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Posts Tagged BENAZIR

Why would Zardari tell me, a fourteen-year-old girl, that my father had been shot if it had been serious?


Mumtaz Bhutto Arrested, Protests Continue

January 4, 2009 by Kalsoom

On Saturday, Sindh National Frontleader Mumtaz Bhutto was put under house arrest in Larkana [in Sindh province] for “allegedly ordering his workers to attack on the office of a Sindhi newspaper,” reported GEO News. He reportedly was later taken into custody in Karachi. Pakistani news agency cited reports that stated the workers of SNF had attacked the office of a local daily, the Awami Awaaz, and a case was registered against Mumtaz Bhutto in this connection. A separate GEO News piece noted that SNF members allegedly “ransacked” the newspaper office and “gave threats of life to the staff because the newspaper did not carry a column written by Mumtaz Bhutto.”

Unknown-10images-19However, reported Dawn, the SNF has denied the allegations, saying the arrest of Bhutto was a case of “political victimization.” Ameer Baksh Bhutto, Mumtaz’s son, told the news agency, “My father is being victimized for criticizing Asif Ali Zardari…SNF workers visited the newspaper’s office in a goodwill gesture and complained that the newspaper is not giving due coverage to the party. The government has found an excuse to pursue its undemocratic agenda.” Mumtaz Bhutto also spoke to Dawn newspaper, alleging that the government had been planning to arrest him for a long time because “he was the only person who had openly been talking about unmasking Benazir Bhutto’s killers.” Mumtaz reportedly asserted, “The killers of Mir Murtaza Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto are the same,” [given that several members of the Bhutto family allege that Zardari had been behind Murtaza’s death, Mumtaz’s parallel is therefore a loaded statement].

As news of the arrest spread, Larkana was reportedly partially closed as protests were held in various towns near the city. According to GEO Television, “The workers of the SNF staged a protest…[after] which police used teargas and baton-charged them, injuring two people. People belonging to the Bhutto clan held a protest demonstration in front of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto shrine.” According to Dawn, Mumtaz’s son, Ameer Baksh Bhutto, who is also vice-chairman of  the SNF, condemned the arrest in a press conference today and asserted “it would not deter the party from highlighting injustices against Sindh and ‘revealing the truth about the murders of Mir Murtaza and Benazir Bhutto.’”

The arrest yesterday further highlighted the deep fissures within the Bhutto family. Mumtaz Bhutto is the first cousin of Benazir Bhutto‘s father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was both the president and prime minister of Pakistan in the 1970s, [he was executed by hanging for conspiracy to murder a political opponent in 1979]. Mumtaz is also the chief of the 700,000-strong [according to The Times] Bhutto tribe and was a former federal minister, Governor of Sindh, and Chief Minister of Sindh. However, although Mumtaz had been a founding member of thePakistan People’s Party [PPP], Benazir Bhutto reportedly “sacked” him due to a policy disagreement when she took over the leadership of the party in 1984.  This was arguably when the inter-family  tensions began.

When Benazir returned to Pakistan last year, Mumtaz reportedly refused to support her, “saying she had betrayed the family name with her negotiations with Musharraf,” reported the Times. Following her assassination in December 2007, Mumtaz also rejected the appointment of her husband [Zardari] and son to be the successors of the party, predicting it would split the PPP. According to the UK Independent, the SNF leader said last January, “The party has come into existence on the name and the sweat and the blood of the Bhutto family…Therefore, the leadership should either have gone to Sanam[Benazir’s sister]or the son or daughter of Murtaza [Benazir’s brother, who saw himself as Zulfiqar Ali’s true political heir].” At the time, both Sanam Bhutto and the PPP disagreed. The party spokesman said, “Whatever Mumtaz is saying, he is saying out of spite for Benazir, spite and frustration, because he is now out in the political wilderness.”

Unknown-20As for the truth over yesterday’s arrest – I wonder if we’ll ever really know, given how quickly the incident devolved into a “he said-she said” escapade. What do you think? [Image from GEO]

“Six other men died along with Mir Murtaza that day. The blood was
quickly washed off the road, the glass swept up. (It was an eerie
foreshadowing of Benazir’s own murder 11 years later, when the
evidence was also instantly removed.) There was no independent
forensic inquest. The injured were taken to clinics that were not
equipped for emergency surgery, and Fatima believes her father would
not have bled to death if he had been brought to a hospital.

More disturbingly, the police would not let the family leave the house
until it was too late, citing as an excuse that it was dangerous
because a robbery had taken place.”

