Friday, May 16, 2014

Fatima Bhutto's "Songs of Blood and Sword"

Fatima Bhutto's memoir "Songs of Blood and Sword" left me cold. Bhutto engages in hagiography of her grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and her father Murtaza Ali Bhutto. But Zulfikar was not a milk-washed politician as Fatima wants us to believe. He hobnobbed with the junta to remain in power by rigging elections which proved fatal as military dictator Zia Ul Haq later had him imprisoned, tortured and murdered. Because of his hatred for Hindus in the other side of the border, Zulfikar spent millions in nuclear program in a country where even a pointed needle wasn't manufactured and many people had to live with bare minimum.  Fatima fails to discuss this.

Murtaza may be a good man as Fatima describes but during Zia's tyranny he was enjoying a posh life abroad. His sister Benazir was in Pakistan during the rule. Yes, Benazir later became corrupt to the core when she came to power with the help of the army. Her husband Asif Zardari comes out as a one-dimensional villain in the book. Fatima directs all her anger against Benazir rather than the army which always has a great say in Pakistani politics. She is completely biased in that regard but that is understandable in a memoir where her subjectivity dictates.

If you want to get a truthful picture of Pakistani politics, this book will not help you. If you are interested in political soap opera of a powerful family of Pakistan, this book gives you plenty of thrills. Fatima writes in a beautiful language and her descriptions of the intimate moments with her father and family oozes warmth.

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