The Leftist and The Leader

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An imagined conversation between Tariq Ali and Benazir Bhutto.

By Maniza Naqvi

Act I: The Leftist and the Leader:

Scene/Stage: There is a screen at the back of the stage which plays the clip, of General Zia-ul-Haq, declaring Martial Law, on July 5, 1977.

When the speech ends, two spot lights have searched, found and trained themselves on two people on the stage. Two actors playing Tariq Ali and Benazir Bhutto stand a couple of feet apart from each other. They are a young Tariq Ali, in jeans and a young Benazir Bhutto also in jeans. Tariq Ali, stands, legs apart, and grabs his head in anger and frustration. Benazir crouches—holds her head and then reaches out her arms as though reaching for someone in grief and pain.

TA: Arghhhhhhhhhhh

BB: ———Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh.

Stage darkens.

Lights go up. In the middle of the stage, there are two podiums at a short distance from one another. Tariq Ali stands at one and Benazir at the other. Benazir wears a white dupatta covering her head –and a green colored shalwar-kameez. Tariq Ali is dressed the same way as before, in jeans. They have their backs to the audience and they face two screens at the back of the stage. In the foreground there is a single chair.

The screen in front of Benazir shows one of her typical political rallies. There are massive jubilant crowds of people waving banners and chanting slogans. The screen in front of Tariq Ali shows either a clip of a talk, or Tariq Ali leading the February 2003 anti war demonstrations.

There is the sound of people cheering and shouting her name. Her fists punch the air she makes movements that show that she is delivering an impassioned speech. There are cheers and slogans in both crowds. Benazir and Tariq Ali turn away from the screens and look at the audience and then turn around to face each other. They stand for a moment just looking at each other. Benazir adjusts her dupatta, in her characteristic way with both her hands. She moves forward away from the podium waving. A flash goes off-from a camera—then another and another. With each pop of the flash, the sound gets louder, till it segues into the sounds of explosions and gunshots.

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Tariq Ali on his side of the stage instinctively ducks. Sound dies. Silence.

Benazir stands straight and still——She leaves the podium and makes her way to a chair in the foreground of the stage. Tariq Ali, shakes his head as he watches her go. He stays where he is but reaches out one arm in a futile gesture of trying to reach out to catch her. Then he stands his head bowed for a moment (a longish moment) before he looks across at her. He approaches her and stands gazing at her. She looks at him.

TA: Take that damn thing of your head, will you. Why do you wear it?

BB: (She looks at him slides it back from her head and smiles, and says in a forlorn voice): I’m afraid they won’t recognize me without it.

TA: Would you?

BB: You have the white head of hair—I have the white scarf—Moses and the Madonna.

Tariq_ali_140x140TA: Laughs.

BB: Why don’t you cut that gorgeous shock of white hair– that instant gravitas? And while you’re at it, shave the macho moustache!

TA: You know what I mean.

BB: No, I don’t! It’s branding—It makes us look wise. Virtuous. Interesting—Believable. Worship-able. Adorable.

TA: Hypocrisy. Tarting it up.

BB: Tarting it up! (she laughs) Yes! The camera loves it—Loves me! Just as much me as it does you. Am I right? C’mon give me this. You know I’m on to something. Tariq, there were thousands of people marching with you when you got started in University in Lahore and then back in 1967 when you protested against the Vietnam war outside the American Embassy in London. How come it’s your photographs that are its icons? Why not someone else’s photo?

TA: (grins) Hmmm You could be—–, right, well yes, you could be. Alright. Right.

BB: Tell me, don’t you worry just a bit that if you were to go bald-they may not listen?

TA: laughs……

BB: Let’s face it we’re brilliant….and beautiful.010bhuttosplit_468x524

TA: snorts.

BB: We’ve changed. I’ve grown old. And so have you.

TA: You’ve changed.

BB: From the first time we met?

TA: You were just a kid then……..

BB: Yes—but I had to grow up fast.

TA: Your father's death transformed you. It was something. You had become a new person, determined to take on the military dictator of that time.

BB: Yes.

