KARACHI, Pakistan - As the House of Bhutto copes with its latest violent death, hope is growing that Benazir Bhutto's killing could help reconcile rival branches of Pakistan's virtual royal family while it seeks to extend its political dynasty.
The family has been split since the 1996 fatal shooting of Benazir's brother Murtaza in Karachi while she was prime minister.
Although Bhutto was praised for her ability to touch people across regional and cultural boundaries as a populist leader, she faced some of her toughest criticism from within her own family. Some relatives were quick to publicly raise her shortcomings, such as the accusations of corruption that twice forced her from office.
She was remembered by some family members as a kind person who never forgot to send presents on a birthday, and who invited them to dinner even when she didn't have time. But other relatives maintain that Bhutto was an opportunist and say her heirs are seeking to reap undeserved benefit from a family name revered because of her father, the executed politician Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
It is just another aspect of the complicated nature of Benazir Bhutto's personality - praised as a Pakistani icon in her trademark white headscarf, but also criticized for her imperious nature.
Fatima Bhutto, the daughter of Benazir's late brother Murtaza, is a poet and politician who became a harsh critic of her aunt. But after her death, Fatima issued a public call for calm in the family.
"I never agreed with her politics. I never did. I never agreed with those she kept around her, the political opportunists, hangers-on, them. They repulse me. I never agreed with her version of events. Never," she wrote Sunday in Pakistan's The News.
"But in death, in death perhaps there is a moment to call for calm. To say, enough. We have had enough. We cannot, and we will not, take any more madness," wrote Fatima.
The main divisive figure in the Bhutto family is her widowed husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who is accused of taking kickbacks while serving as a government minister and of involvement in his wife's brother's death.
Although Bhutto's will named Zardari as her successor as chairman of her People's Party, he instead deferred to their 19-year-old son, Bilawal - who has since taken "Bhutto" as a middle name. Zardari says he will run the party until his son finishes studies at Oxford University.
Benazir's family is one branch of the Bhutto tribe, one of the largest in the southern province of Sindh. Its hundreds of thousands of members range from farmers to landowners.
The patriarch of the clan is the 73-year-old Mumtaz Bhutto, Benazir's uncle. He said renaming Bilawal was a hollow ploy.
"It is an attempt to overshadow the Bhutto family and also to continue to get benefit from the name of Bhutto by the Zardaris," he said Thursday at his palatial home. "But it will not work. People will not accept this."
Still, Mumtaz Bhutto said he was seeking to unite the family following his niece's death.
Yesterday, British antiterror police joined the inquiry into the assassination of Bhutto. They were invited by President Pervez Musharraf in an effort to dispel accusations of government involvement and quell demands for a UN investigation into the Dec. 27 attack.
Musharraf said the Scotland Yard investigators would provide forensic and technical expertise but warned they would not be allowed to go on a "wild goose chase and create a political disturbance" in the country. The British officers declined to comment as they arrived at Islamabad airport yesterday.