was a different person with me: L.K. Advani
Delhi, May 22 (IANS) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K.
Advani and the slain Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Benazir
Bhutto shared a very special bond - that of Sindh, the land
of their birth.
"When she first met me at former Prime Minister Rajiv
Gandhi's funeral, along with Nawaz Sharif for the first time,
she asked me whether she could speak to me in Sindhi.
spoke to me somewhat in Sindhi and in English. And since then
contact between us remained through exchange of books and
letters," L.K. Advani recalled at the launch of Benzair
Bhutto's political biography, "Goodbye Shahzadi: A Political
Biography of Benzair Bhutto" at the India International
Centre in the capital Wednesday evening.
personal interactions with her were very informal. She was
different from the image she had built for herself in India
and Pakistan," Advani reminisced. The BJP leader said
his family visited Bhutto's ancestral home in Larkana for
a special reception during a visit to Pakistan.
to Advani, Benzair was a witty woman. "Once my daughter
Pratibha told her a joke and she took a print of the joke
back to Pakistan with her," Advani recalled.
last time I spoke to her was in October 2007 after her convoy
was attacked and she had a narrow escape," Advani said.
And the next time, it was her husband Asif Zardari, whom he
met, after her assassination, to condole the death. "That
was the first time, I saw Zardari," Advani said.
Bhutto was assassinated Dec 27 while campaigning for the election
her political views, Advani said Benazir had always felt that
an apolitical army in India contributed a lot to its democracy,
unlike Pakistan. "She regretted the fact that there was
no democracy in Pakistan," the BJP stalwart said.
to her, constitutional independence guaranteed under the Constitution
of India made the Election Commission independent and the
process of election free and fair in India. Advani, however,
dodged a query whether Pakistan was ready for another woman
leader with a smile and a wave.
biography, written by Shyam Bhatia, senior London-based journalist
and a close friend of the slain PPP chief from her Oxford
days, is based on a series of interviews spanning roughly
100 hours of tape that the writer recorded over more than
to the publishers of the biography, Roli Books, only 27 hours
of tape has been used for the book which deals almost every
period of life right from her Oxford heydays, years in the
limelight as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's daughter, her wedding,
her India link, the nuclear game, her years in power and exile.
Till the day she died. Bhatia recorded his last interview
barely weeks before her death.
hard-bound 196-page book with photographs and letter is priced
at Rs. 295.
asked about his one most enduring memory of his Oxford buddy
Pinky, Bhatia narrated a chilling tale. "I have one haunting,
rather shocking memory. In October, just before Benazir was
returning to Pakistan, I had a strange dream. I dreamt that
I was seeing her off at the Heathrow airport and the aircraft
in which she flew had crashed," Bhatia said.
author immediately warned her not go return. "I asked
her why are you going back," Bhatia said. To which she
replied, "I have to go," the author said. The return
whose friendship with Benazir spanned more than 30 years,
said Pinky (as Benazir was known at home) could never get
over the trauma of her father's death. Benzair's father former
president Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged for alleged treason.
day, she broke into tears and told me, 'do you know what they
did to my father after they brought his body down (from the
noose)?'" Bhatia told the media.
then regime had reportedly "stripped her father's body
to see if he was circumscribed". According to Benzair,
the Pakistan army had always treated Bhutto with disdain because
his mother (Benazir's grandmother) Khursheed Begum nee Lakhi
Bai, was a Hindu from Gujarat who had converted to Islam,
Pinky always prided on her Rajput ancestry and said it was
only during war that India and Pakistan hated each other.
But in peace, they liked each other," the author said.
Bhatia remembered Benazir as a doting mother, who was a strict
disciplinarian. "She evolved into a very caring mother
over the years."