TA: Remember that tiny flat in London? Where we would endlessly discuss the future of the country?

BB: Remember all the tea I made and the keema?

TA: I gave you lectures. And, you agreed with everything I said. You agreed that land reforms, mass education programs, a health service and an independent foreign policy were positive constructive aims and crucial if the country was to be saved from the vultures in and out of uniform. I was proud of you. The poor were proud of you.

BB: They are proud of me. Yes, they are so proud of me. They are my constituency. The Poor! And I am proud of that.

TA: You were so proud of that fact. You should have been.BenazirBhutto

BB: I still am!

TA: Then you changed again. You became Prime Minister.

BB: Yes. Wasn’t that something! That first time! (She touches her duputta, smoothens her kameez) That was something.

TA: Yes, that was something. You changed—you forgot.610x

BB: All these complaints! Such numerous complaints Tariq!The world had changed. We must not be on the wrong side of history. I wasn’t going to make that mistake—the same mistake.

TA: Why are you so afraid? Why do you say you can’t be on the wrong side” of history?

BB: Washington! That’s why! —Washington makes the rules. They decide history! Arrogance won’t do! They make horrible examples of those that defy them. I learnt that. You know that. Remember what Kissinger said to my father? For his defiance of Washington? “We will make a horrible example of you!” I must make peace with them, Tariq. If, we are to rule? Everyone has, the Russians have for gods-sakes, the Chinese have. Gaddafi has—Arafat had! And you—you Tariq! You seem to have made your peace—Given your calendar and lecture circuit—you seem to be all over America. So, then why not me?

TA: I’m not speaking in Washington!

BB: Same difference! And you will be. It’s a matter of time.

TA: Please! You should have had courage Benazir!

BB: Courage!

TA Yes! Courage!—Courage to not make a deal. It was political suicide!.

BB: How many times have I told you, how many times must I tell you I don’t fear death. And what you call deals—those are just a way to move the process forward—There is nothing to be gained by these lines drawn in the sand.

TA: You should have been afraid, Benazir—it would have kept you in good stead.

BB: Tell me Tariq have you ever even been to jail? Not even in your university days in Pakistan? Am I right? Never been to jail, even? For all, the Leftist dangerous talk? —How? Ah yes! Of course the uncle, the one who was the head of the intelligence agency! Connections! And you grudge me mine! Of course mine took me to jail all the time. Well that explains something.

TA: That’s unfair and not true!

BB: Really? Wouldn’t they have ended you a long time ago, if it were not true. Never mind. But if you had gone to jail—like I had, Tariq—-and survived—you would not be afraid. You would be like me. Being in jail, that way—well—Death becomes just another day. It’s a good cure for cowards.

TA: What? Jail?

BB: Yes. And, of course, death. Death, cures all cowards.

TA: What you consider a coward —-could be a brave person. Cowardice is not a vice. It’s wisdom.

BB: Convenient for you to say that. The brave, Tariq are killed. The brave…..

TA: You go on about being brave. The world will go on and on about your being brave. But all that you are…..All—–You are selfish and you are wrong.

BB: Selfish? Wrong? It must be cozy sitting in your flat–writing about this and writing abut that. Mostly this. (She gestures, to the frozen image of a rally on the screen behind her).

TA: Yes this. Though, nothing cozy about that. Struggle—–Struggle—- is difficult.

BB: Really? What struggle would that be?–Lectures, speeches, street marches—protest marches—demonstrations, book readings?


TA: Struggle…

BB: Struggle. Try watching your father tried and executed! Try seeing your mother wounded! Try a jail! Try being raped! Try seeing two brothers dead! Murdered! Try being accused! Try being threatened all the time, try that! Try getting killed!

TA is silent.

BB: Now don't go silent on me—How am I supposed to respond to your silence–you have to oppose me! Say something! If you don't how can I respond? How can I rise to the occasion?

TA: How can you shine…

BB: Oh dear friend! Do you think I need You—in order for me to shine—

TA: You had such promise–you could have done so much more than to be just an Icon.

BB: Icon? It's been your lifelong—what is it that you called it, yes, struggle—your struggle to be an icon.

