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Pakistan: The "Other" Bhutto

Editor's Note: Despite all the talk of boycotting the January 8 parliamentary elections in Pakistan, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has returned to the campaign trail. So has President Musharraf's other main rival, Nawaz Sharif.

In her latest dispatch, FRONTLINE/World correspondent Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy visits the Bhutto ancestral home in the province of Sindh to interview former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's niece, Fatima, who has become a thorn in her aunt's side. Educated in the U.S. and fast becoming a prominent figure in her own right, the 25-year-old could turn out to be a serious political challenger to Benazir in the coming years. And there's no love lost between the two women. Fatima blames her aunt for the 1996 murder of her father, Benazir's brother, and calls her "one of the most corrupt leaders the world has ever seen." Watch excerpts from the interview and read more about Fatima below.

There are deep divisions within the Bhutto family. In 1996, Mir Murtaza Bhutto, Benazir's younger brother and her political opponent, was brutally gunned down just steps from his house in Karachi, while his sister was the prime minister.

The authorities claimed he died in a police shootout with his body guards, but the public -- depending on whom you talk to -- point fingers at Benazir and her husband Asif ali Zardari.

Benazir Bhutto has publicly denied any involvement in the death of her brother.

A graduate of Columbia University, the 25-year-old Fatima spends her days campaigning against her aunt [Benazir Bhutto], who, she says, is "one of the most corrupt leaders the world has seen."

Fatima is Murtaza's eldest daughter. A graduate of Columbia University, the 25-year-old spends her days writing and campaigning against her aunt, who, she says, is "one of the most corrupt leaders the world has seen."

Many Pakistanis see Fatima as an alternative to Benazir, a serious challenger in the coming years and the rightful heir to the country's most powerful political dynasty. She seems to have the pedigree required to contest and win elections, if she so chooses. In Pakistan, a Bhutto surname is almost enough to guarantee someone the job of a premier.

As I drove up to 70 Clifton, the house in which Benazir grew up and where Fatima now lives near the Arabian sea in Karachi, I thought of the similarities between the two: Both their lives were shaped by the death of their fathers at a young age, and both spent time at Ivy League universities in the United States and are articulate and educated. But the similarities end there.

The house and its adjoining office are steeped in history. The walls are covered with historical photographs and the library is filled with speeches and documents from the '60s and '70s, written by former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir and Murtaza's father.

Over the years, Benazir Bhutto has filed property cases against Fatima and her mother. The former prime minister believes that the house is rightfully hers and has made several attempts to evict the current occupants.

Fatima Bhutto at father's grave.

Fatima Bhutto (center) visiting her father's grave.

Without hesitation, Fatima tells me that politics is not a birth right. Sitting next to a life-size portrait of her father, she discusses the issues plaguing Pakistan.

"Part of the problem with Pakistani politics is that an entire nation has been held hostage to a very few, who treat politics like it's a family business. We need the field to open up so that is why I am not running."

But in the run up to the January elections, Fatima is busy campaigning for others in her family in Larkana, the Bhutto ancestral village in the province of Sindh. Her father founded an offshoot of the Pakistan People's Party in the early '90s, and her mother now is running for a place in the parliament against Benazir. "These elections are going to be tough," Fatima tells me. "But I am determined to keep my father's legacy alive."

It has been more than 10 years since Fatima last spoke to her aunt. She feels that Benazir was complicit in the murder of her father. The proof, she says, lies in the report issued by a tribunal convened after her father's death, which concluded that the assassination could not have taken place without approval from a "much higher" political authority.

Fatima's statements are starting to affect Benazir. Local Pakistani newspapers published a story last month in which sources close to Benazir revealed that they were trying to patch things up between the two women.

Fatima's statements and campaigning are starting to affect Benazir. Local Pakistani newspapers published a story last month in which sources close to the former prime minister revealed that they were trying to patch things up between the two women and to convince Fatima not to make statements against her aunt. Anwar Bhutto, who spoke on behalf of the Pakistan People's Party, told journalists, "Benazir really wants Fatima to join active politics and she never considers her a rival. She will be an asset for Benazir and the PPP if she enters politics."

The questions and accusations grow as elections draw closer. Before I leave she tells me that she is worried about what Benazir's return means for the country. "Her legacy as a two-time prime minister is a legacy of gross corruption. She is estimated to have stolen $1.5 to $3 billion from the Pakistani treasury. It's one of state violence..."

When I ask Fatima if a reconciliation is in the cards, her response is a vehement, "No."

