ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – An autobiographical book that slain Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto finished writing just days before her assassination was published Tuesday ahead of crucial parliamentary elections her party is tipped to win.
In the book, Bhutto describes her fateful return to Pakistan in October — which culminated in her death Dec. 27 in a homicide attack — and her failed talks with U.S.-backed President Pervez Musharraf that she had hoped could ease the transition to civilian rule.
Her party said "Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy & the West," published by Simon and Schuster, had been planned long in advance. But it could give an extra boost to the party's cause in the Feb. 18 vote. Recent opinion polls show her Pakistan Peoples Party as the clear front-runner.
"We never thought this book would be launched without Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto," said Sherry Rehman, a former Bhutto aide and current party spokeswoman. "It is a tragic moment for us, but we feel she is with us in every sense. ... She is guiding our election campaign."
"It's about how she viewed the transition to democracy. How she planned to build bridges between the Islamic world and the West and how she wanted to bring developing countries out of poverty, hunger, hopelessness and extremism," Rehman said.
Bhutto served twice as prime minister between 1988 and 1996 and returned to Pakistan after eight years in exile, hoping to win a third term. Her homecoming was greeted with a homicide attack that killed about 150 people, which she describes vividly in the book.
"They, who only a few minutes before had been full of life, dancing, smiling, passing food and drinks up to the top of the truck were now dead and dismembered. It was a massacre," she wrote. "It was the worst sight I had ever seen, and the worst sight that I will ever see as long as I live."
Bhutto accuses Musharraf of reneging on promises made in secret talks that paved the way for her return by failing to set up a neutral election authority and caretaker government, and not ending a prohibition on prime ministers serving a third term.
"If Musharraf had fulfilled his promises, Pakistan could have had an orderly democratic transition, closing the chapter on military rule, once and for all," she wrote.
The upcoming elections are meant to restore democracy after eight years of military rule under Musharraf, who shed his military title in November, but is resisting growing calls for him to step down entirely.
Pakistani journalist and author on Islamic militancy, Ahmed Rashid, paid tribute to Bhutto, saying that "no one can really replace her."
Despite perceptions she was pro-U.S., Bhutto is "scathingly critical" in the book over the West's support of dictatorships rather than democracy for strategic interests, he said.
She also urged Islamic nations to accept responsibility for their destiny rather than heap blame for their problems on foreign interference: a common theme in Pakistan, which cultivated militants to fight the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and is now plagued by Islamic radicalism.
"We have to be responsible for our own actions. You can't blame the CIA, MI6 and the Indians for everything that that happens in Pakistan," Rashid said.