TA: You could have been a politician of great possibilities.

BB: I am a great politician. You do not know, Tariq, what politics means, what it is! It is the art of the possible.

TA: And how did that work out for you? If you had struggled, if you had had the patience for struggle.

BB: Do not presume to preach to me about struggle!….Anti war demonstrations, sloganeering in central London–that's struggle?

TA: See–just listen to yourself—can you hear yourself—the tone—-You can't get past your arrogance! It’s in the bloodline.

BB: And your's? Can you hear yourself? Don’t preach to me about bloodlines—yours are as blue blooded as mine.

TA: Far more, I’m sure, my lady, then yours.

BB: I am a leader—not a bleeding heart leftist Trotsykite, International Marxist Group; swanning around at World Forums with your misguided pride in a history not your own—lamenting under the shadow of a pomegranate tree–you think you are the Marxist Salahidin—–The Rolling Stones write a song about you—

TA: Sorry that Candle in the Wind has already been done—

BB: How dare you compare me to Marilyn Monroe!

TA: The rewrite for Diana is what I was going for..

BB: Grow up!

TA: When you do..your Highness.

BB: (hurt) Is that what you think?

TA: Well dynasties usually do require that don't they?

BB: Ah yes—the leftist sarcasm.

TA: I come from a communist family–

BB: And a few military officers too. Intelligence? Right? Uncle was the head of intelligence? Right? In fact, yes. I know.

TA: What does that have to do with me?

BB: You seem to have no problem about talking about my feudal background! Holding my background, my associations against me!

TA: Well, you are right, I have a few of those in my family. I am sure you do too…You must have some who are in the military or intelligence…

BB: As a matter of fact, Tariq, no I don’t. No, military in my family. Just those who the military murders. A drawback you see of Sindhis—don’t go into the military much. Pity—-otherwise I doubt that two Prime Ministers would’ve been killed and flown back to Sindh…..

TA: Yes–but that's the family business isn't it —bloodletting is required to be a Bhutto. You are nothing but a spoilt girl with lots of courage, convent educated, sent off to Oxford, Wellesley–the little princess–riding on your Dad's coat tails and Dad's money to get you through.

BB: And you are nothing but a spoilt boy—living in Highgate and talking about the proletariat!—Exeter, Oxford. How did you manage that, what were you doing? Were you paying your way through school? Please we are Pakistanis upper crust! The Left is a luxury. Jealous that I was President of the Oxford Debating team too? Not just you?

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TA: That's just the role for us–gift of the gab Pakis. The gift of the gab got us Pakistan. Thanks to the great big eloquence of a lawyer—Jinnah. And the gift of the gab got your father killed.

BB: Perhaps. But don't sit in judgment of me.

TA: How can I not? Every single decision of yours—steeped in stupidity.

BB: Stupidity? Stupidity! That’s what you are saying to me……

TA: Yes! Tell me what will you be known for? For, ALL, your arranged marriages!

BB: Correction! Marriage! In case you didn’t notice—I married for keeps.

TA: I noticed that fatal flaw of yours. And yes, I meant exactly what I said: arranged marriages. Marriages. The one arranged by the creeps you kept around you—the hideous deal with a military dictator and with Washington DC and their neo-cons. And the arranged marriage with that two bit feudal buffoonish thug!

BB: Yes, it was arranged. It was what was expected of me. It was arranged!

TA: Can you hear yourself–You who is supposed to be the leader for choice–for democracy! Trying to sound like a helpless girl.

BB: I married out of a sense of duty! I think with my head and my heart not with my …not with my….

TA: Dick? Still the convent girl, I see can’t bring herself to even utter a naughty word can you?

BB:…..and he is younger too–I break the norms NOT you.

TA: What?

BB: Oh c'mon–tell me how old is your latest one—24 years younger then you?—Its all ideology is it? Older man–girl child for consort . Do you know how many men out there—are like you—arm chair revolutionaries sending others to their deaths and preying on the simpering swooning school girls. Please! You talk about conviction—I married for conviction. You can't do anything for it–you use it–for the Babes.

