Fatima Bhutto sent her younger brother Zulfiqar Jr. away from Pakistan the day Asif Ali Zardari became the country’s President.
Niece of slain former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Fatima Bhutto says in her latest book, her “blood froze” on the day her uncle Zardari became the president.
Zardari was accused of plotting the murder of Fatima Bhtto’s father Murtaza Bhutto. Fatima insists Zardari is the murderer of her father even though he has been acquitted of the charge.
“On 20 September, 2008, on the 12th anniversary of Papa’s death, Asif Zardari took his oath as president of Pakistan. The ceremony had been scheduled for the day before, the 19th, but had been moved on the orders of the new president, who rescheduled his big day for Saturday, Papa’s barsi,” Fatima writes in her just-released memoir “Songs of Blood and Sword”.
“As he stood in front of parliament, which had voted him into the post almost unanimously (in the same highly democratic way that General Musharraf was ‘elected’ president), he paused in his speech and asked for a moment of silence to mark the occasion of his brother-in-law’s death. My blood froze. It was as if he was taunting us.
Murtaza Bhutto was killed Sep 20, 1996, when Fatima was 14, in a shootout with police near his Karachi residence called 70 Clifton.
On Dec 3, 2009, a Karachi court acquitted 20 policemen charged with Murtaza’s killing. Fatima and her mother Ghinwa called the verdict a mockery of justice.
After Benazir’s government was dismissed in 1996, Zardari was detained for having a part in Murtaza’s assassination. However, no charges were ever proved for want of evidence as the scene of Murtaza’s assassination was wiped clean before police investigators could arrive.
“When Zardari announced himself as the PPP’s unanimously chosenpresidential candidate we knew he would stop at nothing to reach the pinnacle of power. There was no turning back for him. Against all odds, he was going to rule Pakistan. We made the decision to take Zulfi out of the country. It was decision we had been avoiding, hoping it would not be necessary, since Benazir was killed in December 2007.
“But as Zulfi was the only surviving male heir of the Bhuttos, we couldn’t take the risk of leaving him vulnerable. Besides Zulfi, the only remaining Bhuttos are (cousin) Sassi and I. We don’t live in a country with a free press, we don’t live in a country with an independent judiciary – or any judiciary for that matter. We have no safeguards against a violent and vindictive government,” Fatima writes.
The book comes at a time when Zardari is set to be deprived of his sweeping powers through a constitutional amendment being tabled in parliament Friday to transfer to the prime minister major powers like the appointment of armed forces chiefs and reduce the president to a titular head of state.