Fatima Bhutto, author of The Shadow of the Crescent Moon, a fictional tale of three brothers in Pakistan, shared her insights on the importance of roots, historical education and story-telling for our generation, during a recent visiting authors’ week at the American University of Sharjah.
While she is the niece of Benazir Bhutto and the granddaughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, in her writing, she explicitly keeps away from political matters. Instead, she focuses on what she knows and values: a humane perspective on war and cruelty.
Bhutto has pronounced opinions on many subjects, but seems expressly concerned about the current state of education in Pakistan. Touching upon the lack of supportive social structures for education in Pakistan, Bhutto said,
“Because when you start educating people, they start asking questions. This makes education a danger and, also, so powerful. Books are expensive here or are hard to get. Sometimes, they are not in the language that they should be in,”
However, “Education is a generational thing,” Bhutto noted, suggesting that watching films, listening to music or engaging oneself in any act can be a source of knowledge.
She talked about the lack of historical preservation and the disregard for places, monuments and incidents of historic significance in Pakistan. This segment of her talk threw light on how our generation might be cut off from the true stories of our collective past. She share’s the glimpse of a devastating incident:
In 1857, when Pakistan united with India to fight against the British, soldiers rebelled in Karachi. The British caught 20 people and executed them. They were shot from canon in Empress Market, which is in the middle of the city.
I went to Empress Market, I looked up, I looked down, I looked right and left, yet there wasn’t a single sign that said.. on this spot, 16 or 20 freedom fighters were killed.
She is “yet to see any museum or monument dedicated to this incident, which was the largest migration movement in the world.” She believes such stories should be heard and records should reflect these incidents, as they play an important role in moulding our collective identity.
Bhutto’s other publications include 8.50 a.m. 8 October 2005, a record on the moment of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake; Whispers in the Desert; A memoir, Songs of Blood and Sword; and The Shadow of the Crescent Moon, published in November 2013.