Everything is political, says Fatima Bhutto

February 25, 2019


Fatima Bhutto signs her book after the session. — White Star
Fatima Bhutto signs her book after the session. — White Star

LAHORE: A ‘surprise session’ announced at the last moment at the Lahore Literary Festival’s (LLF) concluding day on Sunday had Fatima Bhutto at the launch of her book ‘The Runaways’.

In a session moderated by Sanam Maher, Bhutto said she took four and a half years to write this novel. It will be launched in the UK, Australia and Europe later.

Saying that she gathered experiences from real life to write, and while she had grown up amidst political turmoil, especially the murder of her father, it was tragic to believe that Pakistan was such a failed state that it required foreign intervention. “It is arrogant to think that we need a saviour,” she said.

She spoke about how she had always been attracted to reading more than anything and how her father Murtaza Bhutto had always inspired her. “He was always encouraging, and fastidious about keeping his books properly of which he had a huge library in Damascus,” she said.

The political family scion launches her book The Runaways at an LLF session

“He wanted me to go in foreign service but I preferred this line of work.”

Answering a question, she said everything in one’s life was political, including how one meets people or how one moves through the world, and in that case she was a very political person. She said she still continued to write because she wanted to share things and that it was a normal human impulse to share and connect with the world.

However, she did not succumb to social media, even though she used it off and on.

Bhutto also signed books at the end of the session.

The Runaways is her latest book in which she explores what it is to be young and Muslim in a polarised world.

ASMA LIVES: Panelists Seema Iftikhar, Gulrukh Rehman, Nida Aly and I.A Rehman remembered the spirit and strength of the late human rights advocate Asma Jahangir. They reminisced about her and brought up anecdotes which sent the audience laughing at her wit and humour.

The panelists agreed that Asma had an innate sense of justice so ingrained in her that she refused to be blind to any sort of injustice around her. This innate sense had always been there since her school and college years, as childhood friends Seema and Gulrukh said. They said she was so passionately opposed to any deviations to democracy, and this was the spirit that helped her form AGHS, HRCP, and also be part of WAF as a founding member.

Asma was also integral in activism, said Mr I. A Rehman who said that before this there was minimal activism of human rights even though the concept was understood.

She had anger in her that she channeled well, said Seema Iftikhar. “Her greatest display of leadership was when we were being eve teased by some boys in a crowded demonstration and all of a sudden Asma got on top of one of the cars and she began lecturing them in a loud voice about how they needed to respect the women of this country – what we heard was how this unruly mob ended up cheering her!”

Fareeda Shaheed said Asma was the only foreign rapporteur who had been complained against by her own government.

AGHS Executive Director Nida Aly said that in respect of Asma’s legacy, AGHS had now doubled their women beneficiaries and pushed over 600 more cases of legal aid.

Everyone agreed that Asma’s voice must be kept alive by practicing what one preaches and to raise one’s voice against injustices as she did.

CHAND GIRAHAN: Asghar Nadeem Syed spoke at length about the craft of script-writing with Sarmad Khoosat moderating the panel.

He said the overall attitude had now become that all the master craftsmen had now left the industry and everything was spoilt now, but added that this nostalgia was wrong.

“New people have their own experiences,” he said. “The problem is that this generation is not as refined in its execution. We are unable to relate the audience to our characters because they have little context.”

He said that while working in the industry he had really looked up to Raza Mir while he soon found out that many other producers or directors had often used young skilled people like himself to lure investors.

“With new media, technology and new forms of expressions, it has become easier to translate novels into TV serials or films than in the past,” he said. “A major characteristic of our old writers is that they used their freedom of expression and utilised it by giving what they wrote meaning.”

He also stressed that writers should research before writing. He recounted Jab Takht Uchhalay Jayenge and Tum Ho Keh Chup among his works which received a lot of backlash.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2019