Touched by tragedy:

Exclusive extracts from Fatima Bhutto’s new book

TNN, Mar 28, 2010

Asif Zardari was on the phone. ‘Don’t you know?’ he said casually to
me. ‘Your father’s been shot.’ I dropped the phone. My body went numb
and cold and my heart beat so hard it drowned out everything around
me. Mummy picked up the phone. She saw my face, I looked ashen. She
must have known something was terribly wrong though I couldn’t get the
words out to say anything or even look at her. She screamed. I don’t
remember what she said. I was frozen to my chair, Papa’s green

It must be the arm, I kept telling myself. He must be hit in the arm;
it can’t be serious, maybe the leg. Why would Zardari tell me, a
fourteen-year-old girl, that my father had been shot if it had been
serious? I couldn’t breathe. Mummy must have called for the car. The
next thing I knew she was running towards the door. I got up and ran
after her. ‘Stay here!’ she yelled. ‘No!’ I screamed back. ‘I’m coming
with you!’ Zulfi (little brother) was sitting in the lobby now, with
Sofi, his nanny from when he was a baby.

Sofi watched Mummy and me yelling at each other in the corridor by the
door. She held Zulfi close to her and tried to distract him from our

‘Fati, it’s dangerous!’ Mummy shouted. But I wouldn’t let her leave
without me. ‘He’s my father!’ I cried and grabbed her arm, pulling her
with me to the car. She couldn’t stop me. Mummy held on to me as we
drove out of the house. The roads were clean, empty. I remember
looking out, searching the dark streets for some sign and seeing
nothing, calming myself into believing that whatever had happened
wasn’t serious. It must be the arm, I kept repeating to myself and to
Mummy like a mantra I was desperate for us to believe….

I don’t remember how we got to Mideast Hospital or how we found
ourselves in the large recovery room that Papa had been placed in. I
remember walking in and seeing only my father’s legs. I thought I
would collapse.

Mummy ran into the room and straight towards Papa, who was lying
unconscious on a low hospital bed. I saw him and froze. I stood before
my father, covered in blood, and wanted to scream but I couldn’t open
my mouth. I was paralysed with shock. I just stood there.

Mummy ran straight to Papa’s side and began speaking to him, as if she
hadn’t registered how frightening he looked, how much blood covered
his face and his chest. ‘Wake up Mir! Wake up!’ she yelled. I went
closer to him and crouched beside the bed. I touched Papa’s face but
got blood on my fingers and got scared. His face was still warm, the
blood dark and wet. I stood up quickly and walked to the end of the
room and sat down on a white metal chair. I couldn’t breathe.

Mummy sat with Papa as he was fitted with a heart monitor and as the
hospital staff scrambled to find surgeons to operate on him — there
were none on call, there never were at Mideast. People filtered into
the room, coming in to watch, to have a look, to see Murtaza Bhutto
die. I screamed at one of them, an odious magazine
editor-turned-politician who behaved as if she had bought tickets to
an event. ‘Why are you here?’ I screamed at her. ‘This isn’t a show!
Get out!’ She moved away from me, but she didn’t leave. Others,
friends and strangers, came. I couldn’t focus long enough to
understand how dire things were, how we ended up in a hospital with
not one surgeon to save my father’s life….

I don’t know how we made it from the waiting room to the operating
theatre. I think I was being supported and held. I think Mummy was
holding me. Papa lay in the middle of the room, a thin white sheet
pulled up to his collarbone. His face had been bandaged with white
gauze, holding his jaw shut. His eyes were closed. There was dried
blood congealing on his face and flecks of blood in his hair. Papa’s
hair was always perfectly combed, the only time it ever looked that
messy was when he woke up in the mornings. I kneeled on the floor next
to his body. He wasn’t dead, he couldn’t be. There had to be some
mistake. I kissed my father’s face, his cheeks, his lips, his nose,
his chin, over and over again. I didn’t kiss his eyes; a Lebanese
superstition says you will be separated from anyone whose eyelids your
lips brush. I didn’t want to be separated from Papa….

Somewhere around three in the morning, while Mummy was still at the
hospital waiting for the autopsy to be completed and for Papa’s body
to be released so she could bring him home, the Prime Minister came to
Mideast. Benazir flew from the Prime Minister’s residence in Islamabad
to Karachi. She stopped at her home and then came to the hospital
barefeet — a sign, people assumed, of her grief. She was accompanied
by Wajid Durrani, one of the shooters that night who is seen saluting
her in many of photographs taken of her arrival, and by Shoaib Suddle,
another of the men who participated in her brother’s assassination.
Abdullah Shah, the Chief Minister of Sindh, and another accused in the
murder, would also be by Benazir’s side at Mideast. Benazir, my Wadi,
would say, years later in an interview broadcast days before her own
death, that it was Murtaza’s own fault that he was killed. She changed
the facts about his injuries, rambling incoherently, claiming he was
shot in the back by his own guards, that his guards opened fire on the
police, that Murtaza had a death wish. I did not see Benazir until
after Papa’s burial. Every time she tried to drive to Al Murtaza house
where Papa’s funeral was held her car was attacked by Larkana locals,
who pelted her car with stones and shoes.

