Recent Posts



Friday, 28 December 2007
Father And Daughter

John F. Burns has a good obituary on Benazir Bhutto in New Duranty:

...When asked to explain the courage — or stubbornness, as some of her critics saw it — that she displayed at critical junctures in her political career, Ms. Bhutto often referred to the example she said had been set by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He was a charismatic and often demagogic politician who was president and prime minister from 1971 to 1977, before being hanged in April 1979 on charges of having ordered the murder of a minor political opponent.

Mr. Bhutto was the founder in 1967 of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the political vehicle that he, and later his daughter, rode to power. Like his daughter, Mr. Bhutto battled for years with Pakistan’s powerful generals. He was ousted from office, and ultimately executed, on the orders of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, one of the long succession of military rulers who have dominated Pakistan for nearly 40 of the 60 years since it emerged as an independent state from the partition of British India.

Under house arrest at the time, Ms. Bhutto was allowed to visit her father before his execution at Rawalpindi’s central prison, only a short distance from the site of the rally where she was killed nearly three decades later. In a BBC interview in the 1990s, she said seeing her father preparing to die steeled her for her own political career, which some biographers have suggested was driven, in part, by a determination to avenge him by outmaneuvering the generals.

A History of Violence

Violence ran like a thread through her family life, to an extent that caused her admirers to compare the Bhuttos, in the contribution they made to Pakistan’s political life, and in the price they paid for it, to the Kennedys — and her enemies, pointing to the Bhuttos’ bitter family feuds, to compare them to the Borgias. The younger of Ms. Bhutto’s two brothers, Shahnawaz, died mysteriously of poisoning in 1995, in an apartment owned by the Bhuttos in Cannes, France. French investigators said they suspected that a family feud over a multimillion-dollar inheritance from Zulfikar Bhutto was involved, but no charges were filed.

Ms. Bhutto’s other brother, Murtaza, who along with Shahnawaz founded a terrorist group that sought to topple General Zia, spent years in exile in Syria beginning in the 1980s. When Murtaza finally returned to Pakistan, in 1994, he quickly fell into a bitter dispute with Ms. Bhutto over the family’s political legacy — and, he told a reporter at the time, over the money he said his father had placed in a Swiss bank when he was prime minister. In 1996, Murtaza was gunned down outside his home in Karachi, and his widow, Ghinva, blamed Asif Ali Zardari, Ms. Bhutto’s husband. Ms. Bhutto’s Iranian-born mother, Nusrat, sided in the dispute with Murtaza, and was dismissed by Ms. Bhutto as the Peoples Party chairman. “I had no idea I had nourished a viper in my breast,” she said of her daughter at the time.

Born on June 21, 1953, Ms. Bhutto, the first child in her family, reveled in telling friends that she was her father’s favorite. One of her most cherished anecdotes about her childhood involved her father’s encouraging her to set aside traditional Muslim views of a woman’s role and to have ambitions beyond the home, a message she said he conveyed with stories about Joan of Arc and Indira Gandhi.

After attending a private Christian-run school in Karachi, where the family maintained a luxurious mansion, Ms. Bhutto studied at Radcliffe College, earning a Harvard B.A. in 1973, and later at Oxford, where she gained a second B.A. in 1976. At Oxford, she was the first woman to become president of the Oxford Union, the prestigious debating society that nurtured several British prime ministers.

In her memoir, she described what life as a young woman at Harvard felt like. “I was amongst a sea of women who felt as unimpeded by their gender as I did,” she wrote. At Oxford, she adopted a Westernized way of life, spending winters at the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad. She said later that her passions at the time included reading royal biographies and “slushy” romances, and browsing at the London department store Harrods — a habit she maintained throughout the rest of her life.

From Oxford, Ms. Bhutto was thrust abruptly into the heart of Pakistani politics by General Zia’s arrest of her father in 1977, and by his execution 18 months later. Ms. Bhutto wrote in her memoir of her last meeting with her father, through a metal grille at the Rawalpindi Prison. “But I did not cry. Daddy told me not to,” she recalled.

From that moment on, Ms. Bhutto said in later years, she resolved to oust General Zia from power. But in August 1988, the general and the American ambassador, Arnold L. Raphel, were killed when their military plane exploded and crashed in southern Pakistan. Three months later, when she was 35, Ms. Bhutto won a general election and formed her first government, only to be ousted by Pakistan’s president in 1990, having served less than half her term. In 1993, she won a second election, but was again dismissed in 1996...

Posted on 12/28/2007 7:16 AM by Rebecca Bynum
No comments yet.