It’s my right to criticise Pakistan because I love it: Fatima Bhutto

Published: November 29, 2013


Not soon after her much-criticised interview, in which she claimed that eating in restaurants and lingering in bookstores are “forbidden luxuries” in Pakistan, appeared in the London Evening Standard, Fatima Bhutto spoke at the London School of Economics (LSE) to a full house about her new book, titled The Shadow of the Crescent Moon. Waziristan, a region the host of the event described as a twilight zone between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and one that is in the news for all the wrong reasons, is the setting of her latest novel.

Commenting that being on a book tour is what she imagines being a prisoner of war feels like (being shunted from room to room and interrogated with the same questions) Fatima said that she wanted to write about northern Pakistan but did not choose Peshawar, Bajaur or Banu as these were settings that had too many prejudices, such as the Taliban and drones, attached with them. Thus, she picked the small town of Mir Ali, albeit a highly fictionalised one, as the setting, for she felt it did not already have a singular meaning attached to it.

Fatima also believes that characters unfold on their own when one is writing fiction. “It’s a strange process … You think you are building people, but they make themselves and they change across the writing of the book.”

The people in her book are struggling with things she herself is curious about, and in each of them there was something she sympathised with, whether it was their fears, longings or their suffocation. “In all of them, even the ones I didn’t agree with or felt offended by, I didn’t feel I could judge them.”

She was particularly intrigued by a character called Meena, who actively starts looking for funerals to go to: “Every morning, she finds out what soyem is happening where, and she turns up and starts asking questions. Meena used to disturb me very much when I was writing. She used to rattle me and as her story started to unfold, I started to see more of her, rather than creating more of her.”

“You let the characters be, which is curious. You don’t actually have the control you have with non-fiction where you build structures which are very definite. With fiction, you observe and follow along,” she said, adding that she got unreasonably attached to these characters that “don’t exist for anyone but you [the author].”

When asked if writing is her way of being political without actually entering politics, Fatima said that Pakistanis do not have a choice but to be political. “It’s what determines how you live and how you die, it is no longer an option to step out of politics.” As far as supporting a particular party is concerned, she said she only supports people on the ground who are doing good work.

She also feels that when Pakistan is talked about, it is in terms of CNN headlines and Newsweek stories rather than people. She also laments the fact that these headlines are dehumanised, that a report on drone strikes will say that some people killed may have been suspected underage militants, when it should really say children. “I wanted to write about people, about children, not underage militants,” she proclaimed.

When it was mentioned that it is these same people who will become journalists and lawyers, Fatima said exasperatedly: “That’s why we are where we are! You restrict voices to those who can speak English or have been educated abroad, or have computers and can use Twitter.”

She also said that democracy in Islamic countries will take time, as they haven’t been decolonised as yet in the true sense, and the problem does not lie with Islam. “Islamic countries will build their own version of democracy. It will not be like western democracy… it will be unique to where they are, and to their heritage and culture.”

On the media

Fatima believes the media is not thoughtful anymore, nor is it the incredible force of change it used to be. For this, she blames General Ziaul Haq; both his twice daily censor checks for all newspapers, as well as the fact that “journalists were publicly flogged and sentenced to death” in his time “and have learnt their lesson”.

She also thinks language is a barrier, for to know the true state of affairs in Balochistan, one needs to read newspapers coming out of Quetta rather than national papers: “I went to Quetta in 2007 where local journalists were doing tremendous work at a great cost to their lives, but they are not on Facebook and you can’t retweet them.”

On Malala

“Malala is important because she is a new voice. I think that’s part of the reason there is so much hostility [against her]. It is our duty to support her and the thousands of Malalas in the country who don’t yet have a voice,” she said.

“Malala has been treated unfairly in Pakistan. People say she is washing [our] dirty laundry in public. Well then Pakistan should clean its laundry up,” she added, taking the opportunity to deal with people who blame her for the same thing: “It’s my right to criticise Pakistan because I love it… It is my duty to speak when I see something wrong, especially because a lot of us live outside the problems and have privileges that millions don’t.”

