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A Murder Foretold

Shatam Ray

By Annette Gordon-Reed
The Book Review, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 280, Rs. 495.00

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 8-9 August-September 2011

As images of Benazir Bhutto sinking into her SUV, on that fateful date of December 2007, flashed all over the world, Amir Mir let a silent prayer in his mind. He found out in a matter of few hours, along with millions across his country, that even the most heartfelt prayer could not save Bhutto from her demise. Benazir had become the latest in a long tradition of political assassinations that has marred the history of postcolonial South Asia. Her death was to become a critical moment in the history of Pakistan. However, as histories of deathways and its social construct have shown us, it is the wont of Death to either celebrate or condemn certain deaths in retrospect depending on its juncture, victims or actors. Benazir Bhutto—daughter of former PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, twice Prime Minister of Pakistan and probably belonging to the first family of Pakistani polity—was hardly a death that was to go unnoticed. Contrary to being the great leveller, Bhutto's death captured the crisis that Pakistan had become in the past few years. A singular death that will become a far more significant death in the narrative of South Asian polity over the 170- odd deaths that had occurred only a month earlier on the day of Bhutto's arrival to Pakistan. Or many such tragedies that Pakistanis had been living with. But perhaps that discussion is for another day. For now, we must reflect on the tale of a 'death foretold' in Amir Mir's The Bhutto Murder Trail. Mir deftly puts to use his skills as an investigative journalist and documents in the public realm to cull a story that reads like a book on medieval court intrigue and deceit. His work is informed further by his personal correspondence with Benazir Bhutto. He reads the UN Inquiry Commission Report closely and dedicates two entire chapters to the findings. His others sources involve many of his own writings in print (which is reproduced in full text, sometimes not necessarily flowing easily with the narrative of the chapter), the political will that Bhutto composed before her arrival in Pakistan and her speeches. The problem of writing such a book is that many of the investigated matter cannot be cross-referenced or cited with 'authentic' sources which the sceptics can refute as unsubstantiated or mere speculations. The murder trail of Bhutto was mired in controversy from the beginning. The ...

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