Blood, sword and Pak

Want to understand the politics of the sub-continent. Read this!

BOOK REVIEW By Jasir Altaf Haqani
Publish Date: Jul 3 2010 12:00PM
History has myriad versions. For those of you who love to read personalized versions of history, “Songs of Blood and Sword” by Fatima Bhutto is a must read. The book is a result of letters, notes, interviews and diaries written by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to his son Murtaza. Fatima travels to Boston and Athens to discover her father’s life, meeting old friends and her father’s flame, sharing anecdotes and experiences. She pens in detail the memories of her father, aided by the fact that he nurtured her alone, as he divorced early in his age. Fatima Bhutto is the daughter of Murtaza Bhutto, who was killed in an “encounter” with police when his sister Benazir Bhutto was in power. Fatima holds Benazir and her husband Asif Ali Zardari culpable for her father’s death; she even charges Benazir for conspiring with the C.I.A, and the Zia regime in killing of her uncle, who died a mysterious death in France.
Her description of Benazir is freckled, although as a young child she adored her Aunt, but with age they receded and the tenor of their relationship smothered when Benazir refused to visit Murtaza in jail. As She writes “After Papa was killed, I never saw that old Wadi again. She was gone.”
Fatima identifies Benazir’s two decisions, which premeditated the course of her life; one was to participate in 1986 elections under the Zia regime which patented her entry into nexus with the army, and second was to marry Asif Ali Zardari, a playboy from a feudal family.
Fatima was 14 when her father was killed. A grieving daughter’s memoir who glorifies her father’s actions. Murtaza Ali Bhutto had only two motives in his adult life, one to avenge the death of his father who died at the hands of the Zia regime and second, to protect the legacy of his father from his sister Benazir. The fight between the two siblings is the central nub of the book and it plays down to the end. Murtaza’s absence from Pakistan between 1977 to 1993 gives Benazir an open field to consolidate her position as political heir to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and their differences become public as Murtaza fights 1993 elections as an Independent candidate. The author premises Murtaza as a victim, nevertheless the rightful inheritor of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s legacy, the one who shared the anti-feudalistic, socialist vision and mission of his father in entirety. It canvasses Benazir as a feudal and capitalist, crafting a mysterious coalition of Army, Feudal and the USA. Fatima pictures her father’s return in 1993 as a threat to Benazir’s political authority since only he challenged her in the political arena. She considers his death as an upshot of Benazir insecurity against her brother.
The book loses its neutrality as it absolves Murtaza Ali Bhutto’s actions as Head of Al-Zulfikar organization that was set up to avenge the death of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at the hands of the Zia regime. The hijacking of the Pakistan International plane in Kabul in 1981, is portrayed to be maneuvered, deliberated and executed by the Zia regime. This account of events is widely disputed by former members of Al-Zulfikar. Tariq Islam, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s nephew quotes Zulfikar saying, “I will go down in history. Songs will be written about me.” Zulfikar would not have anticipated his family members would write these songs.
The book paints a bleak picture of domestic politics of Pakistan, with power, corruption, drama, emotion, injustice and death, all integrated in it. A special mention goes to the crimes done by army in East Pakistan in 1971 and the ongoing operation in Swat.
A must read to comprehend the politics of Sub-Continent where democracy is riddled with family legacies.

(Jasir Altaf Haqani is studying Economics at Jamia Milia Islamia
and can be mailed at
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