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A Daughter’s Memoir

by Fatima Bhutto

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-56858-632-8
Publisher: Nation Books

A memoir/political history of Pakistan’s famous feuding political dynasty, penned by a young family member whose father, grandfather, uncle and aunt all met violent deaths.

Afghan-born Pakistani poet and writer Bhutto begins with the career of her grandfather, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was assassinated in 1979. The focus of the book, however, is on the life and career of her father, Mir Murtaza Bhutto, a Western-educated political exile determined to avenge the death of his father, and whose return to Pakistan in 1993 challenged the regime of his sister Benazir Bhutto, then prime minister. The author’s early memories of her aunt are tender, but over time her views altered sharply and she now places moral responsibility for her father’s death—he was shot by Pakistani police in 1996—on her aunt and Benazir’s husband, current Pakistan president Asif Zardari. To gather information and photographs, the author searched through family diaries and letters, official documents and newspaper reports, and interviewed old friends, family, acquaintances and political associates, not only in Pakistan but in Europe and across Asia. She includes excerpts from her grandfather’s and her father’s letters to their children, and a more-than-generous number of family photos, both formal and candid. If Bhutto is tough on certain family members, she is equally so on her country, “a nuclear-armed state that cannot run refrigerators,” and on its largest city, Karachi, “overcrowded, underdeveloped, and poor,” with a police force “perpetually violent and corrupt.” According to the author, the United States has long interfered in Pakistani politics, sending billions of dollars to support criminal regimes for its own political and economic advantage, and currently sending drones that kill innocent schoolchildren in the name of the fight against terrorists. Bhutto is sure she knows who the bad guys are, and she does not hesitate to name them. She provides vivid portraits of life in an extended upper-class family and of enduring bloody feuds, brutality and death, but fair-and-balanced reporting is not on offer in this highly personal account by a journalist on a mission.

A bleak, disturbing picture of a country of strategic importance to American foreign policy.