Celebrated writer Fatima Bhutto, niece of the late Benazir Bhutto, shies away from politics but equipped with the same flair for writing and regal sense of style as her aunt and grandfather, former President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, she’s become the new face of the Pakistani dynasty.
A graduate of Columbia University and London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Fatima Bhutto has two successful books to her name, Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter’s Memoir and her latest, The Shadow of the Crescent Moon. She spoke with Net-A-Porter’s Christa D’Souza about her life in Pakistan, vegan leanings, and being an author in a political family.
Bhutto is in town to promote her debut novel, The Shadow of the Crescent Moon, the story of three brothers from the Taliban-held badlands on Pakistan’s Afghan border. It comes on the heels of Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter’s Memoir, a heartfelt account of her beloved father, Murtaza, a political opponent of his sister Benazir’s administration and the feuding Bhutto dynasty. Fatima’s father was shot dead outside their house when she was just 14, while she hid inside, shielding her little brother from the bullets. Her grandfather, ex-president Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged by the army regime that deposed him. In 1985, her uncle Shahnawaz Bhutto was poisoned in France, and in 2007, her aunt Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. These experiences have turned Fatima into an outspoken political commentator – but she has resolved to never enter politics. “Power is such a dangerous animal,” she says. “Those who find it exciting don’t see the poison; how violent and destructive it is.”
Bhutto, who was born in Kabul (she has been estranged from her biological mother since the age of three) and brought up in Damascus until she was 11, has learned the hard way not to make attachments to places or ‘things’. At heart, she is a bit of a bluestocking (she attended Columbia in NYC, then did her masters at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies). She was encouraged by her father, who praised her writing from an early age, “as if I’d split the atom”. “He never told me what to be, it was what I wanted to be,” she continues. “Such unconditional support helps you survive in a family so turbulent.”
Fatima’s own look is elegant and pared back; she wears no jewelry, not even the tiny diamante she had in her nose when we last met. “Well, I figure if I don’t really wear jewelry, then why?” she shrugs. But she does love a good T-shirt and ballet pump, and has a weakness for Roger Vivier bags. “Fashion is an expression and it is a liberty,” says Bhutto, “and also a craftsmanship that will die if we do not buy into it, for example, the embroidery from the Swat Valley [in Pakistan].” It must be said, too, that her 80/20 vegan diet and passion for yoga make her an amazing, if miniature, clothes-horse.
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