TA: Well that's below the belt!

BB: Oh please don't make it so easy. And a feminist too, I bet! Has to be! Because nothing attracts a feminist more than a solid misogynist.

TA: Speak for yourself and She IS Leftist—

BB: And what makes you think my husband isn't PPP? I can just see you and your woman—the great ideal partnership of virtue a bunch of feminists and misogynists having great sex on the fundamental principle that opposites attract. When the only thing they have in common is arrogance towards others and hatred of everyone else!

TA: Right and you and that thug you’ve married—have mandates and manifestos in common? Please–if you think it was bread, clothing and shelter—that whole sloganeering jargon of roti, kapra or makan—that he was thinking of when he married you. You are right it was—Minister of Investments indeed!

BB: Is that' all you think of me?

TA: That's not the point.

BB: Who should I have married?

TA: Anyone–an activist, a journalist, a teacher, anyone, someone older, wiser–someone not interested in personal gain–

BB: Who would have married me? Huh? Who would have married me?

TA: silent.

BB: Someone in my position…..

TA: Your position?–What was that? –Are you saying that you being a rich feudal; that in that position, you could not marry beneath you? You mean—-

BB: No. Who should I have married—Tariq—–Who would have married me? (Plaintive voice)

TA: Oh please! You could have done anything you wanted–

BB: You?

TA: Me?

BB: Did you ever…

TA: (Pause) Did I ever?—- Of course! I always have done what I wanted.

BB: I don't even know what that means–I wanted–I did what I was asked to do.

TA: That's stupid.

BB: No, Tariq. That's brave.

TA: That’s ridiculous! Brave? You shouldn’t have married at all! That would have been brave.

BB: And then how would I have been the leader in Pakistan? An unmarried “girl” most had heard of all sorts of stories around my treatment in jail—my character—I don’t have to explain this to you…..

TA: You were the leader—the moment He died…you showed your steel.

BB: I thought you were against dynasties….

TA: You were more than that.

BB: I thought just now we were talking about marriage.

TA: I’m talking about your responsibility to the party.

BB: I married the party.

TA: Nonsense! I’m talking about creating Political organizations

BB: What political organization do you have? I have the PPP

TA: I have the Left…

BB: —Oh please leave it be…The Left has left!…..I have people, I have my father's name, my own name in my own right–I have everything that I suffered for, that I sacrificed for.

TA: You have destroyed it all for the future—

BB: I have destroyed it? I have destroyed it? Have you forgotten Zia!

TA: I’ll give you that and for that time of political crisis—You were necessary. The Bhutto name was necessary—But, to be dependent on a person or a family may be necessary at certain times, but it is a structural weakness, not a strength for a political organization.

BB: I am human–it is my strength.

TA: I am not merely talking about you!

BB: What are you talking about? You? You are nothing–a political organization? Is that what you are?

TA: You don't get it, do you?

BB: I've got it! Parties are not run the way you think they are—

TA: Pakistan needs…..

BB: Me. You don’t know Pakistan—you know Trotsky and the streets of London —and classrooms and publishing houses. Ideologies—Tariq—are done. They are there—and they are on shelves catching dust. You need a person to make an idea come alive.

TA: Ideas….

BB: I am an idea!—I am an ideology!—Bhutto! You go on about Marx and Trotsky. Well, I am Bhutto! I am Bhuttoism.. That means something. If it didn’t then why is the PPP important! Go start another party!—Take the PPP manifesto! —Go ahead! Have your democratic internal elections! Pick someone to run that party. Let’s see how far you get without the Bhutto name. See how far you get. As long as there is memory in Pakistan—Bhutto will mean something. It will mean leader. Leadership. Commitment-Conviction—cause! I am a leader—I show by example. I live by principle—I die for my principle. What do you do? What do you do but persecute me? That is your single idea—the persecution of leaders.

TA: …and then there is the matter of the murder of Murtaza

BB: So you can’t intellectually or morally stand up to what I just said—and instead you come back with that? –You accuse me of my brother’s death? I was devastated!

