Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter's Memoir Hardcover – Sep 28 2010
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"Powerful" Telegraph magazine "Fascinating" -- Eithne Farry Marie Claire "She is a compassionate and brave campaigner who ought to be heard" -- Sebastian Shakespeare Tatler "The purpose of this painful biography is admirable and touching" -- Brenda Maddox The Times "A story with dazzling twists and turns told by a true-blue member of the Bhutto fold, with its family history of idealism, political betrayal, murder, hubris and paranaoia" -- Arifa Akbar Independent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Fatima Bhutto studied at Columbia University and the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. An acclaimed poet and journalist, she currently writes columns for the Daily Beast, "New Statesman," and other publications. She lives in Karachi.
Top Customer Reviews
`Milan Kundera once said that the struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting; this is my journey of remembering.'
According to Ms Bhutto, her father's adult life was given to two causes. The first was to avenge the death of his father, former president Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979, ousted by General Zia-ul-Haq. When General Zia-ul-Haq died in 1988, Mir Murtaza Bhutto focussed on protecting his father's political legacy from his sister Benazir Bhutto. The rivalry between Murtaza and Benazir is central to this book, and while Ms Bhutto's account of her father is affectionate and not deeply critical; the same cannot be said of her account of her aunt, Benazir Bhutto.
Mir Murtaza Bhutto left Pakistan in 1977 after the Zia regime took power, and he did not return until 1993. During his absence Benazir Bhutto became a political force within Pakistan, including a period as prime minister between December 1988 and August 1990. According to Ms Bhutto, Mir Murtaza Bhutto's return represented a threat: `it seemed as if Murtaza was the only politician speaking against the status quo, instead of lining up to join it.'
Benazir Bhutto was prime minister when Mir Murtaza Bhutto was shot in 1996, and the policemen accused of killing him were acquitted in 2009, when Asif Ali Zardari (Benazir Bhutto's husband) was president.Read more ›
This book is a fascinating if not sad look at this noble family written by the woman who took the responsibility to explain how such losses could have occurred. The sad parallel with the Kennedy assassinations and the "Camelot" context occurred to me.
I personally revered Benazir Bhutto and mourned with the world when her life ended all too soon at the hands of madness.
I saw Fatima interviewed briefly and her mother would have been very proud of her.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book itself is indeed " a love letter " to her father , as the writter herself has said in an interview and a hateful letter to her late aunt for whom she finds flaws to point out even while Benazir was still a teenager .
Fatima's world seems to be strictly split between the good guys ( her father , his friends and allies , her grandfather and strangely enough the chinese and Hafez al Assad's Syria ) and the bad guys ( mainly Benazir Bhutto and the americans ) . Murtaza Bhutto is presented here as the perfect man , the perfect politician , the perfect father , the perfect husband and even the perfect boyfriend in the case of Della Garoufalis , a woman married to a jailed general of the failed greek junta. " I had to understand why he went to Kabul . It was a decision which changed our lifes " writes Fatima but never is she willing to question anything about her father's actions , even his decision to take up arms .
I have not lived in Pakistan so i don't know which Bhutto had more influence to the pakistani people or was more righteous or honest but having read many interviews of all of them on the web and seen speeches of theirs on youtube , i can say all three public figures of the family ( Benazir , Murtaza and their father Zulfiqar ) seemed to excel in a typical populist rhetoric which promises much more than can be delivered .
The best parts of the book is when Fatima talks about her own thoughts and feelings and comments on the present .The final two chapters of her book are haunting , the epilogue just beautiful . As a political analysis of her country's past though , it feels too one-sided .
The last few years , Pakistan is constantly making the news for all the wrong reasons and i feel it needs people exactly like her , bright and brave , to speak out and introduce to the world the pakistani point of view of things . A great book by her is only a matter of time .
