Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007 ), Pakistani political leader, who
served as first female prime minister of a Muslim country, she
served for Pakistan from 1988 to 1990 and from 1993 to 1996.
Born into a wealthy landholding family with a tradition of
political activism in southeastern Sindh province, Bhutto
enjoyed a privileged childhood
Bhutto was educated at Harvard's Radcliffe College in the United
States and at the University of Oxford in England, where she
excelled in studies as well as other activities including
debating competitions, she was the first Asian woman to be
elected president of the Oxford Union. The daughter of a
intelligent and Charismatic Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
(1971-1977), she returned to Pakistan in june 1977, planning on
a career in the foreign service. But only two weeks later,
however, military officers led by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq ,
capitalizing on public protests of disputed parliamentary
elections overthrew Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a
bloodless coup. Benazir Bhutto spent the next eighteen months in
and out of house arrest as she struggled to rally political
support to force Zia to drop fallacious murder charges against
her father. The military dictator ignored worldwide appeals for
clemency and had Zulfikar Bhutto hanged in April of 1979.
Bhutto's persecution began in earnest after the dismissal of her
father's government in 1977 and his execution in 1979 as she
intensified her denunciations of Zia and sought to organize a
political movement against him. Repeatedly put under house
arrest, she was finally imprisoned under solitary confinement in
a desert cell in Sindh province during the summer of 1981.
Bhutto described the hellish conditions in her wall less cage in
"Daughter of Destiny":
"The summer heat turned my cell into an oven. My skin split and
peeled, coming off my hands in sheets. Boils erupted on my face.
My hair, which had always been thick, began to come out by the
handful. Insects crept into the cell like invading armies.
Grasshoppers, mosquitoes, stinging flies, bees and bugs came up
through the cracks in the floor and through the open bars from
the courtyard. Big black ants, cockroaches, seething clumps of
little red ants and spiders. I tried pulling the sheet over my
head at night to hide from their bites, pushing it back when it
got too hot to breathe."
Released in 1984, she went into exile in Britain until 1986,
when martial law was lifted in Pakistan.She returned with a huge
crowd numbering in the hundreds of thousands turned out on the
streets to greet her, by then the leading symbol of the anti-Zia
movement, when she returned to Lahore in April of 1986. Formally
elected chair in the following month, Bhutto lost no time in
organising mass protests and civil disobedience campaigns to
pressure Zia to relinquish office and call national elections.
Bhutto's stirring oratory, familiar name, and striking
appearance helped give her a strong mass appeal, but she had to
struggle to wrest real power from the PPP's old-guard leadership,
members of which were wary of her gender, youth, and political
wisdom. Supported by tumultuous crowds, Bhutto again called for
fresh elections, resulting in another short prison term that
same year. She also had to contend with internal dissension
among the anti-Zia forces.
In 1988 Zia was killed in an airplane crash, less than three
months after announcing that elections would take place. In the
November elections the PPP gained a huge popularity in the
National Assembly, and in December 1988 Bhutto, 35 only became
prime minister of Pakistan, the first woman to hold this office
in any modern Islamic state. During her first term, Her
objective was to return Pakistan to civilian rule and oust the
men who executed her father, she also started Peoples Program
for economic uplift of the masses. Benazir Bhutto lifted a ban
on student and trade unions. The PPP. Government hosted the
fourth S. A. A. R. C. Summit held in Islamabad, in December
In August 1990, however, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed
her, charging her with incompetence and corruption. ,The
President and the Caretaker Prime Minister filed a series of
references against Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Her husband, Mr.
Asif Ali Zardari was arrested and imprisoned for over two years
on a number of up charges.
Her party was soundly defeated in the elections that followed in
November 1990, and Bhutto became an opposition leader in the
parliament. Subsequent attempts to oust the ruling party
resulted in Bhutto’s deportation to the city of Karachi in 1992,
and she was temporarily banned from entering Islamabad, the
capital of Pakistan.
