Benazir loved the idea and was one of the strongest supporters of the society. When I had her speak at the society, a female audience member stood up toward the end to ask a provocative question that seemed to turn into a speech: "How did you become prime minister in [a] traditional society, and why hasn't the United States elected a female president?" I politely interjected and said to the female questioner, "Madam, please allow the prime minister to answer the question and let others have the ability to also question the prime minister." Benazir then politely interrupted me and said "Joe, please let her finish her question. One woman knows how to talk to another woman." The audience rolled in laughter. Benazir believed in respect toward others, as she demonstrated in a humorous way at my expense!
Benazir could have chosen another road years ago. She could have easily been a model or anything she wanted to be. Nonetheless, she felt a higher calling to lead her nation. And she felt no terrorist or military dictator could defeat her. She was one of the first world leaders that Osama bin Laden tried to assassinate in the early 1990s. And when then General Musharraf, Pakistan's military ruler, flew to Dubai earlier in the summer to negotiate with her, she never backed down on her belief of a quick implementation of inalienable human rights. Before the meeting, Musharraf had said that he would only agree to the meeting if she kept it secret from her political party and the public, and that he would also withhold the information. Nevertheless, as soon as the supposedly secret talks began, Musharraf had one of his aides inform the press in order to embarrass Benazir with the public and her party loyalists. Musharraf then asked Benazir to deny that a meeting occurred, but she refused since truth was one of her mottoes. She told Musharraf that she was scheduled to fly to London, where there would be a lot reporters waiting at the gate. Musharraf asked what he should do. And in her clever and joking way, Benazir told an unamused Musharraf that perhaps he should do what the extremist religious leader at Islamabad's Red Mosque did when he was trying to escape a government assault—put on a burka to pose as a woman!
Benazir also had a unique quality of kindness and caring. She would always begin her E-mails with something encouraging similar to the November 14 note that said, "I thank u for the excellent advice. I felt quite empowered myself after reading it." And she would usually end all correspondence with best wishes to my wife and daughter. Many of the 160 million people in Pakistan and people from around the world also felt empowered by her. She was a natural who believed in achieving higher goals through her humanity. New York and the world have lost a true leader, whose memory and beliefs will be carried on by many. My heart is with the people of Pakistan, especially the Bhutto family: Asif, Bilawal, Bakhtwar, and Aseefa.
Joe Pascal was a close friend of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and is President of the Oxonian Society.