The funeral in Larkana was intense and cities across the country
marked a three-day mourning period in solidarity…..

Joonam (Nusrat Bhutto, Fatima’s grandmother) arrived from a foreign
trip that day to find her second son murdered. No one had told Joonam,
who was beginning to suffer from Alzheimer’s, that her beloved elder
son had been killed. They told her only minutes before her car had
pulled up at the 70 Clifton gates. In the helicopter ride to Larkana,
Joonam beat her chest in the Shiia style of mourning and wailed
uncontrollably. She never recovered. The day after the burial she
walked up and down the corridors of Al Murtaza calling her son. ‘Tell
Mir he should change his kaffan, his burial shroud, it’s full of

On the third day of mourning, Benazir came to Al Murtaza under cover
of darkness to evade the protestors who had been attacking her
motorcade. She said she wanted her mother to be with her for a few
days and swept Joonam out of our house. We never saw our grandmother
again. Joonam is now held incommunicado by the Zardaris in a garish
house in Dubai.

Fatima Bhutto: living by the bullet
With her father, aunt, uncle and grandfather all murdered, Fatima
Bhutto has written the story of the ill-starred dynasty whose name
once epitomised Pakistan’s political turmoil. Interview by Janine di

By Janine di Giovanni

When Fatima Bhutto was a little girl, she would sit with her father as
he shaved in the morning and pretend to be him. Together, they would
wash their faces, brush their teeth, then her father, the political
activist Mir Murtaza Bhutto, would gently smooth his tiny daughter’s
face with shaving cream. And she imitated his movements, stroke by
stroke. What Fatima loves the most about that memory, she says now,
was that her father never scolded her, never told her that this was
something she should not do because she was a girl. ‘Lathering up and
shaving,’ she says, ‘was just our little routine.

When Fatima was 14, she cowered in the dressing-room of her parents’
bedroom in Karachi, her back against the locked door. She was
shielding her six-year-old brother, Zulfikar, from a barrage of
bullets outside her house. ‘It’s just fireworks, Fati,’ said the quiet
little boy. But Fatima, who was always wise beyond her years, knew
otherwise – she understood something about violent deaths. Her family
was plagued with them.

Her grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a former prime minister of
Pakistan, was executed by General Zia-ul-Huq in 1979, and her beloved
uncle Shahnawaz Bhutto was poisoned in the south of France in 1985.
(That crime has still not been solved, though the family blames either
Zia or the CIA.) At the time of Mir Murtaza’s death in September 1996,
Fatima’s father was an outspoken opponent of the government – which
happened to be run by his estranged sister, Benazir Bhutto. He had
split from her party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) founded by
their father, and created a splinter group, the PPP-Shaheed Bhutto.

Fatima, now 28 and one of Pakistan’s most outspoken political
commentators and social activists, had understood what it meant to
live with a hostile government since 1993, when the family returned to
Pakistan from exile and Mir was arrested at the airport, and charged
with 90 crimes by his sister’s regime. He subsequently spent many
months in prison. But the days leading up to his death were
particularly tense. ‘Since his birthday, September 18, tanks had been
rolling up around our house,’ she says. ‘And it just felt wrong that

She remembers that her father was preoccupied on September 27. He had
said he was going to a press conference. He did not eat lunch with the
family as usual. A precocious teenager, Fatima had just received a
contract for her first book of poetry, Whispers in the Desert, and she
needed a parent to sign it. ‘He said he would sign it in jail,’ she
said. ‘He expected to be arrested after the press conference. But not

After the gunshots outside the house stopped, Fatima’s stepmother,
Ghinwa, who had raised her as a daughter since she was four, came for
the children and the family hid in the drawing-room. Then Fatima
called her Aunt Benazir. ‘She did not take the call,’ she says.
Instead, Asif Zardari, Benazir’s husband and the man who is now the
president of Pakistan, took the call.

‘Don’t you know?’ he said evenly. ‘Your father’s been shot.’

Six other men died along with Mir Murtaza that day. The blood was
quickly washed off the road, the glass swept up. (It was an eerie
foreshadowing of Benazir’s own murder 11 years later, when the
evidence was also instantly removed.) There was no independent
forensic inquest. The injured were taken to clinics that were not
equipped for emergency surgery, and Fatima believes her father would
not have bled to death if he had been brought to a hospital.

More disturbingly, the police would not let the family leave the house
until it was too late, citing as an excuse that it was dangerous
because a robbery had taken place. Medical records indicate that her
father was shot five times, and that the shot that killed him was
fired at point-blank range.

It haunts her that while he lay bleeding not far from the house, she
was trapped inside by the police.

‘When we got to the clinic, I saw his legs,’ she says. ‘That’s all I saw.’

