Friday, December 28, 2007

Daughter of the East: A review

“Beautiful and charismatic, the daughter of one of Pakistan’s most popular leaders — Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, hanged by General Zia in 1979 — Benazir Bhutto is not only the first woman to lead a post-colonial Muslim state, she achieved a status approaching that of a royal princess, only to be stripped of her power in another example of the bitter political in-fighting that has riven her country. From her upbringing in one of Pakistan’s richest families, the shock of the contrast of her Harvard and Oxford education, and subsequent politicisation and arrest after her father’s death, Bhutto’s life has been full of drama.” – Simon & Schuster, Publishers of Daughter of the East (& In the Line of Fire).

Daughter of the East is a ‘new’ edition, the reason being that it is an updated version of the first edition, published in 1988. In fact the newness extends to just 39 pages of the 431 page-book. That is shocking given that one would have expected the two decades since 1988 to have given Miss Bhutto ample to write about as she has been prime minister twice, lost a brother and celebrated the birth of her three children. That is not to be. Given this and by reasons that I will detail below, I would like to divide this review into two distinct parts.
From 1953- 1987
Benazir Bhutto is certainly a woman of literary talent; I’ll give her that. Her education at Radcliffe/Harvard and the Other Place (a.k.a Oxford) has helped her come out with a very readable book that is in stark contrast to another book released last year: In the Line of Fire. The latter I found quite dull and lost interest somewhere near the 100th page. Khair, that is a discussion best left for another post.
She leads readers through a tumultuous life that can be best described with an image of a mountain climber. It follows well through the ups and downs of her journey, engaging the readers with vivid descriptions of the victimisation of her family by the Zia- led military junta. A majority of the content is dedicated to the lead up to the hanging of her father and the time she spent in solitary confinement afterwards. Certainly, Benazir would be successful in gaining empathy from readers by way of her accounts, unless, the reader is a Pakistani who holds deep suspicions regarding anything to do with the Bhutto clan. What makes the book even more interesting is the fact that she includes accounts of her contemporaries which really does give a good second dimension to the book.
In all, this part of the book is a real page turner and it has resemblance to fictional works, full of conspiracies, death, and a lot of emotion. Further, as works of fictions go, the good can do no evil and the evil…well, can only do evil and Daughter of the East follows this principle to the letter. However, given that this is not a work of fiction but instead an autobiography, the fact that Miss Bhutto is portrayed as the victim of all victims without a faulty gene in her body does mean you have to read it with a bit more than a pinch of salt.From 1988-2007
The new chapter is bitterly disappointing. Having started to write this review in the middle of the book, I thought it would carry on in its engaging fashion. Yet, as I read through this part the fact that it was 39 pages was actually a God-send since it ended the misery of reading it quite quickly. However, it did still manage to leave a bad taste. It almost felt as if Miss Bhutto had worked towards the goal of becoming the leader of our country and the road ended there and that she had no aspirations for the time of her prime-ministership. The only person that would find her accounts from 1988 interesting would be the ardent PPP supporter who finds the ‘I did this…I did that…’ sentences engaging.
As I stated earlier, there is great injustice done to proportionality in the autobiography. One example stands out: Whilst Benazir dedicates an entire chapter to the build- up to the death and the death itself of her brother Shah Nawaz Bhutto (part of the 1988 version), she dedicates less than a paragraph to the death of her other brother Mir Murtaza with whom she had political differences (update).
Therefore, you would not be at fault if you bought the much cheaper, older version of the book and updated yourself by reading the ‘startling revelations’ contained in the articles listed at the bottom of this review. In any case you would be doing Miss Bhutto a favour by fulfilling the reason this book was brought out. The hurry in which the book seems to have been written and its lack of new content only means one thing: it was definitely published to give her publicity. As it is, the timing of the book is suspicious and her recent comments on television do seem to suggest sunnier days ahead for the PPP in Pakistan. For that reason alone, it’s a book (the older one) worth reading.
Benazir’s new book has some starting revelations, by Mariana Baabar, The News.
‘Musharraf wanted to attack Kashmir,’ The Pak Tribune.
11 Responses to “Daughter of the East: A review”
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1 Khuldun
Apr 10th, 2007 at 6:51 pm
Benazir is not fit to lead any entity and for that matter leading a nation is beyond her capabilities. Firstly, she is corrupt and does not possess any vision for the country at large. In addition, her husband, Mr Asif Ali Zardari, is a thug who loots Pakistani exchequer every time his wife attains power. Additionally, Benazir’s feudal background is a disgrace because it is the feudal nexus in Pakistani politics that has kept Pakistan from developing educationally and otherwise. As a result, due to feudal dominance in politics modernity never arrived in Pakistan. Lastly, PPP signifies everything that is wrong with the Pakistani politics–feudalism, corruption, mismanagement, and incompetence. In sum, Benazir and her cabal are not fit and don’t deserve to govern 160 million people of Pakistan.
2 Anwar
Apr 10th, 2007 at 11:27 pm
When I read excerpts of her latest book in NY Times, I could not resist laughing at this opportunist chamelion changing her colors again.Well, are there any alternative leaders? Perhaps Imran Khan.We will have to wait for the political circus to begin.
3 Brother Aziz
Apr 11th, 2007 at 4:02 pm
“Beautiful and charismatic”? Good one.



