Fatima Bhutto was born under curfew in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1982. Her father,
Murtaza, was in exile from his home country of Pakistan whose military junta had
executed his father, Pakistan’s first democratically elected head of state Zulfikar Ali
Bhutto, three years before. Before Zulfikar was hanged, he ordered his two sons to
leave Pakistan, he feared that he would be killed and that they would be next.
Though Fatima spent her childhood in Damascus, Syria before returning to Pakistan,
politics and the violence that accompanied it was never far behind. In 1985 her
uncle Shahnawaz Bhutto was murdered and her father, a member of parliament in
Pakistan, was killed outside their home in 1996. In 2007, her aunt Benazir also lost
her life violently.
Fatima studied Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at Columbia University,
before completing a Masters in South Asian Government and Politics at the School of
Oriental and African Studies. She published her first book, a volume of poetry
Whispers of the Desert (Oxford University Press) when she was 15 years old. Fatima
began her writing career with a weekly column for Jang, Pakistan’s largest Urdu
newspaper, and The News, its English sister paper, which included written diaries
from Tehran, Iran, Cuba and Lebanon during the 2006 summer war.
Her work has since appeared in The Financial Times, Granta, Vogue, and The
Guardian, among other publications. Fatima’s published works include a collection
of first-hand accounts from survivors of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, Songs of
Blood and Sword (Jonathan Cape) a non-fiction account of Pakistani politics and her
family, and a novel, The Shadow of the Crescent Moon (Penguin), which was long
listed for the Bailey’s Prize in 2014 and won the Prix de la Romanciere in 2014.
In 2012, she was selected to be a Young Global Leader for the World Economics
Forum, one of 192 YGLs from 59 countries, all of whom were chosen for their
outstanding leadership, professional accomplishments and commitment to society.
In 2018, Fatima’s latest book The Runaways was published in Pakistan and India by
Penguin Random House. It is an explosive novel that poses difficult questions about
modern identity in a world on fire. PRH published the UK and Australian editions
in March 2019.
Fatima has spoken widely about leadership challenges especially regarding women,
the role of violence in politics, press freedom among many other topics. Without a
doubt, she is a highly accomplished, entertaining and passionate speaker.