it with knowledge. It brings us pleasure through our eyes, which perceive the colors and shapes of all the myriad expressions of nature and human beings. It helps us feel in control, allowing us to see what is coming toward us, which way we are going, and exactly where we are standing at a given moment. We are able to read signs and books, navigate the interiors of buildings with ease, sense and perceive how a person is feeling by the expressions that cross her face.

As anyone who has lost their eyesight can tell you, though, there are things that are clearer when you cannot see the world through your eyes. One of the reasons many meditation instructors advise sitting with the eyes closed is because we automatically become more in touch with our inner world when we are not distracted by the outer world. It is in this state that vision becomes our mode of seeing. Vision comes from within and shows us how to navigate the realms of thought, feeling, and emotion. It enables us to see things that aren’t yet manifested in the world of form, and it also connects us to that part of ourselves that exists separately from the world of form.

As we age, even those of us with perfect eyesight will generally lose some of our acuity, but this loss is usually replaced with inner vision. This is the time of life when we are meant to turn inside and take what are sometimes the very first steps of a journey that cannot be traced on a map. We call upon intuition and feel our way along a path that ultimately carries us beyond the realm we can see with our eyes and into the land of spirit

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Muhammad Ali

"He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life."

Muhammad Ali