BHUTTO UNDER CURSE OF DYNASTIES
Date: 30 Dec 2007
Bhutto a victim of South Asia’s cursed dynasties
By Simon Denyer, Yahoo News
Dec. 27, 2007
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Benazir Bhutto only entered
politics after her father was executed by the
military. On Thursday she was assassinated, a
depressingly predictable end for a member of one of
South Asia’s seemingly cursed political dynasties.
Powerful families from the Bhuttos of Pakistan to the
Gandhis of India and the Bandaranaike family of Sri
Lanka have dominated politics in this diverse and
polyglot region since independence from Britain.
But none have escaped tragedy at the hands of rebels,
extremists or ambitious military leaders.It was
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who founded Pakistan’s troubled
dynasty. He became the country’s first popularly
elected prime minister but was toppled by the army in
1977 and later hanged.Both his sons died in mysterious
His daughter Benazir, a former prime minister, was
lucky to survive when a suicide attack on her
motorcade killed nearly 150 people as she returned to
Pakistan in October after eight years in exile.
Later that month she paid an emotional return to her
father’s grave in their ancestral village in southern
“There is still danger of attack, but Allah can
protect everyone and I am not scared,” she said.
In India, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot by her
Sikh bodyguards as she walked in her garden in 1984,
cradled by her Italian daughter-in-law Sonia as she
The tragedy propelled her son and Sonia’s husband
Rajiv into politics and into her shoes as head of
He in turn was blown up by a (Christian,LTTE)female
suicide bomber in 1991 at an election rally.
With grim prescience, Sonia wrote she had “fought like
a tigress” to prevent Rajiv entering politics.
After he died, she desperately wanted to stay out of
politics, only to yield in 1998 after enormous
pressure from the Congress party. Today she is India’s
most powerful politician.
“That’s part of political lives, and my mother-in-law
and my husband lived and died for the country,” she
said in an interview in 2004. “I don’t believe they
wished to die in any other way.”
This crowded region has faced an array of violent
uprisings by groups who felt excluded by democracy.
The military has often felt it could do a better job
of ruling than politicians.
That’s helped to make politics a risky career path.
“In this region there is this struggle between the
ballot and the bullet,” said Mahesh Rangarajan, a
political analyst and Delhi University history
professor. “There are elements and groups who wish to
settle political scores by ending debate.”
The murders have ironically helped sustain those
dynasties the assassins tried to destroy, propelling
sometimes reluctant heirs into the limelight, giving
them both a powerful sense of a legacy to be fulfilled
and a wave of sympathy on which to ride.
In Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, Prime Minister Solomon
Bandaranaike was killed by a Buddhist monk in 1959.
His wife Sirimavo succeeded him to become the world’s
first female prime minister.
His daughter Chandrika Kumaratunga, also became prime
minister and then president, only to lose sight in her
right eye after an assassination attempt by suspected
Tamil Tiger rebels in 1999.
In Bangladesh, which split from Pakistan in 1971, the
country’s two leading politicians had similarly
violent starts to their political careers.
Sheikh Hasina entered politics after her father,
independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was killed
in a military coup in 1975.
The man who came to power after that coup, General
Ziaur Rahman, was himself killed in an abortive
military mutiny in 1981. His wife Begum Khaleda Zia
was not daunted, giving up life as a housewife to join
She became the Muslim country’s first female prime
minister in 1991, before bitter rival Sheikh Hasina
took over the top job in 1996. Today, both have been
detained by a military-backed government and face
prosecution for corruption.
It is not only dynasties which have suffered.
Mohandas K. Gandhi, also known as the Mahatma or Great
Soul, was assassinated in 1948. Pakistan’s first Prime
Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was shot and killed in 1951
in Rawalpindi, the same city in which Benazir Bhutto
died on Thursday.
In a family interview with India’s Outlook magazine in
Dubai last year, Benazir said she hoped her three
children would choose a different career path.
“Even though I come from a political family with a
strong sense of duty to my country I would strongly
advise them to stay away from politics, to serve the
country in other ways,” she was quoted as saying. “As
a doctor, a social worker, anything.”
“My children have told me they are very worried about
my safety. I understand those fears. But they are
Bhuttos and we have to face the future with courage,
whatever it brings.”
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