Bhutto's niece wants end to 'dynastic' politics
By Frederik Pleitgen; CNN, January 22, 2008
KARACHI, Pakistan (CNN) -- Some of the toughest criticism of Pakistan's pro-democracy movement comes from an unlikely source: the 25-year-old niece of Benazir Bhutto, who says Pakistani party politics do nothing but support military rule. It's an environment, she said, her late aunt is partly responsible for.
"At this stage, we are in a state in Pakistan where so-called democratic forces are only interested in coming into office. So ultimately, they only prop up dictatorships," she told CNN from her home in Karachi.
She raised her voice as she described what she feels is the core of Pakistan's political problems: the lack of a true democratic culture. Instead, she said, the country is run by power grabbers.
"Ultimately to them, it's a game of revolving chairs. As long as they get to be in one, they don't care who's in the other one."
Fatima Bhutto said her aunt played this "game of revolving chairs" at huge costs to the Bhutto family, shattering the clan's unity. In 1996, Fatima Bhutto's father, Murtaza Bhutto, was gunned down by Pakistani security forces in front of the family compound. His sister, Benazir, was prime minister at the time. His widow blames her sister-in-law for the killing, because Murtaza had become a political rival. Watch Fatima Bhutto say she's not "interested in being a symbol" »
"We have to seriously look at her political legacy, which is deeply flawed," Fatima Bhutto said. "Both her governments were known for widespread corruption, for an abuse of human rights, and for an excess of police violence."
Fatima Bhutto was estranged from her aunt and had not spoken to her since Benazir Bhutto returned to the nation for Pakistani elections. Benazir Bhutto was killed in a bloody December 27 attack.
Her niece says now that Benazir Bhutto has herself been killed, she does not look back in anger. Watch a struggle over the Bhutto legacy »
"We also have to take into account that Benazir Bhutto died bravely and that the attack on her is ultimately an attack on her country," she said. She added that she did attend her aunt's funeral.
Some here in Pakistan believe Fatima Bhutto -- and not Benazir Bhutto's 19-year-old son, Bilawal -- is the true heir to the Bhutto political dynasty.
Fatima Bhutto said she's a political person and does campaign for a splinter group of the Pakistan Peoples Party. That group is now run by her mother following the death of her father.
She said her main political goal is to empower Pakistan's largely disenfranchised masses and end what she calls the perpetual cycle of "dynastic" cronyism.
What her role would be in making that happen remains the great unknown.
"What I think we need to do is open the field," said Fatima Bhutto, who went to college in the United States and graduate school in England. "It has to stop being this autocratic, dynastic environment. ... When that day comes and this happens -- that we have an open field -- if there's a way for me to serve this country, then I would be proud to."
Until then, she said, she exerts her power from her writing. Fatima Bhutto is a successful columnist, author and poet; a staunch critic of Pervez Musharraf's government. And though her name would probably propel her to the highest levels of Pakistani politics almost instantly, she said that won't happen anytime soon.
"I'm not interested in being a symbol for anyone," she said emphatically. "And I'm not interested in perpetuating a really ineffectual form of politics simply because of my name."
She added, "I have never believed in dynastic politics, or the politics of birthright. ... I think that's dangerous to the cause of democracy in Pakistan, and ultimately doesn't serve the people."