One year ago today on December 27, 2007 I woke up to the BBC World Service on my shortwave radio and heard the news that Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated. It didn’t suprise me at all, given the political situation in Pakistan at the time, her family’s political history, her own political past (holding the office of Prime Minister twice) and her return to Pakistan from exile.
I wasn’t exactly sure I would write about Benazir Bhutto until I came across an March 2008 interview with Bhutto’s niece, poet and author, Fatima Bhutto.
During the interview which was taped for CNN “Talk Asia” program (hosted by Anjali Rao), Fatima Bhutto discussed her aunt, as a politician and as a relative, as well as her own activism. Along the way, she had some very interesting comments that ring very true for me today in our current political environment.
In Part 1, a brief history of the Bhutto family recounts how Ms. Bhutto’s grandfather, founder of the Pakistan People’s Party and first democratically-elected leader of the country, was executed by the military and how Ms. Bhutto’s father, Mir Mataza Bhutto (Benazir’s younger brother and a member of Parliament), was gunned down in 1996 after he split from his sister and became critical of her government’s corruption (more later on this topic).
Here is Part I of the interview:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Key observations from Ms. Bhutto about her aunt include how:
“…in power, she caused a lot suffering…unrecognizable.”
“People placed hope with her…(she) spoke to hope and change…in power, she was no different than what had been before” (cited large-scale corruption, human rights issues and her dealings with the Taliban).
The “lack of accountability as she returned…deal with a dictator erased 20 years of corruption and a provision…makes it impossible to file charges against future parliamentarians” (National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).
During Part 1 Ms. Bhutto was asked if she had any political aspirations of her own (at the time of the interview some in Pakistan saw her as the person to take over her aunt’s party), but explained that wanted to remain an activist on the local level, without any association with any party. She said there were other ways to be active outside of politics and that shes was not interested in “power politics.”
Asked about fears for her own safety because of her being so outspoken, she said all Pakistanis lived in fear and added:
“Once you begin to self-censor, you’ve done the state’s job…and they can rest quite easily.”
In Part 2 of the interview Ms. Bhutto describes how her father and six others were gunned down in 1996 by the police outside the family home (Fatima was 14 and in the house at the time and heard the shots), just a few of the thousands killed in what was called “state terrorism” in some quarters. Her father was from the PPP’s left-wing and he broke with his sister who was Prime Minister at the time and accused her government as being corrupt. Benazir Bhutto was accused of trying to cover-up the role of her husband in the murders. Among the findings of an investigation by a tribunal was the conclusion that the murders could never have taken place without the “approval from the highest levels of government.”
(See” “Living on the Edge,” The Times (UK), 05/08/2008 (“Six months after her aunt Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, Fatima Bhutto is fighting to reveal the truth surrounding the murder of her father in 1996 — and making some very dangerous enemies.”)
According to Ms. Bhutto, this was a turning point in her life as she became the issues of justice and violence became central to her life, as did the need for accountability so that political violence in Pakistan could come to an end.
When asked if there would be real change if the PPP took power again, Ms. Bhutto had these words:
“In Pakistan, it seems, that power doesn’t really change hands, it’s the faces that change. But ultimately, their goal is the same.”
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Who was she talking about in March 2008? The United States’ “democracy” as it really is today?
If you have time, do watch Parts 1 and 2 of this interview with this brilliant, courageous young woman. You’ll admire her…I know I do!
(Part 3 of the interview deals with Bhutto’s book about the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.)
For more on Fatima Bhutto and her books and newspaper columns, see her website.
“Aunt Benazir’s false promises,” by Fatima Bhutto, Los Angeles Times, 11/14/2007
Filed under: Current Politics, World News | Tagged: "power politics", 2005 Pakistan earthquake, BBC World Service, Benazir Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto assassination, CNN "Talk Asia", dictatorship, Fatima Bhutto, human rights, Mir Mataza Bhutto, Pakistan, Pakistan People's Party, Pakistan's National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), Pakistani government corruption, Pervez Musharraf, shortwave radio, state terrorism, the Taliban |