She said if she is to speak about positive stories, “I would like to know what they are.”

Fatima’s book The Shadow of the Crescent Moon is out in Pakistan “after considerable south Asian bureaucratic delay”.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (51)

  • Nikki
    Nov 29, 2013 - 6:58PM

    Fatima Bhutto:
    We respect you and admire your endeavors in writings.
    You should not criticise Pakistan because,, still, you have given nothing to this state.
    As citizen of Pakistan first do someting positive which can be seen by the ordinary people. Criticism is easy but producing and contributing for Pakistan is something different.
    Most of the time you spend your time abroad and getting money for criticising Pakistan. You can listen your lectures too.
    True, all is not well in pakistan but everything cannot be shared with Pakistan’s enemies and to the west particularly.
    Dont forget, Pakistan is your true identity, so prove yourself that you are.


  • Point of view
    Nov 29, 2013 - 7:00PM

    miss bhuto you forgot to mention the fact that your family and ppp members including mr zardari who have robbed pakistan and the ongoing troubles in Karachi are thanks to the bhuto brothers, and do you acully live in Pakistan or just when you feel like,Wealthy corrupt people who do live here have NO understanding of what the vast majority of Pakistani people are going through..


  • Brookside
    Nov 29, 2013 - 7:20PM

    Fatima Bhutto is very learned and intellectually very sound as compared to her cousin Bilawal Bhutto and Fatima is true claimant to Bhutto legacy. But like Malala, Fatima is much misunderstood in Pakistan . Don’t know why pakistanis get so jealous towards anyone from their country who gets recognized worldwide. A flicker of hope for Pakistan if it can nurture and encourage such talented ladies.


  • Ozair
    Nov 29, 2013 - 7:48PM

    Fatima Bhutto is quite an intellectual person and has all the makings of being a great leader. I wish she joins the political arena for the sake of the country.


  • Ahmed Hassan Khan
    Nov 29, 2013 - 7:53PM

    She has some sense of the world but I think so she is veiling herself due to the media and environment she is dealing with but she still had the mind of her family so she may prove to be a good leader if she is molded well!


  • MS
    Nov 29, 2013 - 7:53PM

    @Brookside what you said about Fatima is very correct, but I would disagree what you said about Malala, Most Pakistani’s have no grudge against Malala but they think that she is overly ambitious, while Fatima as you said is very intelligent and she has on record talked against the dynastic politics in sub continent and probably would find her own niche along the way. I wish her all the best.


  • Rao
    Nov 29, 2013 - 7:54PM


    True Pakistani cannt tolerate criticiam from the people those are visitors, not living and facing hardshipslikePakistani.


  • AR
    Nov 29, 2013 - 8:13PM

    I wonder why Abdul sattar Edhi does not criticize. Might be he is too busy to serve the people…


  • Pakistani
    Nov 29, 2013 - 8:14PM

    Bibi stay in UK and earn money in the name of Pakistan.
    Pakistan has already earned bad name becuase of your elders.


  • Shankar
    Nov 29, 2013 - 8:28PM


    Agreed with Nikki;
    Fatima Bhutto whenever comes India she criticised Pakistan.


  • Pakistani
    Nov 29, 2013 - 9:09PM

    I really don’t understand what you and ppl like you mean by you have not done anything for Pakistan.. She is an excellent writer when there is not any emphasis on such stuff. Isn’t this enough? Kindly try to appreciate good things people are doing.


