She’s beautiful and bright (looks so much like her late aunt Benazir) – no wonder journalists (outside Pakistan notably) have been bowled over, leading to an overdose of fawning media attention (Khuswant Singh’s article takes the cake) in which few have tried to go beyond the surface.
Her father Murtaza’s cousin Tariq Islam (Z.A. Bhutto’s sister’s son) is one of the few people to have publicly challenged her version of the truth in at least one aspect. In her recently published, highly publicised book, Fatima writes that Z.A. Bhutto wrote to Murtaza to set up a militant base Afghanistan to wage an armed struggle against the military dictator, Zia ul Haq.
“I challenge anyone to produce that letter. Because there is none!” wrote Tariq Islam in a letter to the editor (Dawn, Apr 22, 2010). He says that he personally carried Bhutto’s message to Murtaza twice, refusing permission for Murtaza to take up armed violence and urging him to complete his studies. Benazir Bhutto’s sister Sanam bears out his statement in a letter to the editor, published today. “My father never told any of us, his sons or his daughters, to start a terrorist wing, to hijack planes, to murder passengers or to be violent in any way.”
A couple of other articles that give credit where credit is due but are not blinded by Fatima’s charm: See Saba Imtiaz’s balanced review of Fatima’s book in Foreign Policy magazine, and Andrew Buncombe in The Independent blog on Fatima Bhutto and her dislike of ”dodgy questions“.
Speaking of versions of truth, here’s Fatima Bhutto’s sarcastic tweet following her talk at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts: “Dodgiest question came from Victoria Schofield, who announced that we met at my father’s funeral and then badgered…me about my cousins. Clearly the most important issue facing nuclear Pakistan today” (that Bunscombe refers to).
And the question was? Victoria Schofield, in response to my email query, says that all she had asked was whether Fatima “saw a way forward to reconcile with her cousins – ie. the next generation who are not responsible for the past”. Fatima did not really answer the question.
Schofield adds: “Incidentally, I did not announce I had met her at her father’s funeral but was merely reminding her, for her own sake, that I had come to 70 Clifton to condole with her following her father’s death because I was pretty sure she would not have remembered.”
My own two bits: I’m not surprised that Fatima has different versions of the truth, given the trauma she has lived through, and the death of her beloved father. It’s hard for a daughter in such circumstances to see the father as anything other than a hero (which in this case he certainly wasn’t). I hope one day she can rise above the politics of hate which she is building her career on.
Priyanka Gandhi did a great thing in going to meet Nalini, one of Rajiv’s convicted assassins, in prison – and forgiving her; earlier, Sonia Gandhi had got Nalini’s death sentence commuted after she gave birth to a baby girl in prison. To be fair to Fatima, she has never had the closure of those accused in her father’s murder being convicted.
Incidentally, in her lifetime, Benazir had explicitly forbidden her supporters to respond to Fatima’s vitriolic attacks on her or on them — as one prominent target of Fatima’s diatribes told me last year in Karachi. Sanam Bhutto’s letter referred to above bears this out:
My sister always said that our family should not blame Fatima for the outrageous accusations she makes against us. Benazir said: “Don’t blame the child, blame those who poison her.”
But Fatima Bhutto is not a child any more, she is a grown-up woman and at some point we must be held accountable for what we do and what we say. Her book is an assault on my family, on reality and, above all, on the truth.
My niece would be wise to recall and live by the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson that my father quoted to us in his last letter from his death cell: “Ah what shall I be at 50 if I find the world so bitter at 25.”
Filed under: Politics Tagged: | Andrew Buncombe, armed struggles pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, Fatima Bhutto, Foreign Policy magazine, khushwant singh, Murtaza Bhutto, Saba Imtiaz, Victoria Schofield, Zia ul Haq