It is impossible for a Bhutto to be balanced and objective regarding all that the Bhutto ruling clan have contributed to Pakistan both positively and (overwhelmingly) negatively. Despite a Western liberal education, formative years outside of the larger Bhutto yoke, and slights received by various members of the Bhuttocracy, Ms. Bhutto has not been able to shed her Bhutto-ness, especially when approaching the subject of her grandfather, and her father. Her views regarding her aunt Benazir were already well known to me, thru her various comments in the media in the past. That Benazir and her husband have left our country in tatters is apparent to anyone who lives in the real world (not the PPP stalwarts who are deluded beyond comprehension). This book did not provide any analysis or information that any realistic and interested party into the world of Paksitani politics, would have known anyway. Her comments about the Benazir-Zaradari Axis was not enlightening in the least, except for her personal remarks about them, which makes for interesting tabloid-esque material.
The real problem with this book is the lack of adequate critical analysis of her grandfather and her father. It is understandable on a personal level, that the author would hero-worship her father and grandfather. Those are natural instincts, especially among women in our part of the world, with respect to paternal figures in their lives. But if she was setting out to write an honest book about the controversial Bhutto clan, then her father and grandfather, who are the main players in the 'Songs of Blood and Sword', deserved and merited to be analyzed very critically and very thoroughly.
Although she tries hard to claim otherwise ('I'm not my grandfather's keeper' in one quote from the book), the analysis of her grandfather was pitiful. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a nefarious, vindictive and megalomaniacal leader. Undoubtedly gifted with a brilliant mind, mesmerizing presence, and an orator par excellence, he was nonetheless, the archetypal Third World megalomaniac. Coming myself from a strata of society, in which family members and family friends were involved either personally with Mr. Bhutto or in a governmental capacity, I have never heard one kind word about this man. None of these people I allude to, had anything to gain from or lose, by commenting negatively on Mr. Bhutto as a man and as a leader. Yet their remarks about him are vitriolic to say the least.
That Ms. Bhutto only briefly mentions this vindictiveness and any of his other shortcomings, is ample proof of the lack of objectivity and honesty in the assessment of her grandfather. His horrendous role in the splitting of Pakistan, his declaring Ahmedi's non-Muslims for his political gain, his paranoia leading him to kill countless political foes, are not given any discussion or analysis. I agree with the analysis of his early years as a Foreign Minister, but what the hell happened to the analysis once he became leader? Utter garbage. Cursory mention of his controversies (nationalization of industries, declaring Ahmedi's non-Muslims, his role in cleaving Pakistan, his ordering the murder of Ahmed Raza Kasuri). The same can be said regarding her father. Very nice to read tender comments and statements of Murtaza Bhutto the father, but nothing of his infamous temper, his arrogance and sense of entitlement, and his vindictiveness.
Overall, my feeling after reading this book was that it was an interesting read, with some interesting insights into the twisted Bhutto clan. But it really lacked any semblance of balance and objectivity. It's is hard for one to be critical of one's own family. It is also hard to be an apologist for their shortcomings. But my feeling is that this book shouldn't have been written in the first place, if there was no true objective analysis given. It is basically a subjective account into the world of Pakistan's curse, the Bhuttos. And an attempt to angelicize (word?) her father and grandfather.
She also stood by his side when he was drenched in blood, agonizing during the last minutes of his life, barely tended to at the Mideast Clinic in Karachi - "I kissed my father's face, his cheeks, his lips, his nose, his chin, over and over again." (page 413). Having seen death more than once at a very young age myself, albeit only of natural causes, I cannot even begin to imagine how this must have impacted a girl of just fourteen, the age Bhutto was at the time her father was assassinated in his native Pakistan.
The Bhuttos are a political dynasty who does not escape the air of tragedy that goes attached to most other political dynasties, like the Kennedys or the Borgias. The patriarch and founder of the Pakistan's People Party or PPP, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), was himself hanged after a coup d'état in 1979, setting the tone for the death of other members of the family, at the pace of one per decade, as Bhutto is quick to point out. She retells all their stories, in a book that is absorbing, extremely interesting from the point of view of a political scientist like myself, but it is also, first and foremost, a heart-wrenching story about a girl who, fourteen years later, still mourns the death of her father, and at this pace, I gather she always will.
