Is she just a sad child mourning her father? Is she a young woman angry with a cruel and unjust system and pointing out its faults? Is she the future of Pakistan’s politics? Or is she part of fiction being written by a hidden hand for the future of Pakistan, but made to look like fact?
These are some of the questions that come to mind when observing Fatima Bhutto.
Answering these questions, in any case, are difficult in an environment where telling fact from fiction has become tedious. Fatima Bhutto is certainly trying to create an alternative narrative which may one day lead her to power. She doesn’t seem alone in her effort but seems to be helped by important people who introduce her to policy-making circles in the US and other capitals of the world. Fatima, these people believe, is the future of the PPP. But then she denies having any desire for power.
Murtaza Bhutto’s daughter says she does not want to follow her aunt Benazir Bhutto and become a part of dynastic politics. One is tempted to feel tenderly towards the young lady who probably has little knowledge of how dynastic politics operate. The magic is not just in the name but in a person’s ability to connect with people and become a force which can deliver, though imperfectly. She probably doesn’t realise that it was not her father or uncle or even her sole surviving aunt who represented Bhutto’s legacy.
It was Benazir Bhutto alone, who, for the people, represents the legacy of political empowerment. Had dynastic politics been as Fatima imagines, the people of Larkana would have obliged Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Jr and voted for Ghinwa particularly after Benazir’s death. People connect with Benazir Bhutto — the woman who went to jail, led processions and went on hunger strikes during General Zia’s dictatorship.
This was the time when Fatima’s father was busy creating his imagined revolution. Perhaps, she echoes the anger and disappointment of her father who could not displace his sister after he returned to the country. Murtaza Bhutto never regained sanity and was a liability for the government and the local bureaucracy. Surely, Fatima is mistaken when she sees him as a victim. But Murtaza’s daughter is certainly no simpleton. She is consciously part of the fiction which is being created around her: a young Bhutto who denounces dynastic politics and disagrees with all that her aunt stood for.
At home in Karachi, she uses her Bhutto name and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s relics to draw the intelligentsia and local and foreign media into a conversation. Despite all her rhetoric about democracy and shunning of elite politics, she is a symbol of that very system. Hopefully, Fatima realises that people are attracted into a conversation with her not just due to her pretty face and demeanour but because of her brand name. Unfortunately, she is party to the nefarious plan to replace the memory of Bhuttos that many amongst the elite would like to hate.
The older Bhutto and his daughter represent a political legacy that no one may be able to replicate. Both Bhuttos were similar. The British High Commissioner in Pakistan during the mid-1960s, Sir James Morrice, described the older Bhutto as “a lucifer, a flawed angel”. But both the father and daughter were like Marlowe’s Dr Faustus — victims of their own intellect.
Nevertheless, they are remembered for their ability to connect with ordinary people. What distinguishes Benazir from other leaders including female political icons such as Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher is her ability to keep the woman in her alive. More importantly, she was a doting mother and a kind aunt who facilitated Sassui Bhutto’s US citizenship, and her studies there.
Benazir even reached out to Fatima despite the latter’s anger. At this juncture, one can sympathise with Fatima and advise her not to build her fame on the dead body of her aunt.
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