"Benazir needs to be tried in court for the crimes that she has committed. We do not see eye to eye on anything and we do not subscribe to her distorted version of democracy."

Video Credits:
Camera: Mahera Omar, Sohail Ahmed

From Our Files

Pakistan: "The Liberal Dictator"
Read Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy's first dispatch in this series and watch the accompanying video where she interviews activists gathered in an upscale neighborhood of Karachi about Pakistan's political future.

Pakistan: Disappeared
Amina Masood Janjua was an ordinary Pakistani housewife, proud of her country and loyal to its military. But all that changed in July 2005, when her husband never came home. FRONTLINE/World correspondent David Montero reports on how her campaign to find her husband sparked national protests challenging Pakistan's feared intelligence agency, the ISI, and led to events that would severely test Musharraf's power.

Pakistan: On a Razor's Edge
Follow FRONTLINE/World reporter and producer Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy to her native Pakistan as she investigates the clashes between President Musharraf, a key U.S. ally, and the increasingly powerful Islamic fundamentalists who oppose him. Extensive background and links are included with the story, as is a series of short interviews with some of Pakistan's leading voices.

Pakistan: Student Resistance
Following Pakistan's state of emergency, FRONTLINE/World reporter Joe Rubin talked via web cam to a student in Lahore whose campus was the first to protest Musharraf's crackdown.


Hur Zafar - Lahore, Punjab
Fatima is quite immature to give these kind of statement. But now that times have changed she needs to be in the limelight of Pakistani politics and the "PPP" to be more precise.They should unite, Pakistan needs them.

R S - Seattle, WA
I hope Fatima Butto considers running for elections. I think she could be a great asset to the country and perhaps work well with President Musharraf. We need 21st century leaders who think above and beyond and not all about Monday and Power only.

Khwaja Aftab -Ali - Orlando, Florida
Hi guys, I am a Pakistani living in Orlando, Florida state of USA now a days. Have worked in Iranian Embassy in Saudi Arabia as PRO for 12 years before starting my law practice in Pakistan. Later on earned a merit scholarship to study Intellectual Property law in USA. I am first and the only Pakistani lawyer who earned this scholarship so far. I am a regular reader of Fatima Bhutto's articles in Jang and highly appreciate her observation and intelligence. Her writings are very much based on facts and her concern of the welfare of general masses remarkable. Bravo Fatima. All the best for your future and good luck for the Bhutto legacy leadership.We the founder workers of PPP will fight for your right. Do not give up.

a. housein - dubai, UAE
I have been drawn into this murky world of Pakistani internecine politics by the great beauty & intelligence of Fatima Bhutto!!I think she is definitely one of the most - if not THE MOST - beautiful women in the world today! And then she speaks and I am touched by her intelligence and struck by the burden of history she carries so well on her slight shoulders. This is one remarkable woman and Pakistan would do well to have someone like this at the helm of affairs. The problem often being that such people who are good for a nation often need to be pushed forward - they will not step forward themselves. So true Pakistanis must do the needful and clean up their polity with the induction of people like Fatima.Now wouldn't she be a breath of fresh air...?

lahore, pakistan
is fatima out of her mind. benazir gave her life 4 the democratic principles she stood 4. can ms fatima think of killing her step bro. no? then why would bb kills her own bro. every one knows establishment behind the killing of all bhuttos. fatima seems 2 have no sense of bloody pakistani politics.its better she comes out of her cosy house and dare 2 challenge the establishment. probably she z 2 afraid 2 do so. she has no political ground and has gained fame only as a harsh critic of benazir. what contribution this lady z making 4 the betterment of pakistan.she z just loves 2 abuse benazir and always ready 2 show her hatred 2wards her. no one in our political history has suffered than benazir. may God rest her in peace.

Tariq Mian - Kuwait, kuwait
Fatma should go into politics, he holds the legacy of Bhutto. People of Pakistan love the Bhutto family name. With the Bhutto name the PPP came into power 4 times. She is intelligent and confident. She should lead the PPP.

lahore, america
No. She can never be like her.

This interview is not recent. It was given if you hear from the beginning all over again.
As for Benazir she was a woman whose presence in the government as president was really intimidating. The MOST CORRUPT leader is too short for her. In Karachi, there had been committed ethnic cleaning of the MUHAJIRS during her black regime. WE girls would not feel comfortable on roads. I myself felt the GUNDAS roaming the streets of Karachi while she was in government. Once she was asked by a news reporter why there were so many killings in Karachi and why there was so much tension.
I think she deserved to be killed this way!

