DUBAI // More than 100 grieving Pakistanis gathered at Benazir Bhutto's home in Dubai yesterday to pay their respects to the former Pakistani prime minister a year after she was assassinated. The mourners, some sobbing and clutching pictures of Bhutto, held a communal prayer and reminisced about her. Pakistanis from all walks of life in the UAE cooked traditional food at Bhutto's Emirates Hills doorstep. She lived there in self-imposed exile for nine years until she was killed in a suicide attack on Dec 27 last year, aged 54, two months after returning to her homeland to run for a third term as prime minister.
The mourners sat in her front garden and shared food while fighting back tears over the memory of the first female leader of a Muslim nation. Pictures of Bhutto's life were on display around a tent in the front garden, showing her as a strong-willed leader, as a mother and as an ordinary person in prayer. The mourners lit incense around a shrine and held a candlelight vigil. Bhutto, those present said, was still the guiding force for change in Pakistan and the Muslim world.
"She is one of the greatest leaders of the Muslim world, and the world is mourning such a loss and we hope what she started will carry on with her husband," said Javed Malik, the Pakistani ambassador at large. Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto's widower, is now the Pakistani president. "She is in all of us. This is why we are here, to pay our respect to a leader that sacrificed her life to Pakistan in order for change," Mr Malik told the mourners.
Bhutto's death shocked the world, and particularly the Pakistani community in the UAE. "For nine years she contributed to the Pakistani community in the Emirates," said Rashid Chughtai of the Pakistan Association Dubai. "The Bhutto home was open for all and she was very charitable. She was a mother, a daughter, a wife and a very good leader, and a lot more people got to know her. She was a big loss to the nation of Pakistan."
Bhutto's Dubai home is now empty. Her children spend much of the year at school in the UK. Sharwaz Ali, a businessman, drove from Abu Dhabi to take part in the prayers. "Her vision is high - a leader that could have united Pakistan," he said. Mohammed Saad, 14, spent his pocket money on a taxi ride from Deira to be part of the commemoration. "She was a great, inspiring person. She is probably the most popular Pakistani leader of all time. She is my favourite," Mohammed said.
Added Mr Malik: "It is an unfortunate feeling today, everyone is very sad. But together as a community we can get through this together. She still guides us from the grave." Bhutto is buried next to her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a former president and prime minister who was hanged in 1979 by the country's military regime. Her brothers, Shahnawaz and Murtaza, who died in violent circumstances, are also buried in the family tomb.