Significantly, it has never been determined who was responsible for
the assassination, and some of the policemen accused were not properly
brought to justice. ‘They were imprisoned, but in luxury hospital
suites, not proper prisons,’ Fatima says. ‘And not for long either,
given the gravity of the charges against them. They were never

Zardari was arrested after Benazir’s government fell in November 1996,images
accused of corruption and Murtaza’s murder (of which he was cleared),
and remained in jail until November 2004. ‘Again, jail is a loose term
for how he was kept,’ Fatima says.

After her father’s death, Fatima’s relationship with her famous aunt
became estranged, although previously they had been close. Fatima
claims that Benazir would often try to persuade her to come to family
events and ‘get the camera crews along so she could prove she had
nothing to do with it.’ One bizarre detail of the event is that when
Benazir rushed to the clinic where Mir Murtaza lay dying, she was not
wearing any shoes – an act that Ghinwa and Fatima always saw as deeply
suspicious, as though she were trying to prove she had been caught off

Even though a judicial tribunal ruled the murder could not have
happened without the approval of the highest level of government and
that Benazir’s administration was ‘probably complicit’, she and
Zardari always denied involvement. ‘The police pulled the trigger, but
Benazir and Asif had the moral responsibility,’ Fatima says now,
sitting on the terrace of the Karachi house, 70 Clifton, which is one
of the most famous addresses in Pakistan. It was here that Benazir
grew up, here that she married Asif Zardari in the lush garden in
1987, and outside these gates that Mir Murtaza was murdered. It is now
the home of the last of the Bhuttos: Ghinwa (whom Fatima calls
‘Mummy’); Fatima; her adored adopted six-year-old brother Mir Ali
(pronounced ‘Miralee’), and her brother Zulfikar, when he is back from
England, where he is at school. Fatima’s cousin Sassi, the daughter of
the murdered Shah Nawaz, also stays here when she comes from her home
in America.

Fatima is tiny and beautiful, but largely unaware of her beauty. She
wears skinny jeans that she buys in a street market, ballet slippers
and T-shirts from the Sunday bazaar (Bob Marley, Lynyrd Skynyrd) or
traditional Pakistani kurtas that friends make for her. She does not
eat sugar and practises yoga daily. Her face is clear of make-up
(unlike her aunt, who adored red lipstick and thick foundation). Also
unlike Benazir, who liked to play up to the cameras, Fatima does not
wear a veil, except, ironically, at funerals. She wears sleeveless
dresses, not really the norm in conservative Pakistan. ‘I wear them
because I live in a hot country. It’s the Saudis who brought the burka
to Pakistan. My grandmother always wore saris to state visits, and
they were short-sleeved and elegant.’

Fourteen years have gone by since her father’s death. But every day of
her life, Fatima lives with that murder in her head. She has to live
with the fact that it is now Zardari who runs the country. She is a
thorn in his side, but has no relationship with him. She sees

him go to the White House on official visits. She sees him with Gordon Brown.

The bond between Fatima and her father was extraordinarily strong.
When she talks about him, she still cries. But neither she nor Ghinwa
– a tall, big-hearted woman who left her native Lebanon to follow Mir
Murtaza to Pakistan – harbours anger. ‘Anger eats you up, makes you
ugly and ultimately kills you,’ says Ghinwa, who is a political
activist and chairman of the PPP-Shaheed Bhutto party. ‘And if it
kills us, then those killers have done their job, not only killing
those men, but killing their families as well.’

‘I was angry for a long time afterwards, but at some point I realised
that itself is an act of violence,’ Fatima says. ‘It is better to seek

Her way of seeking justice was to write her father’s story. Songs of
Blood and Sword is published next week. It’s a daughter’s memoir, but
it is more than that. Through the history of the Bhutto family, rich
feudal landlords of a warrior caste, she tells the story of the newly
created state of Pakistan. It is a book about the power of love, but
also about a search to avenge her father’s brutal murder.

She also did it to preserve his memory. ‘I used to say, after he died,
well, he’s been dead five years, but I had him for 14,’ she says. ‘And
this year it is 14 years since he died.’ She wipes her eyes. ‘He’s
been dead for as long as I had him.’

Fatima Bhutto was born on May 29, 1982, under curfew, in Kabul,
Afghanistan, at the height of the war between the Soviet-led
government and the US-backed Mujahideen. Her father was in exile from
the Zia regime with his brother, Shahnawaz. Fatima’s mother was an
Afghan, Fowzia (Shahnawaz married Fowzia’s sister, who was later
accused of his murder). Fatima and the family have no contact with
Fowzia or her sister, though they do see her daughter, Sassi.

On the day Fatima was born, as if a harbinger of the drama her life
would later hold, Afghan-istan’s Najibullah government placed special
troops around the hospital in anticipation of her birth. They were
worried that the hospital might become a Mujahideen target.

