by Saffi Ullah Ahmad
In her latest book, Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter’s Memoir, journalist Fatima Bhutto — better known as the niece of the late Benazir Bhutto — takes us through the dark history of one of the world’s best known political dynasties.
Fatima’s grandfather, founder of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, Zuliqar Ali Bhutto, was sent to the gallows (1979) following a military coup orchestrated by General Zia Ul-Haq based on what were concocted charges, despite appeals for mercy from across the diplomatic world. As Henry Kissinger had ominously threatened some years earlier, a ‘horrible example’ was made of Mr. Bhutto. As the book’s cover informs us, in the years since Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s execution, all but one of his children have died; in circumstances mired in mystery, Shahnawaz Bhutto was poisoned in his flat in France (1985), Mir Murtaza Bhutto – Fatima’s father – was gunned down outside his home in Karachi (1996) and Benazir Bhutto was killed following a suicide attack in the garrison city, Rawalpindi (2007).
Above all, Songs of Blood and Sword is the tale of a grieving daughter’s frantic six year search for the truth surrounding her father’s life and death. Fatima describes a kind spirited and idealistic Murtaza, a man of the people, who had idolised Che Guevara in his youth, fittingly having adorned his bedroom walls with posters of the Cuban revolutionary. After completing studies at Harvard and an unsuccessful diplomatic battle to save his father’s life, Murtaza’s formation of a leftist guerrilla outfit bent on ousting General Zia earned him the title of a terrorist. Following the General’s own mysterious death (1988) and Benazir’s rise to power, Murtaza grew increasingly critical of his sister, who he felt had betrayed the socialist ideals upon which the PPP was founded. He eventually returned to Pakistan with political aspirations – having won a seat in a provincial assembly – only to face an uphill struggle against a hostile PPP government.