Karachi, Pakistan
Cheers 4 Fatima!!! I totally agree with her and support her and will be joining her Mom's party as well (Inshaallah) {PPP-SB}

Numaira Khan - Islamabad, Pakistan
It's quite unfortunate for Fatima Bhutto that she hasn't learned anything from Benazir Bhutto's remarkable political life. On one side, Miss Fatima claims that politics is not a family business, on the other hand she is determined to continue her efforts to keep her father's legacy alive. I am looking forward for the day when she can muster up her courage to come out in the streets for the sake of the country and struggle for democracy like her aunt, Benazir Bhutto.

Faraz - Hyderabad, Sindh
We are wretched people of Pakistan, a country which is doomed by these politicians like [Benazir] Bhutto. Claiming democracy doesn't make it true. It's amazing how someone with such [corruption] charges against her could actually come back to politics, and ironically we people are accepting her. Her death brought mere uproar and more afficionados of hers to center stage.

Hastings, Mi
The problem with America is that our people are so worried about the rest of the world and thier problems that they do not see thier own democracy eroding to nothing.

Khwaja Ali - Orlando, Florida
Yes, Fatima is the only hope for Pakistan from Bhutto family. She is the real Bhutto by blood and intellect. I am a regular reader of her articles and it's hard to believe that she can have this observation and intellect to write these articles. Her writings are based on facts and concern for the welfare of the masses. But before she walks in to the real field of politics, she has a lot of challenges to face. Intellectuals like Dr. Mubasher Hasan could be a very dependable guide but do not have enough votes which counts in democracy and the people who have votes are not dependable at all. So please Fatima, take care of yourself first and then politics. We do not want to lose you for nothing. You can lead but lead the nation carefully and wisely. All the best, An unknown founder of PPP and a former PRO, Iranian Embassy, Saudi

I think Pakistan is a great country with vast potential I found this website and was so shocked. Our leader Gordon Brown should help Pakistan more.

Lahore, pakistan
Same allegations of corruption were levelled on Bhutto senior. Zia the dictator published three huge volumes of white papers against him. First case against Mr. Zardari was filed in 1990. In last 17 years no case was proved, still you people crying he is Mr. 10%. Shame on you. Wait for the day of judgement, and remember, your false accusations will be big burden for you on THAT FINAL DAY.

Stories this week in the British Guardian newspaper and the Pakistani English-language paper, Dawn, make it clear that Fatima Bhutto was shocked by the assassination of her aunt Benazir Bhutto, and that despite her real political differences with her, she wept at her grave.From the Guardian...,,2239009,00.html
Then, two weeks ago, everything changed. In the wake of Benazir's death I found Ghinwa, Fatima and her 17-year-old brother, Zulfikar Ali junior, at the Bhutto ancestral home in Larkana, a 20-minute drive from Benazir's grave. The town centre was still smouldering after the violent reaction to the assassination, and a charred vehicle was parked outside the house. Fatima was shrouded in a black veil, her face was drawn, her cheeks were stained with tears. "It's been a real shock," she said.Fatima and her mother had been on the election trail, canvassing door to door, when the news broke. She went home and wrote a bittersweet farewell to Benazir for the News. The prose was staccato, the sentiment raw. "My aunt and I had a complicated relationship. That is the sad truth," it started. She remembered fondly that they used to read children's books together, shared a passion for sugared chestnuts and were troubled by the same sort of ear infections. "In death, perhaps there is a moment to call for calm. To say enough ... We cannot, and will not, take this madness any more."Yesterday Fatima was back in Karachi, still receiving condolences. "My first thought was that it was just too familiar. It felt like we had been through this too many times before," she said by phone. "When I heard that she had been shot in the neck, I thought of my father. The bullet that killed him was also fired into his neck, though at point blank range. It seems like every 10 years we bury a Bhutto killed violently and way before their time."She had not changed her mind about her father's death, she said. "Her government never adequately explained its role. But now that she's gone ..." She paused. "We'll remember her differently."

iftikhar hussain - Chicago, IL
There shouldn't be any doubt in any body's mind that PPP is the party of corrupt leaders. The whole world knows how Benazir and Mr. 10% plundered Pakistan several times. Unfortunately, Pakistanis have very short or bad memory, we try to elect same corrupt politician again and again. May Allah help our nation and country. Benazir's death is a favor to Pakistan and now she will answer to Allah for everything she has done to this nation.

Jessica Ashdown - Enon, OH
Larry Garland, I'm sorry, but your comment is laughable. Benazir Bhutto had many, many enemies, some of whom were obviously very nasty characters, and to point the finger at someone as sincere and principled as Fatima beggars belief - even if it's just a suggestion, it's an ill-informed and slanderous one that has no foundation.