  • Muhammad Imran
    Nov 29, 2013 - 9:11PM

    Dear Author,

    After reading few line about you and your writing, I consult to my Dad for writing a book on FATA. As I myself belong to FATA but migrated to settle area due to many reason. When I consult with a friend about starting writing a book about FATA he warned me that someone (security agencies) will list u in the missing people. Is it true that if someone wrote about FATA they are in trouble. I will be happy to co-author with you if you can help me out. Thanks

    M. ImranRecommend

  • Uzair
    Nov 29, 2013 - 9:28PM

    Fatima, I agree with you on all points. Alas our country is benighted by a hatred of logic and an aversion to reality. Anyone who speaks against our prevailing traditions, as bad as such traditions may be, is labeled a “liberal fascist”, a “western stooge”, and so on. The result of decades of brainwashing in our schools and media :)


  • Thetruth
    Nov 29, 2013 - 9:38PM

    Enough with Bhutto family. They are history, Fact. Zardari family is now the only reality for PPP, and even they are finished.


  • pak_liberal
    Nov 29, 2013 - 10:03PM

    Criticizing Pakistan is not unpatriotic.
    Criticizing Muslims is not unislamic.


  • Parvez
    Nov 29, 2013 - 10:31PM

    Read her first book and was not impressed…….but look forward to reading this one, because the lady appears to have all the right credentials for writing a good novel.


  • usman
    Nov 29, 2013 - 10:44PM

    I genuinely feel bad for fatima. Political figures to the rest of us, it was her family that has been massacred. It would not surprise me if Fatima suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder having the history of grandfather’s hanging, living her father’s murder (which she believes had the reluctant approval of her aunt). Finally, her aunt for whom she had mixed feelings, also assassinated. Pakistan is a country that voted for the person she believes murdered her father. Of course she has issues with this country.

    She has not been able to transcend her tragedies to see some fundamental truths. She glosses over ZAB’s failures (giving into mullahs, breaking legs and such for dhaka bound politicians), she glosses over her father’s role in murders. We would all like to see Fatima use her education, intellect and charisma to denounce feudalist families along with terrorism, family monopolies along with “poor journalism”, to support drone victims along with malala to privatize agricultural fiefdoms of bhutto family instead of glorifying their opulence. She criticizes Imran Khan from the comforts of London and L.A. but does nothing herself to improve the country. A country which paid for her mansions, education and trust funds she enjoys today.

    It is this lens that she sees Pakistan. it is not a rose-tinted one. Now she writes about Waziristan, a topic she knows nothing and profits off of the proceeds of Pakistan’s miseries. Her non-fiction book lacked objective research. Sadly, this fictional book will do more to expose her lack of credentials on the topic.


  • Ayesha Mansoor
    Nov 29, 2013 - 11:25PM

    You can love Pakistan and yet critique it, it does not matter if you are a poor person from the street or come from a political dynasty. To speak ill about your country & some of its practices is what makes us strong citizens & if you do so on film or write about it should NOTbe taken as a weakness. This constant inferiority complex that letting the WESTknow about the ills in Pakistan is a fault that many of us Pakistanis seem to inherit.
    Women in Pakistan seem to have a gift to highlight the injustices in the landscape & the cowards who want to brush these injustices scream and rant against these courageous ladies be it Malala, Sharmeen Chinoy or Fatima Bhutto.
    All nations have their points of weakness, no nation is perfect and no society has been created as angels, so we need to stop comparing and look into our souls to see we have to make major changes to better Pakistan & make our children’s future better than the one we have inherited!


  • Farooq
    Nov 29, 2013 - 11:26PM

    hope she been to Mirali


  • csmann
    Nov 29, 2013 - 11:29PM

    First Abdus-Salaam,then Malala, now Fatima Bhutto;anyone projecting Pakistanis as people of 21st century is vilified and hounded . Those who believe in medieval Pakistan are lauded as heroes and brothers. People like you can’t do anything for Pakistan,miss Bhutto.The country is bent on self-destruction.


  • Leila Rage
    Nov 29, 2013 - 11:47PM

    ‘eating in restaurants and lingering in bookstores are forbidden luxuries”? Really? Really, Miss Bhutto? Do you even live in the same pakistan as the rest of us, or do you live in some CNN/FOX news generated idea of pakistan? Talk about ignorance.


