I saw Benazir Bhutto once, when she was President of the Oxford Union. I thought she looked attractive, rich and petulant, and she didn’t come over as being very ‘political’. In fact, she seemed like an Asian version of Arianna Stassinopolous (now Huffington), who was President of the Cambridge Union in the same period. Accordingly, I’ve been reading the obituaries with some amazement. But at last something that looks a bit more informed — and detached — has surfaced: a piece by David Warren on Canada.com. Excerpt:
I have been reading much rubbish in celebration of Ms. Bhutto’s life. A number of my fellow pundits have further provided personal memoirs: it seems dozens of them were her next door neighbour when she was studying at Harvard or Oxford or both.
She was my exact contemporary, and I met her as a child in Pakistan, so let me jump on this bandwagon. I remember her at age eight, arriving in a Mercedes-Benz with daddy’s driver, and whisking me off for a ride in the private airplane of then-president Ayub Khan (Bhutto père was the rising star in his cabinet). This girl was the most spoiled brat I ever met.
I met her again in London, when she was studying at Oxford. She was the same, only now the 22-year-old version, and too gorgeous for anybody’s good. One of my memories is a glimpse inside a two-door fridge: one door entirely filled with packages of chocolate rum balls from Harrod’s. Benazir was crashing, in West Kensington, with another girl I knew in passing — the daughter of a former prime minister of Iraq. They were having a party. It would be hard to imagine two girls, of any cultural background, so glibly hedonistic.
After her father’s “martyrdom” Bhutto became, from all reports, much more serious. But I think, also, twisted — and easily twisted, as the spoiled too easily become when they are confronted with tragedy. She became pure politician. Think of it: she submitted to an arranged marriage, because she needed a husband to campaign for office. Stood by him in power only because there was no other political option when he proved even greedier than she was.
Twisted, in a nearly schizoid way. For she was entirely westernized, but also Pakistani. She thought in English, her Urdu was awkward, her “native” Sindhi inadequate even for giving directions to servants. Part of her political trick, in Pakistan itself, was that she sounded uneducated in Urdu. This is as close as she got to being “a woman of the people.”
It’s get more polite later on, but this restores the balance a little.
Thanks to Lara for the link.