April Issue 2003

By | News & Politics | Published 21 years ago

She is the granddaughter of Pakistan’s most charismatic leader, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and daughter of the tragically martyred Mir Murtaza Bhutto. Her stepmother, Murtaza’s tenacious widow, who took on the mantle of his faction of the PPP(SB), is Ghinwa Bhutto, and her aunt is Benazir Bhutto, who became the first ever woman Prime Minister of an Islamic state. So, is Fatima Bhutto another face to watch out for in Pakistan’s political arena? Very likely, given the Bhutto gene pool!

Fatima Bhutto’s maturity belies her youth. She was only 15 when her first book, a collection of poems, Whispers in the Desert, was published. That was dedicated to her father. And now, six years later, while studying at Columbia University, USA, Fatima has launched a website in memory of her father, Murtaza and his companions, Ashiq Jatoi, Yar Mohammad Baloch, Sajjad Haider, Wajahat Jokhio, Sattar Rajpur and Rahim Brohi, who were slain with him on the night of September 20, 1996 by policemen in what many believe was a staged encounter.

The site, www.murtazabhutto.net, essentially focuses on the murder and the official cover-up. Additionally, the site also carries biographies of the deceased. Especially touching is that of Ashiq Jatoi’s, whose last words in the diary he kept are quoted. It reads, “It is not what happens to me that matters. It is how I behave while it is happening to me that matters. Cool mind, warm heart, clean hands.”

Not that the same can be said about the accused, all of whom have either been acquitted, allowed out on bail, sought exile abroad, set free — even granted promotions in their respective departments! If not for Fatima’s determination, the Murtaza murder file would, in all probability, have been consigned like those of numerous other high profile assassinations and mysterious deaths in Pakistan’s chequered history, to a dusty shelf in some unconcerned official’s office.

Murtaza might be gone, but his daughter has ensured his memory will linger.