The UN General Assembly confers the prestigious UN Human Rights Award on the late Benazir Bhutto

Our heroes and heroines

ON Wednesday, the UN General Assembly conferred the prestigious UN Human Rights Award on the late Benazir Bhutto. Her son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, received the award from the UN Assembly chief Miguel D’Escoto Brockman. Benazir Bhutto deserved the award not because she was the Muslim world’s first woman prime minister but because of her struggle against Ziaul Haq’s military dictatorship. Although she was subjected to the trauma of her father’s judicial murder and the tragedy surrounding the death of her two brothers, her spirits were not dampened. Arrested several times, Benazir Bhutto was put in solitary confinement by Ziaul Haq for five years. She was persecuted by others after the general as well but astounded the world by returning home in triumph — only to be felled by an assassin. While the world honours Pakistan’s heroes and heroines, we ourselves hound, persecute and murder them for parochial and political reasons. Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister, was assassinated in the same park in Rawalpindi where Benazir Bhutto was killed 56 years later. Her father, who laid the foundation of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, was thrown into jail, maltreated and finally hanged after a morbid political drama in which some politicians acted as the military’s stooge.

We also know how Prof Abdus Salam, our first scientist to win a Nobel Prize — in fact the only recipient of the prestigious award from Pakistan — was unwelcome in this country. Prof Salam wanted an institute of theoretical physics set up in Pakistan, but bigots unhappy with his religious affiliations deprived the country of this honour which then went to Italy where an institute set up by him has benefited students who upon completion of their degree in higher physics go out to serve the world of science and their own countries. Pakistan has also produced heroes of international standard in cricket, hockey and squash — Jahangir Khan has just been given this status at the Olympic Museum. While the world honours our heroes, we must reflect on how we treat them.