TA: I am sure you were–is that why the inquiry was stopped?

BB: God preserve you and keep you from ever facing the death of family Tariq.

TA: Oh don't be coy with me! You’ve lost your way…lost your principles.

BB: It must be so good, Tariq—-so good, to have principles as your true and only family. God preserve you from ever seeing the death of them. I won’t even wish the death of your principles upon you!

TA: You have a good turn of phrase. You know that! I give you that.

BB: I'll give you that too.

TA: You should have stood on principle and never taken power in 1988. Compromised that way with the military calling all the shots.

BB: I had to take a chance.

TA: You could see they wouldn't let you rule.

BB: I had to give it a chance. Keep the process moving forward.

TA: Moving forward! You killed the party.

BB: I gave it life–

TA: You became nothing but a pregnant, fat–wife.

BB: Prime Minister! The first woman Prime Minister in a Muslim Country.

TA: Yes! Oh yes, that! Perpetually, pregnant , prime minister. P-P-P indeed.

BB: I am human!! And Pakistani…

TA: Oh don't…give me….

BB: Pakistani!

TA: And the corruption….the cases!

BB: All fabricated lies—–not a single case proven!

TA: Not a single case proven?? Are you in a state of denial still!

BB: All propaganda—all misinformation—all character assassinations!

TA: Prove it!

BB: I did! I have! Do you think I needed to come back—If I was so rich—and if that’s what it was about—diamond necklaces and estates in England—do you think I needed that! If that’s what it was all about—then we had made all the money we needed—why come back!

TA: For more!—And because you are nothing but a political animal.

BB: You are calling me names. Is that what I came back for? Ask yourself? Try being honest? Try not to be glib—and gloss over the facts—–Is that what I was? Corrupt? I know one thing Tariq. I will be known for myself. And you, Tariq, you will be known for writing about my father and me.

TA: I am known for other things.

BB: You would be nothing if it were not your eternal whining about whether we would survive.

TA: Whether Pakistan would survive—not whether you would survive.

BB: Same difference! And you know it!

TA: You could have been so much. But you lacked the political courage to defy Washington.

BB: There you go again!I lacked courage?

TA: You had plenty of physical courage, and you did refuse to be cowed down by threats from local opponents. But political courage—–

BB: That’s what counts. Courage.

TA: No!—No, not without wisdom it counts for much less! You are a tragedy born of military despotism and anarchy.

BB: I am.

TA: You are too—-but I was talking about Pakistan.

BB: Same thing.


TA: There will be despair now. But the PPP must be democratically rebuilt.

BB: It has a central executive committee.

TA: Most of them most of your PPP inner circle consists of spineless timeservers leading frustrated and melancholy lives.

BB: There you go, with that talent for turning a phrase. They were faithful to my father—they have paid a heavy price.

TA: That is no excuse. Benazir, the party could be transformed if inner-party democracy was implemented. There is a tiny layer of incorruptible and principled politicians inside the party, but they have been sidelined. Dynastic politics is a sign of weakness, not strength.

BB: But look at the Nehru family—look at the Kennedys—look at the Clintons, the Bushes—Look at Bandernaike, Look at….Ang Sang Sui Chi….

TA: You are fond of comparing your family to the Kennedys, but you chose to ignore that the Democratic Party, despite an addiction to big money, was not the instrument of any one family.

BB: It’s getting dark in here, Tariq—Won’t you light a candle for me?

(Tariq Ali reaches into his breast pocket—gets a candle and match).

TA: I must get to the writing.

BB: Go on Tariq, light it.

(Tariq Ali goes back up to the podium. He turns towards the crowd on the backstage screen.)


TA: What has happened is a multilayered tragedy. It's a tragedy for a country on a road to more disasters. Torrents and foaming cataracts lie ahead. ….(pause). And it is a personal tragedy. (Falters)—–The house of Bhutto has lost another member. Father, two sons and now————– a daughter have all died unnatural deaths. My heart bleeds. (Pause). For Pakistan. Because it deserves better than this –she dies and leaves the party to her husband and her son—It’s a grotesque feudal charade. …(He walks back towards Benazir and stands besides her). The Pakistan People's Party is being treated as a family heirloom, a property to be disposed of at the will of its leader. Nothing more, nothing less. Poor Pakistan. Poor People's Party supporters. Both deserve better than this disgusting, medieval charade.

