that failed to fulfil its promise
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