Mohsin Siddiqui - Peshawar, NWFP
Bhutto's assassination, who did it? how was it done? what will be the consequences? what is our future? is this regime trustworthy? is anyone in Pakistan good enough to contorol the situation? These are the questions that arise after such a condemnable act of voilence. Blame, allegations, accusing each other, and giving blunt and demoralizing statements about each other is not the solution. All politicians and intellectuals, students, and the general public must get together and raise their voices. If not now, then there will be no more Pakistan and if, Pakistan does not remain, there will be no more me and you.

I totally agree with Fatima that Benazir was the most corrupt leader that the world has seen. I also strongly support her comments that politics should not be a family business. Why should a Bhutto's son or daughter take Bhutto's place? Why can't we look for someone who is more capable and loyal to the country? Why does a "name tag" carry so much weight? Is this democracy? If this is democracy then we don't want democracy. Pakistan needs a new leader who is not corrupt and who does not consider politics as his family business.

Barbara Edwards - Tampa, Florida
Imran Khan is EXACTLY right in everything he has said [see below] -- especially this part "It would have been better for the average Pakistani if Partition [from India] had never taken place." Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari were and are totally corrupt. I'm afraid that if her son or any of her children took her place, it would be politics as usual. Fatima seems to not only have a good head on her shoulders, but actually appears to have both sincerity and goodness; something so lacking in the political landscape of Pakistan. I doubt, though, that the 'sick' mullahs etc. would ever let a woman lead. It would be good for Pakistan if they had a Kamal Attartuk [the founder of modern Turkey]. Then most of Pakistan's woes would be a thing of the past.

Imran Khan - London, UK
How cruel to have your father shot and bleed to death outside the family home. All this whilst your aunt was the country's leader. Thanks auntie and uncle 10% .Also, Fatima's comments about her aunt seem based on facts: Swiss corruption charges and UN oil for food programme implicating the Benazir government. Auntie Benezir's death goes to show how far Pakistan is from the right path. It seems to be going down the road to anarchy. On the other hand, look at India. It would have been better for the average Pakistani if partition had not happened. At least the average Indian has HOPE in a FUTURE. Their government is trying to develop their country and improve prospects for its citizens. Pakistan's prospects look bleak, given the self-serving leaders it keeps getting. They all seem like usurpers and crooks. Where's the light at the end of this tunnel?

Hameed Baloch - Karachi, Sindh
Fatima should be the successor of PPP since she is the most qualified, intelligent, sincere and a true Bhutto. Unlike Zardari kids. Changing names will not satisfy the people of Pakistan.

Fatima, being immature, is being dictated to give such statements, otherwise no sister would be involved in the murder of brother. She should think that people are the same who killed Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto and they only disguised and murdered again Murtaza Bhutto. Similarly Mohtarma Benazir has been killed which act is very deplored and commendable. We all are proud of our great leader. 'Benazir tujhe salam'

Larry Garland - Chicago, IL
Perhaps the niece was involved in Benazir's assassination. No one, as far as I know, has mentioned this possibility.

Seattle, WA
Bhutto was not a very good leader, she was corrupt, pandered to the west at every turn and lived like a princess. Check out the article: Pakistan's flawed and feudal princess over at

Kampala, Uganda
Whoever kills with a SWORD, dies by the SWORD. The world is watching Mr. Bush and cohorts closely.


Once again, we have supported the military junta which is the governing body in Pakistan. There is a link here, prior to 9/11, Musharraf was the pariah to the U.S. Strange bedfellows, no?

Benazir Bhutto has been damaging for Pakistan when she was alive. She turned Pakistan's return to democracy after an 11-year military rule into a mockery. And now, in her death, she is becoming a cause for Pakistan's destabilization.

The killing of Ms. Benazir Bhutto is surely shocking and a condemnable act. The government and its agents are responsible in this. Mr. Musharraf! You have failed. We need security and peace in the country. Never before the country has suffered like this and never ever faced such turmoil. Its time for you to say "Good bye". Maybe this will bring stability to the country. Go Musharraf Go! She was indisputably one of the most animated and vibrant individuals in Pakistani politics; she was so full of life that death is a concept that doesn't really seem coherent with her image in the mind.
This is inhumane.. killing a woman who was fighting for her country, fighting for a country which took away her father and her brother from her. Surely, she has entered a better abode. May God be with her. I pray for her and her family and Pakistan at this hour. I'm proud of my leader.... Benazir we are proud of you!!!