Her father adored her from the beginning. ‘Tall, like me,’ he wrote on
the back of one photo taken when she was four weeks old. Her
relationship with her biological mother, however, was strained. ‘She
always frightened me,’ Fatima writes in her book. Eventually, the
family left for the Middle East, and when Fatima was three years old,
Fowzia and her father split up. Fatima stayed with her father and
rarely saw her mother, although there was a bitter custody battle
after Mir Murtaza died.

‘Maybe it is my fault,’ she writes in her book. ‘Maybe my heart was
too full and I never cleared it to make space for Fowzia.’ She was
cared for by Mir Murtaza. The two were inseparable. He took her to her
dance classes, swimming, to meetings. ‘He cut my hair, dressed me,
bathed me,’ she says. ‘I was a tomboy.’ Every picture I see of the two
together in the Bhutto compound shows a tiny, round-eyed little girl
on her father’s lap.

She went to the American School in Karachi, and after her father’s
death, Fatima continued to study, as if to make Mir Murtaza – a
Harvard graduate – proud. She did Middle Eastern Studies at Columbia
in New York, graduating top of her class – summa cum laude. Then she
completed her MA at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.
Later, returning home to Pakistan after years away, she worked as a
campaigning journalist, a human rights and women’s activist and a
columnist. She wrote a book about the 2005 earthquake and its victims,
which was hailed as sensitive and perceptive.

In December 2007, Benazir was assassinated. Fatima was in Larkana, the
rather gloomy family estate in Sindh province, eight hours’ drive
through dusty fields from Karachi, at the time. Although she was long
estranged from Benazir, she was very shocked. ‘It was like a terrible
déjà vu; it’s almost as if every 10 years someone in our family is
violently murdered. And the way the police cleaned up the blood from
her murder scene as quickly as they cleaned up my father’s brought
back terrible memories.’

These days, life in 70 Clifton passes slowly and languidly; the house
is an oasis in Karachi, which is now violent and plagued with gangs,
corruption, poverty, and a breeding ground for radical jihadists.
Despite this, Fatima has many friends that she grew up with at the
American School, and goes out to small restaurants and her yoga
classes. She has guards, but they are more like family members –
friends of the party – than armed militia. And she travels often to
Europe, although she likes to keep her life as private as possible.
Anything she does ends up in the press, so she keeps a low profile.

At home, life is quiet, with the sound of the mynah birds coming from
the garden outside.

It is a simple, family life with a lot of love in the household.
Ghinwa, a committed vegan, cooks amazing dishes and bakes cakes. Mir
Ali plays with his Spider-Man toys and delights the household. (Ghinwa
adopted him when he was a month old as a way of attempting to heal the
pain after Mir’s death.) Fatima writes and oversees various charities
– one morning, we go to a home for abandoned girls for which she has
been providing computers, donated by friends in London. Another time,
we go to the Sunday market to buy cotton T-shirts, which she will take
to women in prison to embroider and sell. She loves to write. ‘It’s
all I ever wanted to do,’ she says. When she was little she used to
‘interview’ her father with a hand-held radio. She is passionately
worried about the state of her country and its 162 million
inhabitants, but says she will never go into politics. ‘It’s not about
birthright,’ she says.

She is single, and not worried about it. She wants children very much,
and will probably adopt as well as having her own, as she sees the joy
Mir Ali has brought to the family. She says she will marry for love,
not for religion – and the stories that have appeared in the tabloid
press about her and George Clooney are rubbish. She misses her brother
Zulfi terribly when he is away at school. They speak every day, and
she bosses him around like a big sister would. She says that she and
Ghinwa jokingly refer to each other as ‘an old married couple’ as they
are so close. ‘I still sit on her lap sometimes,’ she laughs.

We do yoga in the mornings in Zulfi’s old painting studio – Fatima is
excited that she can now do the crow pose – and drink a lot of tea.
She talks about her next project, a reportage history of Karachi, of
its gangs, poverty and corruption. She can’t really go out by herself
but nothing seems to frighten her, although she admits that she had
panic attacks for a long time after her father’s death. She is also a
chronic insomniac, like her father.

One night we have dinner at home at the round table overlooking the
gardens with her dear friend Sabeen Jatoi. Sabeen is six years older
than Fatima. Her father, Ashiq, was also killed that night by the
police – he was a political activist along with Mir – and the two
women have a very strong bond.

‘I remember my brother was late getting to school in England that
year,’ Sabeen says.

‘What could he say? Excuse me for being late, my father was just
gunned down by police.’ She puts down her fork. ‘That does not exactly
help to make friends.’