BB: You want to stop this? You think the Bhutto name means nothing to the people of Pakistan? You think we are just individuals who lived and died? —-Nothing more? Well go start a party—take the PPP manifesto—have your democratic internal party elections do that—see what happens. See if you can defeat my memory. See if you can defeat my father’s memory.

TA: Why should anyone forget your father? Or you? Remembering and ruining are not the same thing. Such a horrific death should give everyone pause for reflection. Horrific death. To be dependent on a person….

BB: Now what will you do without me?

TA: To be dependent on a person or a family may be necessary at certain times, but it is a structural weakness,

BB: Go ahead Tariq, shed a tear; …after all….

TA: To be dependent is not a strength for a political organization. A political organization—that’s what I’m talking about.

BB: You're talking about me Tariq. Shed a tear….

TA: The People's party needs to be re-founded as a modern and democratic organization, open to honest debate and discussion, defending social and human rights, uniting the many disparate groups and individuals in Pakistan desperate for any halfway decent alternative, and coming forward with concrete proposals to stabilize occupied and war-torn Afghanistan. This can and should be done. The Bhutto family should not be asked for any more sacrifices.

BB: Is that what we have to do? Then go ahead and do it. Just go ahead. Meet somewhere with all your right minded leftists and do it. Form that ideal party. Go ahead Tariq shed a tear….For now shed a tear.

TA: How can Pakistan today be anything but a conflagration of despair?

BB: Is that all you will say—how can Pakistan—democracy. What about me? Shed a tear Tariq. Stop attacking me. Shed a tear.

TA: You are a silly woman. You do not understand. The issue of democracy is enormously important in a country that has been governed by the military for over half of its life. Pakistan is not a “failed state” It is a dysfunctional state and has been in this situation for almost four decades.

BB: Ok so not a failure, just dysfunctional. All political. Nothing personal Tariq? Cry a little. Cry a little for me.

TA: You are DEAD!

BB: Yes. It was unavoidable. Leaders must live by example.

TA: All this could have been avoided, but the deadly angel who guided you when you were alive who was, alas, not too concerned with democracy. And now he is in effect the leader of the party.

BB: You will see—all that will pass.

TA: At the heart of this dysfunctionality is the domination by the army and each period of military rule has made things worse. It is this that has prevented political stability and the emergence of stable institutions. Here the US bears direct responsibility, since it has always regarded the military as the only institution it can do business with and, unfortunately, still does so. This is the rock that has focused choppy waters into a headlong torrent. Meanwhile there is a country in crisis.

BB: You are in crisis too.

TA: It has now been made public that, when you asked the US for a Karzai-style privately contracted former US Marine bodyguards, the suggestion was contemptuously rejected by the Pakistan government, which saw it as a breach of sovereignty.

BB: And if I had Blackwater guards,—If, I had actually gotten them—-what would you have said? You, who is now accusing me of everything from corruption to dynastic ambitions. You would have been the first to have screamed accusations at me— of bringing in Blackwater guards—neo liberalism and neo colonialism, you would have howled in protest, all bloody murder! I would have never heard the end of it!

TA: But that was a done deal!—I was already screaming at you!—-After that what did it matter how much I screamed! You should have gotten the guards! You would have been alive! You stupid cow! You should have protected yourself! If you had made the deal then why didn’t you get the guards! Why did you think you could survive if you didn’t go the whole package!

BB: That’s something you will have to live with—If I made a deal then why didn’t I get the guards? So what deal did I make? Why didn’t I get the guards? Could it be that I was always true and faithful? Could it be that I would choose being amongst by own people in my own land, facing everything courageously even if it would be for just a fleeting moment, that I would chose that over a lifetime-a long, long life of distance and fear? Could that be true? Could it be that I had no other way of being? That, perhaps this was all that I knew how to be? Could it be that I knew something Tariq, that you will never know? Do you think that I thought that I would survive? Ask yourself Tariq. Don’t ask me. Cry! You are in a crisis.

