Library@Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom

Where Minds meet and Ideas pop up !

Songs of Blood and Sword



Fatima Bhuto

(Visit the Library’s new arrival section to read)

Reviewed by Arifa Akbar

In 1979, as Pakistan’s first-elected president, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, languished in the death cells of Rawalpindi Prison, deposed, enfeebled, his teeth rotting and his daily meal spiked with "shards of glass", he penned a letter to his sons, Murtaza and Shahnawaz, suggesting his will was not yet been broken: "If you do not avenge my murder, you are not my sons".

Bhutto’s command, rather like the King of Denmark’s ghostly visitation upon Hamlet, and now recounted by his granddaughter, Fatima Bhutto, in her memoir, sparked a ferocious, murderous family feud in the four decades following his execution. The fight shows no sign of ending, especially now, after this book virtually accuses the current Pakistani president, Asif Zardari, of sanctioning Murtaza’s murder, with his late wife, Benazir Bhutto (Fatima’s aunt) as accomplice.

The Bhutto brothers die trying to clear their father’s name, as the founder and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Following their exile from Pakistan after launching an ‘armed struggle’ against Zia, Shahnawaz was found poisoned in Cannes, aged 26, while Murtaza was killed in a police shoot-out, on his return to Pakistan, aged 42. Benazir, their eldest sister, served two terms as prime minister before her assassination, at 54.

The life story Bhutto tells is a blend of her own combined with her father’s, and a history of their feudal dynasty. She argues, in her memoir, that there is still something rotten in the state of Pakistan. As much as this is a loving portrait of Murtaza, it also reads as a hate-filled exposé of Benazir and her husband. Once Fatima’s favourite aunt, nicknamed Pinky, Benazir is shown as a rapacious woman who may have had a hand in her brothers’ deaths. The trouble with these dichotomous portraits of good sibling/evil sibling is that they are crassly over-simplified.


She presents her father as a picture of political purity. His factional offshoot of the PPP – Shaheed Bhutto, founded after a fall out with Benazir – was fiercely idealistic. Yet Murtaza was not as wholesome as she argues. He was representative of the "lost dreams of the PPP", she says, but skates over the violence espoused by his party.

William Dalrymple has written that Murtaza was "alleged to have sentenced to death several former associates", and under the guidance of Yasser Arafat, he and Shahnawaz received arms and training. Bhutto argues that Murtaza attempted to drive the party back to the fine socialist principles on which it was founded by Zulfikar, but the latter cut a compromised figure by the time he was executed, having amended the constitution to enhance his powers.

Benazir’s rule was mired in corruption, Fatima asserts, with descriptions that often descend into puerile gibing: Benazir could not read Urdu, she kept stack of Mills & Boons in her bedroom, she donned the headscarf to attract votes. Blame for Pakistan’s sorry state of affairs is parked squarely on her grave.

At other times, the Bhuttos appear coddled: Pakistani versions of the Carringtons, Ewings and Kennedys rolled into one, with their American education, their breeding, jetset lives and presidential buddies (who often endow Bhutto exiles with a free home and a state car).

Bhutto occasionally employs a language of pulpy romanticism to describe her favourite relatives, with ample mentions of daddy’s favourite colognes and suits, her grandmother’s "chiselled cheekbones" and the tall, beautiful Della, Murtaza’s Greek lover, who, when trapped in a former abusive marriage, "became a model." Naturally.

Yet this is, in spite of the shortcomings, a story with dazzling twists and turns told by a true-blue member of the Bhutto fold, with its family history of idealism, political betrayal, murder, hubris and paranoia. Yet another Bhutto seeks vengeance, though this time with a pen, not the sword.



Filed under: Book of the week, ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

कृपया हिंदी में पढ़ें

Live updates

Library@KV Pattom


Welcome to the official Library blog of Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, launched in September 2007.

7 Million Hits and counting..

Thank you all for making this blog a great success.

You are the visitor, No

  • 7,597,343 hits

Upcoming Events

No upcoming events

Visit your Library

Browse Books and Periodicals. Read Newspapers. Pick a New Book from the ‘New Arrivals’ rack. Search the Internet and the OPAC. Refer for assignments and projects. Suggest a book. Ask a question.Write your comments. And more…Visit the Library Today itself. You are most welcome.

KVS Innovation and Experimentation Award 2011 & 2016

"Library Junction" and "Face a Book Challenge" have won the KVS Innovation and Experimentation Award in 2011 and 2016 respectively.

All India Competition on Innovative Practices and Experiments in Education for Schools and Teacher Education Institutions 2010-’11

'Library Junction' won the "All India Competition on Innovative Practices and Experiments in Education for Schools and Teacher Education Institutions 2010-'11" conducted by NCERT.

Website of the Week

Telephone Reference

+91 9447699724 (Librarian)

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,896 other followers

Ask your Librarian

Subscribe SMS updates

Send: ON Library_KVPattom to 9870807070


RSS This day in History

  • Pompey defeated by Julius Caesar at the Battle of Pharsalus: 9 August 48 - This Day in History
    During the Roman Civil War of 49–45 , Julius Caesar's troops on this day in 48 decisively defeated the army of Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus, causing Pompey to flee to Egypt, where he was subsequently murdered.More Events on this day:1945: The second atomic bomb dropped on Japan by the United States in World War II struck the city of Nagasaki.1 […]
  • Amedeo Avogadro: Biography of the Day
    Amedeo AvogadroBorn this day in 1776, Amedeo Avogadro of Italy showed that, under controlled conditions of temperature and pressure, equal volumes of gases contain an equal number of molecules—what became known as Avogadro's law.
  • Concise Encyclopedia Book and CD-ROM: Special Price from The Britannica Store
    For RSS subscribers The Britannica Store presents a special 20% discount on the Concise Encyclopedia and free CD-ROM. This thoroughly revised and expanded edition of Britannica's most popular publication worldwide is a one-volume encyclopedia containing 28,000 articles accompanied by colorful photographs, diagrams, maps, and flags. The Britannica Concis […]

Library Bookmark

InfoLit India: Information Literacy Project for Young Learners

<!– Global site tag (gtag.js) – Google Analytics –>

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
gtag(‘js’, new Date());

gtag(‘config’, ‘UA-110661763-1’);

<!– Global site tag (gtag.js) – Google Analytics –>

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
gtag(‘js’, new Date());

gtag(‘config’, ‘UA-11842201-1’);


Reading4Pleasure School 2020

Reading 4 Pleasure School 2020 Award



Real time News on Kendriya Vidyalayas on the web

Little Open Library (LOLib)

Tools for Every Teacher (TET)

Face a Book Challenge

e-reading Hub @ Your Library

Follow Us on Twitter

Learn anything freely with Khan Academy Library of Content

A free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.

Interactive challenges, assessments, and videos, on any topic of your interest.

Child Line (1098)

CHILDLINE 1098 service is a 24 hour free emergency phone outreach service for children in need of care and protection.

CBSE Toll Free Tele/Online Helpline

Students can call 1800 11 8004 from any part of the country. The operators will answer general queries and also connect them to the counselors for psychological counseling. The helpline will be operational from 08 a.m to 10 p.m. On-line counseling on:

Population Stabilization in India Toll Free Helpline

Dial 1800-11-6555 for expert advice on reproductive, maternal and child health; adolescent and sexual health; and family planning.

Kendriya Vidyalaya (Shift-I)
Thiruvananthapuram-695 004
Kerala India

Mail: librarykvpattom at

%d bloggers like this: