Bhutto’s own family dismisses her little-girl-lost script. “Her father’s death was enormously convenient for her politically,” her American-educated niece, Fatima Bhutto, tells me. “She has no legacy of her own except for corruption and violence, so she rests on her father’s laurels.” Fatima blames her aunt for her own father’s assassination in 1996.
Reflecting on the lessons of her two terms as prime minister, Bhutto tells me, “It’s only now that America has awakened to what we were already fighting—Islamic jihadis.” Fortunately for her, the West’s urgent fear of Pakistan as a breeding ground for terrorists has given Bhutto the chance to redefine herself. During most of her exile, she was considered irrelevant by Washington. Then she hired Hillary Clinton’s image-maker, Mark Penn, and began playing up to Musharraf.
Despite the corrosion of her reputation by corruption and compromise, Bhutto appears to be America’s strongest anchor in the effort to turn back the extremist Islamic tide threatening to engulf Pakistan. What would you like to tell President Bush? I ask this riddle of a woman.
She would tell him, she replies, that propping up Musharraf’s government, which is infested with radical Islamists, is only hastening disaster. “I would say, ‘Your policy of supporting dictatorship is breaking up my country.’ I now think al-Qaeda can be marching on Islamabad in two to four years.”