What's most remarkable about Benazir Bhutto's book, Reconciliation (HarperCollins, 2008), is that the two-time Pakistani prime minister finished it in the early morning hours of the day of her death. Written in first person, it is a voice from the grave, calling for tolerance and understanding between the West and Muslim nations, and among Muslim neighbors.
From another pen much of it would read as cliché, but because it was nearly literally written in the blood of Bhutto, what she has to say on the eve of her Dec. 27, 2007, assassination in Rwalpindi is important now more as a place-marker to history than the blueprint she intended it to be.
For clearly Reconciliation is the work of a woman running for office. At its heart are chapters devoted to recounting Pakistan's brief history, in which Bhutto's own family plays important (and in her eyes bridge-building) roles. By recounting Pakistan's current political crisis she is able (with his help) to cast President Pervez Musharraf in the role of military dictator and her Pakistani People's Party in the role of savior. And dictatorship, along with "a pseudo-religious movement of ideological hatred," is at the root of Islamic terrorism, not Islam, she argues.
Her commitment to democracy is bold, but her view of democracy is a socialist model making much of UN-sponsored forums and a new Marshall Plan flowing from West to East.
But the voice of a patriot willing to criticize Muslim silence -particularly in the sectarian fighting in Iraq, but also in the appalling lack of democratic, social, and economic development across the Muslim world-is the welcome and greater part of Reconciliation. And that is a discussion we can wish she had lived to have.