  • Liberal
    Nov 29, 2013 - 11:48PM

    A girl who was born in US, lived her teens in Beirut, Afghanistan, France and studied from US and UK, who has seen Pakistan as most of us have seen Murree (VACATION u know) is now talking about us and our problems and in that she always tell us that we cannot linger around and roam on bookstores. Geta life Ms Bhutto. We Pakistanis are facing a hard time. Youth like me are striving for better jobs to make our both ends meet but still we love our country and we would always project its good image. We always teach our kids not to talk about their household affairs with their friends and our so called intellectual like Ms Bhutto are yet to learn those things. She is not patriotic at all; if she is she should tell us how much has she done for her HAARIIS (farmers) who work on her thousands of acres of agri land. What has she done for their MEENAs?? what about their education, health and shelters? nothing….what is her contribution for those kids n old who die in drone attacks? what has she done in earthquakes and floods that erupted in Pakistan in the recent years? what investments has she done in Pakistan to boost its poor economy?
    So, we dont need any sypathies and criticism for people who are born with a silver spoon and still they dont do anything for Pak n make their relatives SHAHEEDS for own popularity and agendas…..


  • anonymus
    Nov 30, 2013 - 12:29AM

    Dear Liberal you deserve taliban. Good Luck


  • Usman
    Nov 30, 2013 - 2:32AM

    A terrific point raised by liberal.
    I mean spare a thought or two for the generations of harees that have suffered at the hands of feudal overlords.


  • Fakir Fukra Baboo
    Nov 30, 2013 - 10:10AM

    By the way she looks stunning in her graceful outfits :) Actually, I liked her belt :) Get off all the haters and looser! Let her sigh!


  • Ghinwa
    Nov 30, 2013 - 12:21PM

    Yes, but if you love someone you don’t ALWAYS JUST CRITICIZE THEM. You also ADMIRE THEM and HIGHLIGHT THEIR GOOD POINTS!


  • Dajjal
    Nov 30, 2013 - 12:27PM

    “It’s my right to criticise Pakistan because I love it”

    Well i have a right to criticize Pakistan, not because i Love it or any such thing, but because i have to Live here and the other Pakistanis make it very difficult to like, let alone love, pretty much anything about this country….
    Loving your country is a notion drilled into the heads of unsuspecting and innocent children by Unscrupulous elements who seek to benefit by misusing other peoples Naiveté for personal gains…


  • RHS
    Nov 30, 2013 - 12:30PM

    Fatima, keep writing and loving Pakistan. Be as critical as you like. But in the process get married and settle down!


  • Akhtarrao
    Nov 30, 2013 - 12:35PM

    You visit Pakistan when you need new data for preparing your talk or book,other wise we know how much you love this country. Pakistn’s does not need your love please stay away and stop criticising Pakistan.
    So far your role is zero for Pakistan,but Pakistan has given you ( bhutto family)a lot you may not be able to return in your life.Eevn your generation cannt return


  • Prof. Shahid Mobeen
    Nov 30, 2013 - 1:01PM

    First of all my compliments for the new book! Second responsible citizens of any society are able of looking at the defects and positives of their nation to contribute in its growth and I must recognize that Fatima with her knowledge and personal experience is more than a simply responsbiel citizen who loves Pakistan.


