“Kal bhi Bhutto zinda tha. Aj bhi Bhutto zinda hy. Tum kitny Bhutto maro gay. Ghr ghr sy Bhutto niklay ga!” and “Jiye Bhutto!” are a few of the famous political slogans heard in the streets of Pakistan. These slogans are linked to one of the famous political dynasties, the Bhutto dynasty of Pakistan. The Bhutto family has ruled over the country for quite a long period and is known as the family of martyrs. However, there are a lot of mysteries linked to the family. For unraveling these mysteries, the granddaughter of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Fatima Bhutto, wrote the book Songs of Blood and Swords. The book is a daughter’s memoir.
Fatima Bhutto is a writer, book author, and columnist. She has authored several books and the above-mentioned book is her third. She, belonging to the Bhutto family, had the right experience to author the book.
The major focus of the author is on explaining the events which lead to the murder of her father in 1996. So, the book tells the tale of the Bhuttos but focuses majorly on the story of Murtaza Bhutto. The author also talks about all the siblings of Murtaza in detail. The book is divided into 22 chapters. It has around 470 pages including endnotes and index. The author very beautifully jumps between the two main topics of the book – going back and forth between two different periods.
The author, at a few stages in the book, struggles with a lack of evidence in supporting her several claims, as there are no official documents
The book, while explaining family history, also talks about major political events that Pakistan went through, as her family was always a key player. It is a book that shifts between the author’s perspective and a third person’s perspective as well, especially when the author is explaining events which had happened before her birth. In the book, interviews of the close allies, which include family friends, party workers, and government officials of the Bhuttos have also been repeatedly quoted. The author also quotes and mentions letters exchanged between her and her family members, as well as several other correspondents.
One of the most interesting things about a book is its ability to grip its reader from the beginning. It has an element of surprise linked to it despite the events being generally known to the public. Fatima Bhutto does an exceptional job while telling the tale. She has an interesting choice of words, which, if properly noticed, makes the read more powerful. For example, whenever she talks about her grandfather, she always writes that he was killed – not murdered or hanged.
She also gives a very detailed backstory at every point. This helps readers who are new to the Bhutto dynasty. They learn about both the Bhuttos and the history of Pakistan – as well as the political dynamics of the country from an insider’s perspective. The book becomes an important historical source.
Despite being a marvelously written book, the author struggled a bit in maintaining objectivity. The book, written from the author’s perspective, completely ignores the other side of the story. For example, when the author is telling the story of Benazir Bhutto’s government, she just does not include anything from Benazir’s perspective, despite her being her aunt. Any interview with her children or anyone else from the other side of the story would have done wonders in making the book more objective. Interestingly enough, she also openly shows her distaste for certain personalities including General Zia-ul-Haq and Asif Ali Zardari etc.
Another important thing which could have been better is the use of more photographs. Although images are there in the book, they appear only twice. The use of pictures and maps where they belong in the story could have helped the reader with imagination.
The author, at a few stages in the book, struggles with a lack of evidence in supporting her several claims, as there are no official documents to support the claims. For example, when she talks about Shahnawaz’s poisoning she thinks it is the job of the CIA, but struggles there to provide sufficient evidence to support her claim.
Overall, the book is a rollercoaster ride. It is a treat for those who want to unravel some mysteries. Although it has been some time since the book was published, it is still quite an enjoyable read. Some might think that the book will be a bit boring with a lot of historical facts and figures thrown into the mix. But they would be wrong to think so. The reader becomes part of the book while reading it: and they are sure to hold their breath at some points and shed some tears at others.
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