I decided to buy Daughter of the East when I saw it on a Waterstone’s 3 for 2 table. That Benazir was a good writer. More than anything, though, it’s a warning of what happens when an idolised, dead father overshadows a life. Perhaps Bhutto’s 19-year-old son, who has been handed his mother’s legacy whether he wants it or not, should do things differently.
Unfortunately, this is an April 2007 edition (reissued ahead of her return to Pakistan) of the 1988 book (when she first took power), so there is a preface from the still-alive Bhutto and the updated ending isn’t quite updated enough:
I realise that like the assassination of Benigno Aquino in Manila in August 1983, I can be gunned down on the airport tarmac when I land. After all, al-Qaeda has tried to kill me several times, why would we think they wouldn’t try again as I return from exile to fight for the democratic elections they so detest?
She knew what she was getting into, but didn’t believe that it would happen to her.
Anyway, back to the start. She begins the preface with: “I didn’t choose this life; it chose me,” but she would be nearer the truth if she substituted “it” for “my dad.”
So, she starts the first chapter proper with: “They killed my father in the early morning hours…” This opening is all about her father’s overthrow and arrest, culminating in his execution in 1979. The chronological stuff only happens after the description of this event, which set her on the path that she would follow for the rest of her life.
I’ve got up to 1971 in the book, which sees Benazir at Harvard, and her dad fighting to stop East Pakistan from becoming Bangladesh; history tells us that he lost. How surreal her life was:
The telephones at the Pierre ring non-stop. One afternoon I take a call from the US secretary of State Henry Kissinger on one line, and one from Huang Hua, chairman of the delegation from the People’s Republic of China, on another.
Crikey. Anyway, back to it. It’s gripping not only because of the events, but because of her likeable style as well.