I don’t want to be a political inheritor: Fatima Bhutto


Jaipur : The lines between the world of books and politics blurred once again Thursday when Fatima Bhutto, the 25-year-old niece of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, said she wanted to make her mark – but without the Bhutto tag.

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The young author, who inherits the Bhutto legacy of politics from her grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, her aunt Benazir and her father Murtaza all of whom died unnatural, brutal deaths, was the cynosure of attention at the ongoing Jaipur Literary Festival here.

Thrust into the limelight of international politics after her aunt’s assassination last month, Fatima said that rather than follow her family into politics, her most valuable contribution was as a grassroots activist and writer.

“There are certain things you can say through words that you are not allowed to say through politics,” said the columnist and author at a discussion moderated by writer and historian William Dalrymple.

A packed hall listened intently as Fatima, who hails from one of the world’s most famous and besieged political families, reminisced about her childhood in Syria (her mother Ghinwa is of Syrian origin) and talked movingly of her father’s assassination in September 1996 when Benazir Bhutto was prime minister.

Her first collection of poetry was published in Pakistan in her father’s honour and its title – “Whispers of the Desert” – was in homage to her roots.

She said dynastic politics should be opposed by one and all as it was very harmful for democracy.

In terms of the global political climate, she urged everyone to “throw weight behind people who have platforms and principles, not just personalities”.

Fatima, whose trenchant articles criticising her aunt and the politics of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have made her a widely read columnist, said: “I don’t regret that I wrote against my aunt, but I am terribly grieved with the way she was done to death. Her death and the violent way she was killed was regrettable.”

“The Bhuttos have been paying a very high price for being in politics. I am also a Bhutto, and I also know how the name restricts me but I don’t want to be a political inheritor and would like to make my own mark.

“Politics in Pakistan should now be confined to the new generations and there should not be any political push forward or pulling back on the basis of political lineage.”

In Pakistan, she said, the political arena was controlled by a few individual families and the economy by another few. This was something that had remained for over half a century and damaged the process of democracy in Pakistan.

The author and might-be politician said she was happy as a writer and although she writes in English, which has little following in Pakistan, newspapers in Pakistan had started publishing Urdu and Sindhi translations of her pieces.