that failed to ful­fil its prom­ise

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

main­tained that Is­lam and the West were des­tined to en­gage in bloody con­flict. Such con­flict can be avoided, Bhutto ar­gues, if West­ern democ­ra­cies ( most no­tably the US) end their sup­port for dic­ta­tor­ships in Mus­lim so­ci­eties. Democ­ra­cies, whether Mus­lim or West­ern, will not make war on one an­other.

The sec­ond strand of the book sits un­easily with the first. It con­sists of a self- serv­ing ac­count of the po­lit­i­cal ca­reers of Bhutto and her fa­ther, the ex­e­cuted for­mer prime min­is­ter Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto. This ac­count high­lights the dis­junc­ture be­tween Be­nazir Bhutto’s pro­fessed ( and prob­a­bly sin­cerely held) be­liefs and her po­lit­i­cal record.

She was the first fe­male leader of a mod­ern Mus­lim state, yet once in power she failed to re­peal leg­is­la­tion un­der which thou­sands of Pak­istani women, in­clud­ing rape vic­tims, were jailed for adul­tery.

She de­nounced re­li­gious ex­trem­ism, yet un­der her prime min­is­ter­ship Pak­istan fa­cil­i­tated the Tal­iban’s rise to power in Afghanistan in the name of gain­ing ‘‘ strate­gic depth’’.

She speaks pas­sion­ately of the need to sweep aside dic­ta­tor­ships, suf­fered ter­ri­bly un­der the dic­ta­tor­ship of Mo­ham­mad Zia ul- Haq and urges the US to cut loose con­tem­po­rary dic­ta­tors such as Pres­i­dent Pervez Mushar­raf ( who has be­lat­edly been forced to em­brace a sem­blance of democ­racy). Even as this book was writ­ten, she and Mushar­raf were re­luc­tantly en­gaged in ne­go­ti­at­ing a US- bro­kered power- shar­ing agree­ment.

Bhutto’s mem­oir Daugh­ter of the East has also been up­dated and reis­sued, timed to co­in­cide with her home­com­ing, but now serves as an­other me­mo­rial to her life. Read­ing this book, first pub­lished as she came to power in 1988, only high­lights the ex­tent to which she dis­ap­pointed the hopes in­vested in her.

She writes mov­ingly of her im­pris­on­ment, the ex­e­cu­tion of her fa­ther and the mys­te­ri­ous poi­son­ing death of her younger brother in France dur­ing the fam­ily’s ex­ile. But the ac­count of her years in of­fice merely lists achieve­ments and off­loads re­spon­si­bil­ity for failed poli­cies ( such as the sup­port for the Tal­iban) on to mil­i­tary in­trigues and dis­loyal col­leagues. The bit­ter po­lit­i­cal feud with her sec­ond brother and his death in a po­lice shootout dur­ing her prime min­is­ter­ship is dealt with in a cou­ple of para­graphs.

Bhutto’s death was a ter­ri­ble loss for Pak­istan. For all her will­ing­ness to com­pro­mise her prin­ci­ples in the pur­suit of her po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions, she rep­re­sented an al­ter­na­tive path to gov­er­nance by the mil­i­tary or the mul­lahs. It was still pos­si­ble to in­vest some cau­tious hope in her re­turn to the po­lit­i­cal cen­tre stage. But de­spite this, nei­ther Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion nor its au­thor were wor­thy of the blood that stained its pages af­ter that tragic home­com­ing pa­rade in Karachi. Shakira Hus­sein is the ed­i­tor of in­ter­faith on­line mag­a­zine Shalom, Pax, Salam. She is writ­ing a PhD on the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween West­ern and Mus­lim fem­i­nism.

The day she died: Be­nazir Bhutto ral­lies sup­port­ers

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