I had been quite taken in by Fatima Bhutto when I came in two years ago. Her website was dead then, but I read every word of what she wrote in her weekly column for a local daily.
I liked the way she presented her case when her aunt Benazir Bhutto was alive, and also after she was assassinated. I found the reams about her villainous uncle Asif Ali Zardari very convincing too.
I enjoyed her rare anecdotal takes, which had little to do with her famous surname – my favourite being the piece she addressed to her fans some of whom had wanted “to make friendship with her” and some others who had emailed marriage proposals to her.
Post-Benazir, Fatima was seen as the next Bhutto to reckon with. She reminded everyone of a young Benazir and soon enough she was the foreign media’s darling baby.
Her column for the local daily was suspended shortly after and she started writing for thedailybeast.com and thenewstatesman.com and occasionally for internationally renowned newspapers.
That’s when I started dreading her writing. Though still lyrical, Fatima’s well-packaged pieces became rather predictable. I was, of course, moved by her accounts of what she had to suffer as a little girl – but the overdose, week after week, was beginning to turn me off.
The writings were almost always about how her father was killed; how news of his death was broken to her; how the powers-that-be had embarrassed her by asking her real mother to meet her at school when she was in grade 9; how she had no plans of plunging into politics; how she had never misused her magic surname; how Zardari-Bhutto kids were not the real Bhuttos; how the country is being led by corrupt criminals (read Mr Z); how little they (read Mr Z) have done/or plan to do for the nation; and how demonic her late Wadi Bua was.
Towards the end of 2008 she made a deal for her tell-all tome on the Bhuttos– which she lovingly calls SOBAS. I was happy for her.
While she was working on the book, she continued to write for thedailybeast and thenewstatesman – pegging her column on the news of the week, draconic cyber laws to drone attacks, and then going back to the Benazir-Zardari-PPP rant.
Some months ago, I got to see the real Fatima Bhutto. Well almost as real as she can get for me.
Fatima, who detests Facebook (she would rather have “lunch with David Milliband every day of the week than be on FB”), surprised everyone by showing up on Twitter October last.
“I despise Twitter. But I'm tired of strange Fatima Bhuttos posting as me. I won't be very active - I hate unnecessary abbreviating FB,” read her first tweet.
I, of course, decided to follow her. Initially, she tweeted about stuff she was reading and then soon enough she was trying to settle scores with the fake Fatimas on Twitter.
“Twitter has been wildly useless in removing the fake me…and is no longer enjoying the Kafkaesque irony of it all,” she tweeted. “That's a new fake. How do these people have the time?” read another tweet.
I was quite amused. Fatima wasn’t. After wasting time in a one-on-one fight she got the fake Fatimas suspended. “Twitter victory is mine!” she tweeted excitedly one day.
In between she tweeted about her acts of charity: “Bringing our total of computers given to community centres and schools to 11…If I knew how to put pictures up here I would, but am hopeless.”
In February, she got busy publicizing her book on Twitter. She regularly listed upcoming international events; uploaded links to interviews she had given to famous people; how she “squealed, blushed and ran” when she saw her book cover; how her book was sold out everywhere.
“Finished filming a book promo with two very brave filmmakers who flew in and out of Karachi most quietly to do the filming,” she tweeted another day. She even graciously thanked India for making her book a bestseller.
This isn’t Fatima’s first book (she has written two before) but with this one she has put her best foot forward. If her magic surname, which she has never ever misused, was at work when she was sealing the book deal or when she was giving interviews to A-list interviewees or when she was chalking plans for embarking on global book tours – it was obviously absolutely unintentional and totally coincidental!
The sailing has been smooth for Fatima all along, yet she has showed little grace when faced by critics, including an uncle, who claim that the book is full of glaring half-truths or that she has needlessly demonized her aunt to make a hero out of her dead father.
“Pakistani media is spitting blood over it – which is to be expected…” she tweeted. In another one she wondered what people who “hate” her have in common!
She even got petty with her followers on Twitter wondering how they had access to her account when she had blocked out “undesirables”. The real shocker, however, was when she ticked off an Indian follower in Mumbai who said he didn’t like her book with: “Why don't you get off my page?”