It's like family business, charges Fatima Bhutto

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London, Jan 13: Breaking her silence over appointment of Bilawal Bhutto as the heir to assassinated former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, her niece Fatima described it as ''dangerous'' saying ''it's become a family business''.

The 25-year-old newspaper columnist also rejected her own claim to the Bhutto legacy and called for a ''new era'' of politics ''based on platforms rather than personalities''. ''The idea that it has to be a Bhutto, I think, is a dangerous one. It doesn't benefit Pakistan. It doesn't benefit a party that's supposed to be run on democratic lines and it doesn't benefit us as citizens if we think only about personalities and not about platforms,'' she said in an interview with The Times, her first to the western media since Benazir's death.

Launching a blistering attack on her cousin's appointment, Fatima accused those around him of perpetuating dynastic politics and trying to cash in on his mother's blood.

''That's the problem-- it's a field that's held hostage by so few and it's become in a sense the family business, like an antique shop, where it's just 'So and So and Sons' and then grandsons and great grandsons. It just gets handed down,'' she said.

Fatima's father Murtaza Bhutto, Benazir's younger brother and the eldest son of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was killed in a police shootout in Karachi in 1996 when Benazir was Prime Minister.

Talking about family ties Fatima said her doors are ''always open'' to Bilawal and his sisters.

''We were there for those three days of mourning. So it's up to them now.'' Asserting that neither she nor her brother were rightful heirs, Fatima said the issue was whether Bilawal was a suitable choice, given that by law he must wait another six years to run for Parliament and 16 years to stand for Prime Minister.

''They seem to be a party in a hurry and they seem to be desperate to cash in on her blood. There was a certain coterie around her that benefited richly from her Government and they plan, it seems, to benefit richly from her death as well,'' she said.

She rejected Pakistan government's claim that Al-Qaeda was behind the murder of her aunt.

The parallels between Fatima and her aunt are striking-- Benazir studied at Harvard and Oxford before returning to Pakistan and taking over the PPP aged 24. Fatima returned to Pakistan two years ago after completing a BA in Middle Eastern studies at Columbia University and an MA in South Asian government and politics at SOAS in London.

Fatima said she was not averse to join politics as it was ''in my blood''.

''If there was an opportunity for new faces to come up and new voices to be heard and if I could be of service in some way, I wouldn't say no,'' she said.

''But I'm not interested in being a symbol for anyone,'' she added.


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