Jatoi is a lawyer, and as passionate and committed to finding out the
truth as Fatima. We talk for a long time about anger, about how it
perpetuates vengeance. ‘Eventually I just had to let it go,’ Jatoi
says. ‘Which does not mean you forget.’

Fatima goes back to the night of the murders. While waiting in the
hospital to give blood to her father, she bumped into Sabeen. ‘Papa
needs blood, Papa needs blood,’ she kept repeating. Sabeen was looking
for her own father. Later, at the 40-day ritual condolences, Sabeen
came up to Fatima and embraced her. ‘We don’t blame you,’ she said.

‘All I remember after it was a lot of love,’ Fatima says. ‘People kept
coming to the house to comfort us, to console. I felt surrounded by so
much love.’

Songs of Blood and Sword is powerful. Fatima wrote it as a journalist
would, using her investigative training. In some ways, she had to put
her love aside and be objective. Does she think her father was immune
from the corruption that plagued the Bhuttos? What did she find out
about him along the way?

‘That he did not like Woody Allen movies,’ she says. ‘I never knew he
did not like Woody Allen movies.’ Then, growing more serious, she says
how painful it was to delve into the process of recording a father’s
life and death. ‘I did not want to write a hagiography,’ she says. She
knows her father was flawed. So she began a voyage around the world
that took her from Greece – where she found one his first loves, a
woman named Della, who helped her unravel pieces of her father through
letters, memories and friends, to Texas, to Harvard, to visits to the
Karachi police and medical examiners who tended her father when he was

She saw lawyers in France who worked on the case of her uncle
Shahnawaz. She trawled through documents from the infamous 1981
Pakistan International Airways hijacking, and concludes in the book
that while her father was involved in the negotiations of the
hostages, he was not involved in the hijacking. (He was posthumously
acquitted of this charge in 2003.) ‘Look, he and my uncle were young
and passionate and trying to overthrow a military dictatorship. But
they did not take lives.’

While writing, she locked herself away in the family home in Sindhi, a
long way from internet and mobile phone networks. She also spent time
in an apartment in France, talking to no one but herself for three
weeks. ‘I got paranoid while I was writing,’ she says. ‘I did not want
people in Karachi to know what I was doing. I just wanted to get this
book out. I wanted to document it, have it on record, have an
archive.’ (Penguin India has bought the Pakistan rights. It will be
published in India and distributed in Pakistan.)

She is serious and ‘sober’, as one of the Pakistani papers calls her,
a bluestocking, an old-fashioned intellectual. At times girlish – she
gives great beauty advice about how to apply eyeliner and use mustard
oil to condition hair. She always wears a small bronze sword around
her neck. It belonged to her father, and it reminds her, always, of
her birthright. Not as a political dynasty, but as a fighter, as
someone seeking truth.

As if by chance, lying in my bed at 70 Clifton – in the rooms once
used by her father and her uncle Shahnawaz, surrounded by their books
and briefcases and family photos – I see that in the notebook I have
used to take notes on Fatima, I also have notes from an interview I
did with a famous French psychiatrist, Boris Cyrulnik. Cyrulnik is
renowned for his work on trauma and resilience, and victims of
violence. It is his belief that despite horrific incidents that happen
to individuals, they can go on to achieve extraordinary things.

I had asked Cyrulnik how people heal from trauma, how they forget.
‘They never forget,’ he said. ‘The wound remains. But they begin to
build great strength from that, they have the capacity to create, to
live, to go on and do great things.’

I think of the 14-year-old Fatima hiding in a dressing-room,
protecting her little brother from the killers of her father. I think
how traumatic her life has been, then I think of what she has done –
and what she will do. And I can think of no one better to carry the
word ‘resilient’.

‘Songs of Blood and Sword’ by Fatima Bhutto (Jonathan Cape, £20) is
available for £18 plus £1.25 p&p from Telegraph Books (0844-871 1515;

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It’s wrong for the West simply to mourn Benazir Bhutto as a martyred democrat, says this acclaimed south Asia expert. Her legacy is far murkier and more complex

One of Benazir Bhutto’s more dubious legacies to Pakistan is the Prime Minister’s house in the middle of Islamabad. The building is a giddy, pseudo-Mexican ranch house with white walls and a red tile roof. There is nothing remotely Islamic about the building which, as my minder said when I went there to interview the then Prime Minister Bhutto, was ‘PM’s own design’. Inside, it was the same story. Crystal chandeliers dangled sometimes two or three to a room; oils of sunflowers and tumbling kittens that would have looked at home on the Hyde Park railings hung below garishly gilt cornices.

The place felt as though it might be the weekend retreat of a particularly flamboyant Latin-American industrialist, but, in fact, it could have been anywhere. Had you been shown pictures of the place on one of those TV game-shows where you are taken around a house and then have to guess who lives there, you may have awarded this hacienda to virtually anyone except, perhaps, to the Prime Minister of an impoverished Islamic republic situated next door to Iran.

