Benazir Bhutto called her 1989 autobiography “Daughter of Destiny,” and when she was assassinated in December at 54, she became the fourth member of her immediate family to die violently against the backdrop of Pakistani intrigue and politics: her father, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in 1979 on charges of having ordered the murder of a minor political opponent; her younger brother, Shahnawaz, mysteriously died of poisoning in 1985; and her other brother, Murtaza, was gunned down outside his home in 1996.
The head of the populist Pakistan Peoples Party, Ms. Bhutto was herself a charismatic and polarizing figure, who ran as a representative of democratic hopes, and her death underscored the instability of Pakistan — a nuclear-armed country deemed by many as the most dangerous place in the world — and the precarious state of politics in that nation, which headed to the polls on Monday in a vote that will determine the next prime minister.
In Ms. Bhutto’s new book, “Reconciliation,” a volume she finished days before she was killed, she lays out her vision of Islam as “an open, pluralistic and tolerant religion” that she says has been hijacked by extremists, and her belief that Islam and the West need not be headed on a collision course toward a “clash of civilizations.”
If Ms. Bhutto’s own life reads like a Greek tragedy, she was nonetheless a very modern politician, and the book she has written is part manifesto, part spin job, part selective history and part term-paper analysis. It shows Ms. Bhutto in the many guises the public in both the West and her native Pakistan came to know: an Oxford-educated debate champion, adept at invoking Spengler and T. S. Eliot to make her points; a savvy and self-dramatizing campaigner, adroit at charming members of the Washington power elite as well as the disenfranchised poor in Pakistan, whom she pledged to represent; a determined heir to her father’s political legacy, who found duty turning over “years of pain, suffering, sacrifice and separation” into “an all consuming passion.”
After a privileged childhood and a Western education at Radcliffe and Oxford, Pinkie, as Ms. Bhutto was known in her youth, returned home to Pakistan where her father was arrested by Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq in 1977. In “Reconciliation” Ms. Bhutto writes: “On the day my father was arrested, I changed from a girl to a woman. He would guide me over the next two years, cautioning me to remain focused and committed and never bitter. On the day he was murdered I understood that my life was to be Pakistan, and I accepted the mantle of leadership of my father’s legacy and my father’s party.”