TA: You made a deal. That’s that! I won’t have it any other way. It makes perfect sense. You were simply double crossed. And now we are here. In this mess. A solution to the crisis is available. This would require Mr Musharraf's replacement by a less contentious figure, an all-party government of unity to prepare the basis for genuine elections within six months, and the reinstatement of the sacked Supreme Court judges to investigate your murder without fear or favor. It would be a start. Who murdered you?!

BB: It won’t bring me back, Tariq. Light that candle. Who murdered me? Some will blame me for my death—The deal I should not have made. The SUV sun roof—that I shouldn’t have popped my head out of. And the photographer, the American photographer the one right in front of my car? You know the one whose lens I could not resist? Some will say I was dying for a photo op—And then Tariq some will say, I had to prove YOU wrong—-So think about that. The Left, sends people to their death, people who want to earn YOUR respect. When all you do is abuse and heap accusations, calling people corrupt, fat, arrogant, liars, disappointments. Leaders are those who don’t disappoint the Left. Leaders never disappoint the Left. Leaders are those who act. The Left just reacts. The Left writes, reads, and is READ. Leaders act, do, die. Tell me Tariq did you ever suffer? Did you ever go to jail? Did you?–Remind me—when—for how long? But tell me Tariq, how many did you send to their jail sentences? To their deaths? How many died reading you? So Tariq, I lead—-You are read. Live Tariq. Live long—with that. And this.

TA: Selfish and wrong—that’s what you are. So many choices to do things differently and you didn’t.

BB: No Tariq—you have that wrong—I am a leader I have no choices. You think that leaders have choices? They have none. They are where they are because they give up the luxury of having choices. What choices did I have? We are all where we are because of who we are! Some may be able to choose. Should I have chosen after my father’s hanging?—It was not possible you see. You know that. If I had a choice I wouldn’t have been the leader—through that dark night of hopelessness. I stepped up to a duty. Even you needed me. You weren’t hanging out with me then because I was unimportant, unneeded. I was needed to lead and I did. If I had choice—I would have been something else. I was and I am, who I am. I am my father’s daughter. I may not have been anything else, but that much no one will ever doubt. And when I see him in heaven and when he asks me what I did—I’ll say to him “Like you, my beloved father, I left them weeping for me. That’s what leaders do Tariq, they leave you to weep.

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Act II: The Leftist and the Left

Stage: A mound of rose petals—six feet in length and two feet in width. A man and a woman weep at its edges—The man puts his arms across the mound and lies prostrate weeping and sobbing in convulsions. Tariq leans against a pillar of the mausoleum watching him weep. Then he walks around the grave and comes back and leans against the pillar again.

TA: Oh! Stop weeping!

The Weeper: What do you mean stop weeping—I will weep till the end of my days—they’ve killed her—they’ve taken away our only hope.

TA: What did she ever give you beyond hope—you need jobs, you need self respect, you need education!

The Weeper: Without her—there is no hope for that! They have taken away my hope for all that!—She was my leader, she was my hope, she was everything. We have no choice, nothing, nothing left but to weep.

TA: Have some hope!

The Weeper: Hope! Hope? She was my faith—Her father was my faith—My hope. Bhutto is our political religion—This place, is my political Kaaba.

TA: Oh for gods-sake!

Benazirvigil1The Weeper: All my life as long as I live I will pray for her—I will pray for her father!

TA: You have a choice—either you can lie there in this pathetic manner—weeping and sobbing over her grave—with nothing gained other than a futile, meaningless exhibition of grief and loyalty for the dead—Or you can get up and bring a meaningful change. Its your decision—do you want Pakistan to be ruled by the dead—from the grave—those who were murdered?—-Or do you want to rule Pakistan and make sure that murderers are put away—and that this place, this land rejoices, instead of being steeped in these useless painful rivers of tears? Decide. Make your choice.

More Writing by Maniza Naqvi