  • Talha Rizvi
    Nov 30, 2013 - 1:10PM

    Yes she can but like many pointed out she has no real connection with Pakistan. Her family always lived a privileged life style in Karachi. Just read Anjum Niaz and others on Bhutto Sahib. They lived a cosmopolitan Lifestyle in Karachi and married Non-Sindhi women. Yet they had no shame in using regionalism to fleece vote from the Sindhis. His policies resulted in the Quota system and there were Language riots in Interior Sindh which resulted in the expulsion of Muhajirs from Interior Sindh. I greatly admire Mr. Bhutto for his intellectual capabilities but I’m afraid despite all his knowledge he was really short sighted in thinking. I speak from experience as my Mother’s family settled in Larkana and I know how the prosperous Urdu-Speaking community was forced out of Interior sindh.
    @ anonymous: You Indians deserve all the ills you wish towards us. I’m always amazed at the sheer vitriol, hatred and interference in others affairs that you Indians display.
    @ csmann: So people like Modi are acceptable to you Indians ? It is amazing that those who display the thinking of BC era are lauded in India yet they have the guts to criticize us.
    @ Shankar: If a Pakistani criticizes his country he is held as the Lone voice of Truth by you Indians . However if he utters a single remark against India you guys go berserk. Comments on Khalid Ahmed. Kamran Shafi, Irfan Husain ‘s solo article where they criticized using facts and not like jingoism employed by you Indians were enough to show how much you guys live in delusions. There previous fans went berserk using the most filthy language against them. Hypocrisy is what I call it.
    @ Et please publish.


  • Baba Ji
    Nov 30, 2013 - 1:14PM

    She needs to get married now … otherwise it will be some khushnaseeb “Baba” after a few years !!!!


  • Proletarian
    Nov 30, 2013 - 1:54PM

    Do not forget that her family has lost plenty of people in Pakistan. She quite a lot of right to criticism this country.


  • Pakistani
    Nov 30, 2013 - 2:24PM

    Whos Fatima Bhutto????


  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    Nov 30, 2013 - 2:31PM

    democracy in Islamic countries will take time, as they haven’t been decolonised as yet in the true sense, and the problem does not lie with Islam.” Breath of fresh air (intellect).


  • wahabgm
    Nov 30, 2013 - 3:19PM

    We congratulate Fatima for launching her book.We believe that the time is not so far when real Bhutto will shine like a moon.


  • Freaked out
    Nov 30, 2013 - 4:16PM

    @ Nikki what you said is very correct and true about Fatima as she has no role in Pakistan politics and she should better get married as soon as possible before it’s too late as it’s quite evident in this latest pic. of her.


  • Ali S
    Nov 30, 2013 - 4:23PM

    She has the right to criticize Pakistan because she’s a Bhutto who isn’t part of her family’s political gravy train.


  • Nikki
    Nov 30, 2013 - 5:14PM


    Do watch her lecture on the following topic- She is receiving check after having bashed Pakistan

    Pakistan: Nation on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Fatima BhuttoRecommend

  • SH
    Nov 30, 2013 - 6:04PM

    I just know one thing…she’s intellectually hot!


  • Pakistani1
    Nov 30, 2013 - 6:07PM

    And it is your family’s right to 10% of everything in pakistan

    Bhutto & Zardari family think they have the right to everything because of their so called shaheeds.


  • waseem saeed
    Nov 30, 2013 - 6:43PM

    dear miss fatima , i have read all comments , what i observe that you can not know the problem of pakistan sitting in FIVE STAR hotels , madam i know you are the best writer but you must not share your home problem with others ? all the developed countries are made beautiful by there people . and one thing what your mother(GUNWA BHUTO) is doing here in sindh , she is using new youth to join their student party to vanish the education in our interior sindh Universities MUET SINDH UNI , etc . madam you must love pakistanRecommend

  • Dr.A.K.Tewari
    Nov 30, 2013 - 6:46PM

    A muslim who directly can not criticise ISLAM being practiced in Islamic republic of Pakistan , should criticise Pakistan . That is the only alternative to scape the black law of blasphemy .
    Well done Fatima .Recommend

  • Waqas
    Nov 30, 2013 - 8:27PM

    Just the other day I dined in a restaurant and lingered in a bookstore afterwards. Little did I know that I was experiencing a “forbidden luxury.”Recommend

  • Muhammad
    Nov 30, 2013 - 8:45PM

    What is wrong with Malala being overly ambitious? Most Pakistanis are lazy by nature and have no desire to work hard or to achieve much. They just wanna live by their lives insecure and jelous of anyone who achieves anything…specially at the western front.

