Tragedy in Shame
in Salman Rushdie
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This chapter discusses the novel, Shame. The novel traces a fictionalised and heavily fantasised path through the rise to political power of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (who appears as Iskander Harappa); Bhutto's appointment of Zia ul-Haq (Raza Hyder) as his army chief of staff in 1976; Zia's deposition of Bhutto after the army was called in to quell street rioting in July 1977; the execution of Bhutto on the charge of ordering a political assassination; and the ‘Islamisation’ programme that Zia introduced once he had taken power in Pakistan. Shame was written at the height of this ‘Islamisation’ programme, and much of the bitter, brooding anger of the novel can be explained by this fact. The satire, however, is not directed at Zia alone, for his serious erosion of the civil rights of women and for his politicised misuse of Islam, but is directed also at Bhutto, who is held responsible for compromising the democratic process sufficiently to allow the military to regain power. Shame is thus a double satire on a pair of ‘conjoined opposites’ – the playboy and the puritan, the socialist democrat and the autocratic dictator – who are seen as two sides of the same coin: a Jekyll and Hyde of authoritarian politics.

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