Story of a dynasty

2011-02-23 00:00

WRITER and journalist Fatima Bhutto­ is the granddaughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former president of Pakistan who was executed in 1979, and the niece of Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan who was assassinated in 2001.

Zulfikar’s sons, Benazir’s brothers, also died violently. The youngest, Shahnawaz, died of poisoning in 1985 and Mir Murtaza, Fatima’s father­, was assassinated in 1996.

Subtitled A Daughter’s Memoir this book is a compelling account of the close relationship between Fatima and her beloved father. She tells of his life as a student at Harvard and Oxford universities, as a campaigner for the life of his father imprisoned under the death penalty and as a leader of the Al Zulfikar Organisation (AZO), a liberation movement in exile that was considered by the Pakistani government of General Zia ul Haq to be a terrorist organisation. She also writes of her father’s friendships and relationships, including his close bond with his brother, his romantic attachments and of his warm fatherly devotion.

In 1993, Mir Murtaza returned to Pakistan after winning a seat in the Pakistani parliament. His sister Benazir, leader of the Pakistan People­’s Party (PPP), was Pakistan’s prime minister at this time. On his return he was immediately arrested on treason charges. After months in jail he was released on bail and continued campaigning for his faction of the PPP.

In 1996, Mir Murtaza was shot outside his house in what Fatima describes as a police ambush. In her moving account of the shooting and his death some hours later, she makes it clear why she holds her aunt at least morally responsible for her father’s killing.

Some people say that they prefer to read non-fiction as it is “true”. However, in this fascinating insider’s account­ by a member of a dynastic family of powerful, glamorous and articulate individuals, the lines between loyalty and truth, love and revenge are so blurred that perceptions replace any hope for “truth” in a bloody feud that remains an ongoing force in Pakistani politics.

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