    Religion and culture in Pakistan breeds hatred of women and anything related to the west. True story for 65 years and going.Recommend

  • Mustafa
    Nov 30, 2013 - 9:54PM

    Muhammad Imran@ //Dear Author,
    After reading few line about you and your writing, I consult to my Dad for writing a book on FATA. As I myself belong to FATA but migrated to settle area due to many reason. When I consult with a friend about starting writing a book about FATA he warned me that someone (security agencies) will list u in the missing people. Is it true that if someone wrote about FATA they are in trouble. I will be happy to co-author with you if you can help me out. Thanks
    M. Imran//

    With your proficiency in English, she won’t even hire you as her driver. Co-authoring a book is much beyond.Recommend

  • Shabbir Tu DekheGa
    Nov 30, 2013 - 11:15PM

    O God, now another Bhutto. Not again!! We have already been bitten by various Bhuttos in Pakistan.
    The FIRST PHASE was “udhar tum, idhar hum” as a last nail on the coffin of broken Pakistan when the runner-up party refused to accept the winner Awami League in 1971 elections. The tricolor party flag, borrowed from Libya, was based on socialism and grand-scale nationalization. The after-shocks of nationalization are still being felt in Pakistan when the PSEs are eating away more than Rs 300 Billion budget from taxpayers money.
    The SECOND PHASE was full of mega corruption stories of SGS, Cotecna, Submarines scandal and ARY gold smuggling case. The government was dissolved after killing your Dad in September 1996.
    The THIRD PHASE was based on sympathy votes gathered on assassination of your aunt. All previous records of corruption have been broken by Asif Zardari Bhutto and his cronies. The debt accumulated during those 5 years is more than the debt accumulated during the past 61 years. Many generations will continue to repay this debt.
    Your late Daddy has never formed a government. He had formed a terrorist organization known as Al-Zulfiqar. He was a key role in hijacking of PIA flight to Kabul. His biography is saved in a book “The Terrorist Prince” written by his former accomplice.
    ET readers can acquire this book from Amazon:
    Those unwilling to purchase a copy can read through
    Koi Dekhe Ya Na Dekhe
    Shabbir Tu Dekhe Ga


  • Muslim Leaguer
    Dec 1, 2013 - 1:47PM

    Most of her ancestors have died unnatural death:
    Grandfather Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was sentenced to death by Supreme Court on account of murder of Mahmood Ali Kasuri (father of Ahmed Raza Kasuri-lawyer of Musharraf & Zardari).
    Uncle Shahnawaz Bhutto was poisoned to death by his wife in France.
    Father Murtaza Bhutto was murdered during Police Raid near his home in Clifton Karachi and just a few yards away from MidEast Hospital in September 1996 during the 2nd tenure of her aunt Benazir Bhutto.
    Aunt Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007 during her election rally due to ill-planning of her security in charge.
    Surprisingly, everyone among them is claimed a Shaheed Bhutto…. In a country where people like Munawwar Hassan define who is shaheed there is no surprise!!Recommend

  • Aisam Zaman
    Dec 1, 2013 - 4:00PM

    I am fed up with this obsession of literature. Modern human life evolved because of science, not literature which has been around for centuries.
    btw, Ms Bhutto wrote about Waziristan? If so, when did she live there? Perhaps during British colonial times?


  • Dec 3, 2013 - 12:44AM

    Fatima Bhutto is taking the Pakistani flag higher – and honestly we need to learn to respect the achievers for their work, and if we don’t like what they are doing, do better than them and rub it on their face … but general rants don’t do anyone any favours … which Pakistan as a nation seems to love doing.

    Have read Fatima’s first novel, have reviewed it for ET (here you go for those who care to read it and am only proud of the girl … !!

    Keep the flag flying higher people …Recommend

  • Suhail
    Dec 10, 2013 - 10:53AM

    I found some comments really interesting. Specially the philosophy presented by Nikki. I would only say that if the theory presented by Nikki is true then he or she has no write to say anything to Fatima either. When last I looked, I didnt see Nikki’s name inducted in the list of the people done miracles for Pakistan.


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