Which is, of course, exactly why the West always had a soft spot for Benazir Bhutto. Her neighbouring heads of state may have been figures as unpredictable and potentially alarming as President Ahmadinejad of Iran and a clutch of opium-trading Afghan warlords, but Bhutto has always seemed reassuringly familiar to Western governments – one of us. She spoke English fluently because it was her first language. She had an English governess, went to a convent run by Irish nuns and rounded off her education with degrees from Harvard and Oxford.

‘London is like a second home for me,’ she once told me. ‘I know London well. I know where the theatres are, I know where the shops are, I know where the hairdressers are. I love to browse through Harrods and WH Smith in Sloane Square. I know all my favourite ice cream parlours. I used to particularly love going to the one at Marble Arch: Baskin Robbins. Sometimes, I used to drive all the way up from Oxford just for an ice cream and then drive back again. That was my idea of sin.’

It was difficult to imagine any of her neighbouring heads of state, even India’s earnest Sikh economist, Manmohan Singh, talking like this.

For the Americans, what Benazir Bhutto wasn’t was possibly more attractive even than what she was. She wasn’t a religious fundamentalist, she didn’t have a beard, she didn’t organise rallies where everyone shouts: ‘Death to America’ and she didn’t issue fatwas against Booker-winning authors, even though Salman Rushdie ridiculed her as the Virgin Ironpants in his novel Shame.

However, the very reasons that made the West love Benazir Bhutto are the same that gave many Pakistanis second thoughts. Her English might have been fluent, but you couldn’t say the same about her Urdu which she spoke like a well-groomed foreigner: fluently, but ungrammatically. Her Sindhi was even worse; apart from a few imperatives, she was completely at sea.

English friends who knew Benazir at Oxford remember a bubbly babe who drove to lectures in a yellow MG, wintered in Gstaad and who to used to talk of the thrill of walking through Cannes with her hunky younger brother and being ‘the centre of envy; wherever Shahnawaz went, women would be bowled over’.

This Benazir, known to her friends as Bibi or Pinky, adored royal biographies and slushy romances: in her old Karachi bedroom, I found stacks of well-thumbed Mills and Boons including An Affair to Forget, Sweet Imposter and two copies of The Butterfly and the Baron. This same Benazir also had a weakness for dodgy Seventies easy listening – ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree’ was apparently at the top of her playlist. This is also the Benazir who had an enviable line in red-rimmed fashion specs and who went weak at the sight of marrons glace.

But there was something much more majestic, even imperial, about the Benazir I met when she was Prime Minister. She walked and talked in a deliberately measured and regal manner and frequently used the royal ‘we’. At my interview, she took a full three minutes to float down the 100 yards of lawns separating the Prime Minister’s house from the chairs where I had been told to wait for her. There followed an interlude when Benazir found the sun was not shining in quite the way she wanted it to. ‘The sun is in the wrong direction,’ she announced. Her hair was arranged in a sort of baroque beehive topped by a white gauze dupatta. The whole painted vision reminded me of one of those aristocratic Roman princesses in Caligula

This Benazir was a very different figure from that remembered by her Oxford contemporaries. This one was renowned throughout Islamabad for chairing 12-hour cabinet meetings and for surviving on four hours’ sleep. This was the Benazir who continued campaigning after the suicide bomber attacked her convoy the very day of her return to Pakistan in October, and who blithely disregarded the mortal threat to her life in order to continue fighting. This other Benazir Bhutto, in other words, was fearless, sometimes heroically so, and as hard as nails.

More than anything, perhaps, Benazir was a feudal princess with the aristocratic sense of entitlement that came with owning great tracts of the country and the Western-leaning tastes that such a background tends to give. It was this that gave her the sophisticated gloss and the feudal grit that distinguished her political style. In this, she was typical of many Pakistani politicians. Real democracy has never thrived in Pakistan, in part because landowning remains the principle social base from which politicians emerge.

The educated middle class is in Pakistan still largely excluded from the political process. As a result, in many of the more backward parts of Pakistan, the feudal landowner expects his people to vote for his chosen candidate. As writer Ahmed Rashid put it: ‘In some constituencies, if the feudals put up their dog as a candidate, that dog would get elected with 99 per cent of the vote.’

Today, Benazir is being hailed as a martyr for freedom and democracy, but far from being a natural democrat, in many ways, Benazir was the person who brought Pakistan’s strange variety of democracy, really a form of ‘elective feudalism’, into disrepute and who helped fuel the current, apparently unstoppable, growth of the Islamists. For Bhutto was no Aung San Suu Kyi. During her first 20-month premiership, astonishingly, she failed to pass a single piece of major legislation. Amnesty International accused her government of having one of the world’s worst records of custodial deaths, killings and torture.