But although Bhutto's book is invariably partial to her father, her contribution as a historian is nonetheless outstanding. I discovered this while I was reading the book, and commenting it as I progressed through my reading with my own husband, who is also native of Karachi. Even though his family has lived at Clifton Street most of their lives, he had no idea as to the events that brought the Bhuttos to power, ZAB's communist ideas for Pakistan, and the causes for his removal and subsequent extinction. He also had no idea as to which political power backed who in the family (first Russians and then Chinese backed ZAB and his sons, United States backed his estranged daughter Benazir), and why the family had such a rift after the patriarch's death. What my husband did tell me is that, having grown up during Zia ul Haq's rule, anything having to do with the Bhuttos was palabra non grata, to the point that their contribution - good or bad - to the country's history was negated in the regular education of its citizens. To me this is simply appalling, and I commend Bhutto for, if nothing else, letting the people of her country know about their own past.
Perhaps because I adore my husband and I very much wish from the bottom of my heart that his country would recover and be able to stand on its own, I exhort people like Bhutto to come forward and tell their story. Pakistan seems to me an intriguing nation, Muslim in religion, yet Hindu in customs, descended racially from the Mughals, yet with a physical appearance similar to that of the Afghans. They are nowadays the very cauldron of the world, allusive to the Greek caves of Hades. They have been mitigated time and again by everything from natural disasters to corruption, yet they have an outstanding potential for greatness. It is my sincere wish that the swords of the battle stop spilling more blood and get changed, in turn, for the bricks of knowledge.
The task: Ms. Bhutto sets out to tell the story of her heroes and her foes. Her heroes are her grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, and her father Mir Murtaza Bhutto, eldest son of the former. Both men found violent ends. ZAB was executed after a coup d'état by a military dictator, while MMB was killed by police, allegedly on order from his sister Benazir Bhutto, PM at the time and herself later assassinated, obviously with the connivance of the secret police of the country.
Fatima bears grudges, to put it mildly. Her aunt Benazir and Benazir's husband Zardari, current President, are the main foes in this tale. It is a bitter family dispute with tragic dimensions. It should be told by somebody with more distance to the events and with more writing skills. I can't judge the truth of FB's accusations, but as a member of the jury I would have liked a better prosecutor.
Aunt and uncle are not the only enemies. High on the list of non-personal enemies is the US, which receives much blame for policy blunders and betrayals. During cold war times, Pakistan felt more than once betrayed by the US, who did not always stay course in supporting Pakistan in her troubles with India, who was in turn supported by the Soviet Union or courted by the US. If we want to understand the current difficulties between US and Pakistan, we have to be aware of this unsatisfactory history.
Whatever one thinks of the prospects of this 'friendship', we cannot understand it without some background information.
ZAB was not popular with US governments as he tried to develop a partnership with China, a neighbor and support against India. When ZAB was toppled by a general, US support was given to the new ruler, especially in light of the beginning problem in Afghanistan, where the Soviet Union had invaded. The US' taking questionable sides is one of the root causes of current calamities. (Building democracy was for sure not always the main driver in US politics.)
A frustrating book.
The book served as a view into Pakistan for me. Being an Indian and from Mumbai, I had taken it personally to better understand this country - that at one time - was one with India and in its people, culture and customs - still shares my country's fiber and is yet for the last 6 decades an enemy that we are unable to reconcile with. I am glad to have read this book - for it now gives Pakistan a flesh and blood - realistic experiences to tie with - making it impossible to hate or be apathetic to.
However, there are parts in which the book lacks - understandably so - mainly in criticism of Murtaza - at failing to see the futility of an armed struggle - or given his choice of embracing it - his failure to understand its implications upon his perception as a terrorist. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to know more about Pakistan and about the Bhuttos - it serves in no small measure as a warning to the ability of power to corrupt and bring tragedies in the lives of those who seek it.