Anonymous said...

Bhutto party accuses gov't, al Qaeda denies murder

Enlarge PhotoBy Reuters
Saturday December 29, 10:55 PM
By Zeeshan Haider

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Benazir Bhutto's party challenged the Pakistani government's version of the opposition leader's assassination as fresh violence on Saturday stoked fears that Jan. 8 elections could be put off.

Al Qaeda-linked militants denied being behind the killing of the 54-year-old former prime minister although the government of nuclear-armed Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in fighting terrorism, had said on Friday it had proof of their involvement.

Bhutto's party dismissed the government account, saying there was no hard evidence and President Pervez Musharraf's embattled administration was trying to cover up its failure to protect her.

In renewed violence, three Bhutto supporters were shot dead. The death toll stood at 44 since her assassination in a gun and bomb attack on Thursday.

A close aide who prepared Bhutto's body for burial dismissed as "ludicrous" a government theory that she died after hitting her head on a sunroof during the suicide attack.

Sherry Rehman, a spokeswoman for Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), said Bhutto was shot in the head. But the government stuck to its version, saying Bhutto's party was welcome to exhume her corpse to check.

Pakistanis remained on edge on Saturday after protesters torched shops, lorries, welfare centres and ambulances overnight. She was laid to rest on Friday.

"There's a lot of rioting going on in my neighbourhood, Clifton. Everything has been burned up. Shops have been looted," Ali Khan, 36, country manager for Audi Pakistan, told Reuters as he stood outside his Audi garage in Karachi's business district.

Masked gunmen in the city shot dead a 27-year-old man wearing a tunic made from the PPP flag on Saturday. He had just shouted "Bhutto is great" while returning from the mausoleum where Bhutto was buried on Friday, police said.

Security forces shot dead two others among 400 PPP activists trying to break into an oilfield facility near Hyderabad. Four men were shot dead in another incident in Karachi.


Late on Friday, Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema told a news conference: "We have intelligence intercepts indicating that al Qaeda leader Baitullah Mehsud is behind (Bhutto's) assassination."

However, a spokesman for Mehsud denied the claim.

"I strongly deny it. Tribal people have their own customs. We don't strike women," Maulvi Omar said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

A PPP spokesman said the government must show hard evidence.

"The government is nervous," he said. "They are trying to cover up their failure" to provide adequate security.

Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, told the BBC her will would be read out to a meeting of the PPP by her son on Sunday.

Asked if he wanted to lead the party, Zardari replied: "It depends on the party and it depends on the will."

Bhutto returned home from self-imposed exile in October, hoping to become prime minister for a third time. She escaped unhurt from a suicide attack then that killed about 140 people. The government said al Qaeda was also behind that attack.

Washington had encouraged Bhutto, relatively liberal by Pakistan standards and an outspoken opponent of Islamic militancy and violence. Her death wrecked U.S. hopes of a power-sharing agreement between her and Musharraf.

Musharraf seized power in a military coup in 1999 but left the army last month to become a civilian president.

U.S. President George W. Bush has urged Pakistanis to honour Bhutto's memory by going ahead with the election, but a White House spokesman said on Saturday it was up to Pakistan's authorities to determine the timing.

So far the government has not announced any decision to call off or postpone the vote, but the Election Commission says it is planning an emergency meeting on Monday.

The opposition party led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has said it would boycott the election if it goes ahead. A spokesman said on Saturday Sharif was trying to convince Bhutto's PPP to do likewise.

Musharraf imposed a state of emergency in November in what was seen as an attempt to stop the judiciary from vetoing his re-election as president. He lifted emergency rule this month.

Bhutto, who became the Muslim world's first democratically elected woman prime minister in 1988, was buried alongside her father, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He was hanged in 1979 after being deposed by a military coup.

(Additional reporting by Kamran Haider and Simon Gardner)

Anonymous said...

Benazir's son to replace her, says PPP leader

Saturday December 29, 09:28 PM
Islamabad, Dec 29 (IANS) Nineteen-year-old Bilawal will replace his slain mother Benazir Bhutto as chief of Pakistan Peoples Party, the country's most influential political outfit, a PPP leader said Saturday.

'It has been decided according to the will of Benazir Bhutto that will be read by her son Bilawal' Sunday, the PPP leader who requested anonymity told IANS.

He said that Bhutto had sealed her will that was with her son and two daughters - Bakhrtawar and Assefa in Dubai. The party official said that Bhutto's will along with a letter written by her would be read by her son after the collective prayers for her on Sunday at Bhutto House.

He said that the party offered Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari the opportunity to lead the PPP, but he refused saying that according to the will of Bhutto their son would lead the party.

The party leader said that Zardari, who is in Nowdera at Bhutto House, took the party leaders into confidence regarding appointment of Bilawal as the party chief.

Bilawal, born on Sep 21, 1988, is studying political science at Oxford University. He received his primary education from Frobels International School in Islamabad and later continued his studies at Sheikh Rashid School in Dubai.

The party leader said that PPP officials in the meeting with Zardari assured him that they would guide Bilawal in each and every matter.

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Noushy Syah said...

Sad ending stories at the end of new year....but,

I've reasons to be happy at the ends of every year, the last day of the year or 31st dec!

Jim, wishing you a happy,joy and prosperous new year!!

niki yokota said...

my condolence for such a beautiful leader in the world.