Daughter of Destiny by Benazir Bhutto

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Daughter of Destiny Analysis

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Journalistic rather than literary in style, Bhutto’s autobiography is artfully crafted, from the arrangement of the material—in which the occasion of her house arrest in 1979 acts as a frame for the chapters in which she recalls her early life—to the dramatically effective device of switching to the present tense at moments of high tension. Bhutto’s is an engaging and passionate voice; she is unshakable in her sense of her duty to her family and to her country, but this does not lead her into fanaticism. Rather, she seems to exhibit a down-to-earth common sense combined with simple piety and compassion. Her excesses are perhaps forgivable. It would not be reasonable to expect, for example, an objective portrait of her father’s achievements as a statesman. The reader may well guess that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was probably not quite the saintlike figure that is presented in these pages, one whose benign and visionary policies brought enlightenment to a Pakistan that had been steeped in darkness. More impartial analysts would point out that although Bhutto was certainly the most capable politician that Pakistan had produced, he gave himself dictatorial powers and ruthlessly persecuted his political opponents.

Seen in that light, Zia’s regime, which was certainly brutal, was no worse than what Pakistan had been subjected to under Bhutto. Pakistani politics is not for the fainthearted. Certainly, the United States considered Zia a useful ally. Benazir Bhutto frequently points out that the United States was not a supporter of her father, who had opposed the Vietnam War and advocated Third World independence from the superpowers. Zia’s abuse of human rights was overlooked by the Reagan Administration, which gave huge aid to Pakistan. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan provided a base for Afghan guerrillas; in U.S. eyes, this gave Pakistan a geopolitical importance that overrode human rights concerns.

Within the main theme of Daughter of Destiny, which is the brutality and illegality of the military regime and Bhutto’s struggle, with the Pakistan People’s Party, to return democracy to Pakistan, the issue of women’s rights surfaces frequently. Under the constitution created by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1973, discrimination on the basis of sex was made illegal. Pakistan’s foreign service, civil service, and police force were opened to women, and women were appointed to senior positions in education and government. This progress was reversed under the Zia regime, often in the name of the Islamicization of society. For example, women were separated from men at official functions; female newscasters were ordered to cover their heads with dupattas or face dismissal; under the Law of Evidence, which was passed in 1984 and remained in force for the duration of Zia’s regime, a woman’s courtroom testimony was declared to be worth only half of a man’s. When...

(The entire section is 735 words.)