Legacy and jus­tice

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Rafia Zakaria

ON Fri­day, Dec 3, the doc­u­men­tary based on Be­nazir Bhutto's tu­mul­tuous life and un­timely death, was re­leased in movie the­atres in New York and Los An­ge­les. Re­viewed widely in news­pa­pers across the US, the doc­u­men­tary has al­ready been slated as the 'of­fi­cial se­lec­tion' at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val. Pro­duced by Duane Baugh­man, an Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant, the film takes a view of an evoca­tive jour­ney through the life of a woman whose charm and courage cap­ti­vated the world since her ap­pear­ance at her fa­ther's side as a mere teenager.

The task of in­tro­duc­ing Be­nazir Bhutto, and by de­fault Pak­istan, to an Amer­i­can au­di­ence is an en­deav­our marked by dis­tinct chal­lenges. First among these is the ex­ca­va­tion of Pak­istan from its sta­tus as the tag-along sec­ond-half of the Af-Pak equa­tion, an un­in­vited af­ter­thought in the Amer­i­can imag­i­na­tion, de­void of his­tory or con­text. It is pre­cisely such an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ex­pe­di­tion that Duane Baugh­man is able to un­der­take in the doc­u­men­tary.

As the story weaves through the felled heads of one, then an­other, then yet an­other mem­ber of the Bhutto clan, we see the fis­sures within the fam­ily, their di­verse po­lit­i­cal views and the cav­al­cade of en­e­mies that pur­sue them re­lent­lessly. The pic­ture of Pak­istan that emerges is thus com­plex and nu­anced and be­yond the caus­tic 'nation of ter­ror­ists' stereo­type that assails it on the in­ter­na­tional stage. Bhutto

Bank­ing on the fa­mil­iar­ity of cel­lu­loid among Amer­i­cans, man­ages to make palat­able to Amer­i­cans the his­tory that they should know but lack the mo­ti­va­tion to ab­sorb. Par­ti­tion, the se­ces­sion of East Pak­istan, the Soviet in­va­sion of neigh­bour­ing Afghanistan and the com­pli­ca­tions of Is­lami­sa­tion are awarded cru­cial cameos neatly ac­com­mo­dated within a com­fort­able two hours to suit the frag­ile Amer­i­can at­ten­tion span. The vex­ing com­pli­ca­tions of Bhutto pol­i­tics, the al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and the coups are in­jected into the chronol­ogy mud­dling the bound­aries be­tween con­spir­acy and re­al­ity and mir­ror­ing ac­cu­rately Pak­istan's smoky po­lit­i­cal ter­rain.

Also com­mend­able is the abil­ity of the pro­duc­tion team to draw to­gether a di­verse set of com­men­ta­tors. Fig­ures not cur­rently on speak­ing terms, for­mer pres­i­dents, cur­rent pres­i­dents and es­tranged Bhutto relatives all ap­pear in suc­ces­sion be­fore the viewer, award­ing the dis­cus­sion depth and evad­ing its cast­ing as a pro­longed dirge.

In deal­ing with the tense days be­tween Be­nazir Bhutto's re­turn on Oct 18, 2007 un­til her as­sas­si­na­tion in De­cem­ber 2007, the film presents to view­ers the email sent by the late po­lit­i­cal leader im­pli­cat­ing the for­mer gen­eral in the lapses she saw in her se­cu­rity. Mo­ments later, Gen Mushar­raf him­self ap­pears on screen, dis­count­ing un­equiv­o­cally and specif­i­cally any al­le­ga­tion re­gard­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion's omis­sions with re­gard to the pro­vi­sion of se­cu­rity. (Con­trast this with the in­abil­ity of the Fed­eral In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency - FIA - task­force that probed her death to ob­tain a state­ment from the erst­while gen­eral.) Bhutto

The most poignant as­pect of , and the one most likely to have the deep­est im­pact on Amer­i­can movie­go­ers are the rec­ol­lec­tions of two gen­er­a­tions of Bhut­tos about their deaths of their par­ents.

Set­ting aside aver­sion to dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics, the va­garies vis­ited by the feu­dal sys­tem and other sub­stan­tive dis­agree­ments one might have with Bhutto pol­i­tics, it is nearly im­pos­si­ble to har­den one's heart against the chil­dren, how­ever, priv­i­leged, de­scrib­ing a last meet­ing with their mother as she set out for an un­cer­tain and sin­is­ter po­lit­i­cal mi­lieu.

These mem­o­ries, with Be­nazir Bhutto's daugh­ters show­ing to the cam­era the last note and the last gift and de­scrib­ing an early birth­day greet­ing that be­came a fi­nal good­bye are the film's most pow­er­ful mo­ments. Achingly heartrend­ing, they pro­vide a glimpse into the in­ti­mate hu­man re­la­tion­ships that un­der­girded Be­nazir Bhutto's oth­er­wise sur­real and al­ways pub­lic life.

As the mem­o­ries of Be­nazir Bhutto are be­ing con­jured up thou­sands of miles away in the US, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into her death in Pak­istan con­tin­ues. On Dec 4, 2010, a day af­ter the film's re­lease, the me­dia re­ported on an anti-ter­ror­ism court is­su­ing war­rants for the ar­rest of two se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers charged with crim­i­nal neg­li­gence for or­der­ing the wash­ing down of the as­sas­si­na­tion scene hours af­ter Be­nazir Bhutto was killed.

The 45-page re­port sub­mit­ted by the FIA's Joint In­ves­ti­ga­tion Task­force han­dling the case has al­ready ab­solved all "fed­eral and pro­vin­cial" of­fi­cials serv­ing at the time from any in­volve­ment, iden­ti­fy­ing in­stead Bait­ul­lah Mehsud, the de­ceased leader of the Tehrik-i-Tal­iban Pak­istan, as the mas­ter­mind be­hind the as­sas­si­na­tion. The de­vel­op­ments demon­strate how the de­mands of Bhutto's legacy may them­selves be an ob­sta­cle in pur­su­ing the truth re­gard­ing her death.

In­deed, en­abling the as­cent of those clos­est to the mur­dered leader may re­quire the pur­suit of a lesser jus­tice eval­u­ated on the cold scales of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency. Dead per­pe­tra­tors may thus be judged the ideal cul­prits, con­ve­nient tar­gets for blame in their ac­com­mo­dat­ing si­lence.

While these dis­mal thoughts may worry Pak­ista­nis as they mull Be­nazir Bhutto's legacy, the lat­ter's evo­ca­tion on Amer­i­can movie screens ful­fils quite an­other pur­pose. Just as Sept 11, 2001 was a day when the world most em­pathised with the United States, Dec 27, 2007 marked Pak­istan's moment in world hearts.

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