The history of the multigenerational Pakistani political family that continues to influence events in the nation today.
It has long been assumed that the assassination of Pakistan’s prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, in 2007 was undertaken at the hands of the army. However, former BBC correspondent Bennett-Jones lays the blame instead at the door of the Taliban, which objected to her liberalizing policies and support for women and religious minorities. Even before the Taliban, Osama bin Laden himself threatened her. (Shortly before her death, she sent a note to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, writing of a military and political rival, “I would hold Musharraf responsible.”) The author’s account of Bhutto’s assassination by suicide bomb, though gruesome, is comprehensive. So is his study of the Bhutto lineage, which well merits the title of dynasty, beginning with the pre-Partition Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto, who, “like many Indian aristocrats, readily accepted the authority of his colonial masters, working closely with them and even aping their habits.” His son Zulfikar Bhutto became prime minister while Benazir was studying abroad; he “articulated Pakistan’s aspiration to be a successful country independent of the West, leading the Islamic world and matching Indian power, both conventional and nuclear.” When she came to power, serving as prime minister twice, Benazir placed the army and democracy in stark contrast, though she was a practitioner of realpolitik enough to know that she would have to yield to the military’s demands for power and essentially unlimited funding. The issues that each of these rulers contended with, Bennett-Jones argues, are central to the development of a Pakistan that, while ostensibly democratic, is never far away from military rule. The author enumerates some of the controversies that the Bhutto family engendered, not just as political reformers, but also as adherents to the Sufi branch of Islam. Bennett-Jones closes by identifying Bhutto scions who might continue the lineage into Pakistani politics, one of them a “poet, visual artist and sometimes cross-dressing performer in San Francisco.”
Students of geopolitics and South Asia will find this a valuable book.
Pub Date: today
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020