Within her party, she declared herself the lifetime president of the PPP and refused to let her brother Murtaza challenge her. When he persisted in doing so, he ended up shot dead in highly suspicious circumstances outside the family home. Murtaza’s wife Ghinwa and his daughter Fatima, as well as Benazir’s mother, all firmly believed that Benazir gave the order to have him killed.

As recently as the autumn, Benazir did and said nothing to stop President Musharraf ordering the US and UK-brokered ‘rendition’ of her rival, Nawaz Sharif, to Saudi Arabia and so remove from the election her most formidable rival. Many of her supporters regarded her deal with Musharraf as a betrayal of all her party stood for.

Behind Pakistan’s endless swings between military government and democracy lies a surprising continuity of elitist interests: to some extent, Pakistan’s industrial, military and landowning classes are all interrelated and they look after each other. They do not, however, do much to look after the poor. The government education system barely functions in Pakistan and for the poor, justice is almost impossible to come by. According to political scientist Ayesha Siddiqa: ‘Both the military and the political parties have all failed to create an environment where the poor can get what they need from the state. So the poor have begun to look to alternatives for justice. In the long term, flaws in the system will create more room for the fundamentalists.’

In the West, many right-wing commentators on the Islamic world tend to see the march of political Islam as the triumph of an anti-liberal and irrational ‘Islamo-fascism’. Yet much of the success of the Islamists in countries such as Pakistan comes from the Islamists’ ability to portray themselves as champions of social justice, fighting people such as Benazir Bhutto from the Islamic elite that rules most of the Muslim world from Karachi to Beirut, Ramallah and Cairo.

This elite the Islamists successfully depict as rich, corrupt, decadent and Westernised. Benazir had a reputation for massive corruption. During her government, the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International named Pakistan one of the three most corrupt countries in the world.

Bhutto and her husband, Asif Zardari, widely known as ‘Mr 10 Per Cent’, faced allegations of plundering the country. Charges were filed in Pakistan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States to investigate their various bank accounts.

When I interviewed Abdul Rashid Ghazi in the Islamabad Red Mosque shortly before his death in the storming of the complex in July, he kept returning to the issue of social justice: ‘We want our rulers to be honest people,’ he said. ‘But now the rulers are living a life of luxury while thousands of innocent children have empty stomachs and can’t even get basic necessities.’ This is the reason for the rise of the Islamists in Pakistan and why so many people support them: they are the only force capable of taking on the country’s landowners and their military cousins.

This is why in all recent elections, the Islamist parties have hugely increased their share of the vote, why they now already control both the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan and why it is they who are most likely to gain from the current crisis.

Benazir Bhutto was a courageous, secular and liberal woman. But sadness at the demise of this courageous fighter should not mask the fact that as a pro-Western feudal leader who did little for the poor, she was as much a central part of Pakistan’s problems as the solution to them.

· William Dalrymple’s latest book, The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857, published by Bloomsbury, recently won the Duff Cooper Prize for History


Feudalism in Pakistan


I sometimes wonder if what Pakistan doesn’t really need is a good dose of land reform to break up feudal power. The extraordinary inequities in Pakistan seem not only unjust but also an impediment to both economic growth and national consensus.

For those who haven’t been to Pakistan, you should know that in remote areas you periodically run into vast estates — comparable to medieval Europe — in which the landowner runs the town, perhaps operates a private prison in which enemies are placed, and sometimes pretty much enslaves local people through debt bondage, generation after generation. This feudal elite has migrated into politics, where it exerts huge influence. And just as the heartlessness of feudal and capitalist barons in the 19th century created space for Communists, so in Pakistan this same lack of compassion for ordinary people seems to create space for Islamic extremists. There are other answers, of course, such as education, civil society, and the lawyers’ movement. But I wonder if land reform wouldn’t be a big help.

Dwight Perkins, the great Harvard economist of development, argued that a crucial factor in the rise of East Asia was the land reform and division in countries like Japan and South Korea after World War II, creating a more equal society. (In Japan, this was done under U.S. auspices: we were much more socialist outside our country than in it.) Likewise, India had its own land reform in 1953, but Pakistan was left out.

I’ve often focused on education as the greatest need for Pakistan, but even there the feudal structure is replicated. There are first-rate schools in English for the elite, second-rate schools for the strivers, and execrable schools for the masses. At the bad schools, teachers don’t even bother to show up. This highly stratified system tends to perpetuate an ossified economic and social structure, and creates less room for the country to innovate and build or use human capital.

But I’m a novice here. Those of you who know Pakistan much better than I — what do you think? Is the feudal land structure a major part of the problem? And if so, is it so entrenched that it’s not even worth dreaming of land reform? Is it more feasible to chip away at the feudal structure by broadening education? I’m all ears. Let me know what you think

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