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People of India, Pakistan not enemies: Fatima Bhutto

Last updated on: October 3, 2011 14:36 IST

People of India, Pakistan not enemies: Fatima Bhutto

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Arun Lakshman in Thiruvananthapuram

Noted Pakistani writer, journalist and grand daughter of former Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Fatima Murtaza Bhutto said that the people of Pakistan and India are not enemies and there is no enmity between the common people of both the countries.

She spoke with Arun Lakshman on the sidelines of the Kovalam literary festival, which she inaugurated on Saturday.

There has been vehement criticism that your book Songs of Blood and Sword is a work done to legitimise your father Murtaza Bhutto (son of former Pakistan premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and brother of Benazir Bhutto) and that it does not reflect the history, politics or the social situation of Pakistan in the right perspective?

The book is indeed a memoir of my father Murtaza Bhutto, but it does reflect the history and politics of Pakistan. I have done extensive research to cover the history and I feel I have done justice to the work. Regarding the political and social aspects of Pakistan, I have been clearheaded in writing it. Also, a major part of the history has been before I was born and I had to depend on lot of research material available for writing this book.

Noted Pakistani writer and political activist, who was once a student leader and then advisor the Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Raja Anwar in his book The Terror Prince. The Life and Death of Murtaza Bhutto has said that Murtaza was behind the Al-Zulfikar organisation and it was formed to avenge the death of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Your comments on this?

Raja Anwar wrote this book after the tragic death of my father. He should have written it well before my father was assassinated because then he could have defended the writings against him in the book. Now there is no such defence as my father is no more. Also, Raja Anwar was in a Kabul prison from 1982 to 1985 during the period when these incidents occurred, as claimed in the book. This means he has relied on hearsay and not on facts. There have been several other mistakes in the book including the name of persons and places.

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'Every ruler is afraid of the local people and rightly so'

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Your book has been published in English, French, Italian and even in Hindi but not in the most popular medium in Pakistan, Urdu. Why is it so?

Urdu is the language used by the local and ordinary people of Pakistan, while English is used by the elite of the country. The elite is lazy and afraid, and does not act, so the rulers don't find it a major threat for a book published in a language read by the elite of Pakistan. But every ruler is afraid of the local people and rightly so; the Pakistani establishment also fears that. No Urdu publisher has come forward to print my work in the Urdu. No distributor was willing to sell this book.

Do you feel that the strong-arm tactics employed by the Pakistani establishment is the reason behind Urdu publishing houses not bringing out your work?

What else can be the reason? As a writer I want millions of Pakistani people who speak and read Urdu to read this book rather than the elite class, who are always afraid to act and speak out. If published in Urdu, local people will know and understand what happened to my father and where the country was headed to. This could have had a major impact on the society of Pakistan.

How is the young generation in Pakistan? Are they actively involved in cleansing the political system in your country or are they aloof from all this?

I can't say in one shot about the young generation of Pakistan. They are from different classes in different areas. For instance, the youth of Sindh province may be different from other areas and Sindh is a place that I know well. Here the youngsters are restless and want to change the system or rather want to move out and do something for the country. Throughout Pakistan youngsters are for freedom; to think freely, just like youth of any country.

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Image: Fatima Murtaza Bhutto at the Kovalam literary festival

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'Cannot rule out the possibility of an uprising'

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Do you think Pakistan will see a youth uprising just as it happened in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and some Arab countries like Oman and Bahrain?

I don't see it is coming now, but youths want freedom and they want a corruption free democratic political rule and not a dictatorship or the corrupt administration of today. However, we cannot rule out the possibility.

How do you rate the present Pakistani government?

There is nothing much to say about the present Pakistani government and they are already into major acts of corruption and nepotism at the cost of the country.

Several Pakistani writers and authors and journalists have gone on record that the feared and dreaded Inter-services Intelligence has threatened them and that they were being followed. Have you ever been threatened by the ISI?

The ISI has never threatened me. But after my book Songs of Blood and Sword was published, there have been several actions by the establishment on my family that can be considered as a threat or more than that. In fact, the car in which my mother was travelling was shot at. Those who went to complain about this and to register a first information report were beaten up by the police.

Are these threats the handiwork of the Pakistani establishment as such or a single individual, Asif Ali Zardari?

I cannot say that. But Asif Ali Zardari is still an accused on the allegations raised by me and he can very well employ any means against me. Moreover, he is at present the President of Pakistan and is very powerful.

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Image: Pro-and anti-Mubarak supporters clash at Tahrir Square in Cairo
Photographs: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters
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'Corrupt, power-hungry individuals creating problems for Pak'

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You are a vehement critic of social networking site Facebook. Why is it so?

Facebook intrudes into our personal life and can easily produce all our details at a click of a button to any agency around the world. This is not good for a civil society. However, Youtube and messaging are excellent. Facebook also intrudes the websites we visit.

Facebook however gave inspiration for the Jasmine revolution (2010-2011 Tunisian Revolution). Didn't it play a good role?

Of course. Other than Facebook other social networking sites, mobile messages and Youtube too have been used well. I do say that as freedom is ultimate, people are welcome to use anything that they like, but there is skepticism about Facebook, as it can provide any information it has to anyone or any country.

Do you feel that Pakistan is a failed state?

No, never. Pakistani people have self determination. Our country is rich and abundant in oil, minerals, gold, rice and other agriculture produce, and the people have the will to work. Around 60 per cent of the population is under 30 years of age. The handiwork of one or two corrupt and power-hungry individuals who run the country as their fiefdom is creating problems. So I think Pakistan has a good future and that it will rise to its potential and abundance.

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Image: Fatima Murtaza Bhutto at the Kovalam literary festival

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'No commonality between the Gandhis and Bhuttos'

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What is the situation of the minorities in Pakistan?

The minorities do have their problems in Pakistan as they have in India. However, the nature of the difficulties varies from place to place. There are mandirs and churches in the Sindh area, but may be in other parts it is not seen much. The problems being faced by the minorities of Pakistan is the one faced in other countries also. Just before this visit I had entered the Swami Narayan Temple in Karachi and did not face any problems.

What about the situation in Balochistan?

Baluchistan is one of the areas of our country that is rich in mineral wealth. There are issues in Balochistan and there are thoughts that it is the handiwork of foreign powers. If the Baluch people are naturally uprising for their rights, then there is no wrong in it, but if there are foreign powers involved in it, then we have to know what their motive is.

There were uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya recently. Your comments on this?

The revolution in Egypt and Tunisia has been organic and from the locals. We know that students had taken to the streets in these countries to overthrow corrupt rulers and administrations.

In Libya, the situation is different. We don't know who is behind these forces who have led the movement. Is it the Al-Qaeda, is it some other forces? It is interesting to note that the American embassy has issued a notification that there is huge oil wealth in Libya.

You come from the famous Bhutto family. In India there is the noted Gandhi family. Do you find anything in common between these two families, as both have ruled their respective countries and there have been tragedies in both the families?

I can't say that there is anything in common between these two families. I am of the opinion that one should not enter into politics one fine morning claiming to be from a family which has political history and lineage. This is not the right thing to do in politics.

Any new book in the offing?

Yes, I am planning a book on Karachi. However, it will take time as I am presently in a tour to promote my new book Songs of Blood and Sword throughout the world.


Image: A Pakistani security official stands near a burning vehicle after it was attacked in Balochistan
Photographs: Saeed Ali Achakzai/Reuters
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