Don’t look back in anger, look forward with hope, urges Fatima
By Urooj Zia
KARACHI: Fatima Bhutto’s second book ‘8:50 a.m. 8 October 2005’ comes nearly a year after the earthquake in Pakistan and as its first anniversary approaches, it serves as a reminder of the death and destruction and gives rise to questions about what we have learnt from the experience.
Bhutto, the daughter of Murtaza Bhutto and granddaughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, is a graduate of Columbia University, New York, and holds an MA in South Asian Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. The book was launched Thursday at the Karachi Press Club. Her first book, “Whispers of the Desert,” a collection of poetry dedicated to her father, was published in 1997 when she was 15 years old.
As Oxford University Press (OUP) managing director Ameena Saiyid said in her welcome address, the October 8 earthquake saw the entire country come together to help those in the quake-affected areas. Bhutto’s book, she said, was an authentic account of the stories of children who lost parts of their lives, physically and emotionally, in the earthquake. The focal point of the book, that made it stand out from a horde of other October 8-related literature, Saiyid said, was the fact that it portrayed hope with the resilience of the children, their hope, their courage, and their will to live on.
Press club president Ghazi Salahuddin said he appreciated the “human angle” of the book. He said that Bhutto, in writing her book, had followed the most important principle of journalism - portraying the story from the point of view of those that it affected most. He quoted a phrase from the first page of the book, where Bhutto had written, “I dedicate this book to Dennis Dalton, who taught me that everyone has a story and every story is worth listening to.” And that, Salahuddin said, is the spirit of journalism.
Edhi Foundation’s Faisal Edhi lauded the book, saying that more research should be done into the topic “so that our drawbacks can be brought forward, and thenceforth removed.”
Fatima Bhutto, in her vote of thanks, explained to the audience how the idea for the book was born. She told of her visit to a hospital in Bani Gala, Islamabad, where a little girl, Afeera, who’s finger had been amputated and who’s arm was in a cast, was determined to write out her story - the things that she went through during the earthquake, after it, and all the things that she had planned once she was allowed to leave the hospital for good. “She wanted to be a doctor,” Bhutto said, and went on to thank Afeera for the book.
Bhutto raised some questions for the current regime to answer: Why were we not prepared for the ‘prepare-able,’ even though it was known that Pakistan lay on a prominent fault line? What was the military dictatorship doing - why did it not respond in time? What did it do with the Rs 6 billion from the President’s Relief Fund? However, Bhutto might have wanted to ask herself these questions in turn: Were the fault lines discovered only after 1999? Were no previous governments, including those of PML and PPP, aware of the existence of these fault lines before? Could they not have done anything to ‘prepare the nation for the prepare-able’?
“It is sad when tragedies like the one on October 8 are highlighted and used as political agendas,” Bhutto very rightly said during her speech. But by only questioning the current military regime, Bhutto perhaps runs the risk of doing exactly what she doesn’t want others to do.