A Week in the Life of Benazir Bhutto

Previously published Slate articles made new.
June 17 1997 3:30 AM

A Week in the Life of Benazir Bhutto


As leader of the opposition in the National Assembly of Pakistan, I have to open the debate on the budget proposal tomorrow.

I get up today and head straight for the big bundle of budget documents which the finance minister has placed on the floor of the National Assembly.

It made me think of my university days.

When I graduated from university in the '70s, I was thrilled. My education was over. A life of exams, grades, waiting for results was part of the past.

I was wrong.

Life is one big exam.

And whether it is an election, a speech, a court decision, or a domestic matter, I am always wondering whether I am going to pass or fail, whether I am going to make the grade or not.

Some days are good. Some days are not. As Lady Thatcher once said to me, "In politics always expect the unexpected." I would only add, in life always expect the unexpected.

I finish the first reading of the budget documents by lunch time. I find that the Intelligence Bureau of Pakistan spent one-third over its allocation.

Was this huge expenditure to rig the general elections held this February, to fund my opponents, to bribe witnesses into giving false statements, or to bribe journalists into writing negative stories? These questions whirl in my mind.

Last November, my government was dismissed by presidential decree on the eve of our signing an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

A witch hunt was launched. It still continues. That night of November 4, 1996, my husband was kidnapped by security agents. He was produced 48 hours later after we raised a hue and cry. For eight months he has languished in a prison cell in solitary confinement, with temperatures soaring to 48ºC. He has not been indicted in a single case so far, despite the government's tall claims that he was "The King of Corruption."

       My cousin Fakhri comes to our house along with her three grandchildren. I send them, along with my own three kids, to have pizza and chocolate cake. They shout with delight. Children are so easy to please. What happens to us when we become adults?

Mummy, Fakhri, and I have lunch. The cook has made "Karri." It is made with yogurt and gram flour. Mummy says it is delicious so her cook must have made it.

Mummy has just returned from a religious pilgrimage. She says she prayed really hard for me and our party workers, and things are going to get better. Let us hope so.

After lunch we sip green tea and chat until the sound of shouts and screams heralds the return of the children. The kids now demand to see a cartoon.

I do not like my children watching cartoons. But I am feeling guilty. I have to catch a flight to Islamabad where the Parliament is based. So I cave in.

As I come down the stairs to leave for the airport, my 7-year-old daughter, Bakhtwar, looks up. Casually waving, she says, "Bye, it was nice seeing you. Come back soon."

"What do you mean," I say. "I am your mother. I am stuck to you like that arm of yours for life."

"But, Mama, my arm keeps going away," she complains.

"But it always comes back," I reply.

"Yes, it does, it does," says my 8-year-old son, Bilawal, as he gives me a hug.

On the flight I see my mother-in-law. We say hello. She says the regime is still bothering my father-in-law. He is in Lahore, meeting lawyers in connection with politically motivated allegations made against him.

I write my speech by hand during the two-hour plane journey from Karachi to Islamabad. I rush home and into my study to complete the speech. Once the draft is finished I call my party leaders to vet the draft. While they are doing that, I binge on pizza and chocolate cake.

It is four in the morning by the time we finish. We leave the speech for typing, translation, and copying and call it a day.

Benazir Bhutto wrote this Slate "Diary" in 1997 as the former prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.



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