In July 1993, the President of Pakistan dismissed the Government
of Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif on corruption charges and
called for fresh elections. The Pakistan Peoples Party went to
the people in October, 1993 with a new "Agenda for Change". The
programme envisaged government at the door-step of the people
and priority to the social sectors. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was
again elected Prime Minister with a broad mandate after
achieving strong popular support in all the four provinces of
Bhutto's platform has been leftist, including food for the
hungry, health care, jobs, slum clearance and a monthly minimum
She has been opposed by Islamic fundamentalists who have been
suspicious of the PPP because of its alleged leftist.
Due to Benazir’s Personal world popularity, during her term
Pakistan’s relation with other countries improved ,her moderate
foreign policy had been credited for improving the wrong image
of Pakistan around the world ,however domestically she and her
party have been widely blamed for excessive corruption.
Benazir again faced trouble from the opposition. In the autumn
of 1994, Nawaz Sharif led a "train march" from Karachi to
Peshawar. This was followed by general strike on September 20.
Two weeks later Nawaz Sharif called a "wheel jam" strike on
Bhutto was dismissed from office for the second time in late
1996. In October, large street demonstrations shut down the
capital, and Bhutto aroused criticism when she had arrested
several rival party leaders who had participated in the
Bhutto came under pressure from the press and public, who
charged her government with corruption and mismanagement. On
November 5, 1996, President of Pakistan Farooq Leghari dismissed
Prime Minister Bhutto and dissolved the National Assembly.
Bhutto's husband, Zardari, was the focus of much of the
criticism. She had appointed him to the cabinet post of
investment minister. He was accused of taking bribes and
pocketing money from government contracts. President Leghari
also charged that Zardari was responsible for "extrajudicial
killings" in Karachi, where Bhutto rivals had been killed by
police.She denounced all charges as politically motivated, and
went into self-imposed exile. In 2001 the Supreme Court of
Pakistan suspended a high court’s 1999 conviction of Bhutto,
ordering a retrial, but in a separate trial Bhutto was sentenced
in absentia to three years in prison. She is currently still in
self-exile in London and faces charges if she returns back.
She has been mentioned as "The world's most popular politician"
in the New Guinness Book of Record 1996.
The "Times" and the "Australian Magazine" (May 4, 1996) have
drawn up a list of 100 most powerful women and have included
Benazir Bhutto as one of them.
She has received many honoury degrees and awards from several
She also lectures and takes part in several major world events.
Benazir Bhutto is the author of two books "Foreign Policy in
Perspective" (1978) and her autobiography, "Daughter of the East"
(1989). Several collections of her speeches and works have been
compiled which include "The Way Out", Pakistan Foreign Policy,
Challenges and Responses in the Post-Cold War era in "After the
Cold War" by Keith Philip Lepor and Male Domination of Women
offends her Islamic religion in "Lend Me Your ears: Great
Speeches in History" by William Saffire. "The Way Out" (1980).
She has also contributed to many periodicals and to the books, "Predictions
for the Next Millennium" by Kristof and Nickerson and "Book of
Hopes and Dreams" published by Bookmaster Inc.
AWARDS AND HONORARY DRGREES
Bruno Kreisky Award of Merit in human Rights, 1988.
Honorary Phi Beta Kappa Award (1989), presented by Radcliffe
Highest Moroccan Award "Grand Cordon de Wissam Alaoui"
Highest French Award "Grand-croix de la Legion Honneur" (1989)
The Noel Foundation Award, 1990 (UNIFEM).
The Gakushuin Honorary Award, Tokyo (1996)
Award by the Turkish Independent Industries and Businessmen
Association (MUSAID) on account of providing assistance to the
people of Bosnia.
Golden medal Dragon of Bosnia awarded by President of Bosnia
Key to the city of Los Angeles, presented by the Mayor of Los
Presidential Medal, Paul Nitze School of Advanced International
Medal by University of California at Los Angeles (1995)
Honorary Doctorate of Law, L.L.D Harvard University (1989)
Honorary Doctorate of Law (Honoris Causa), University of Sindh
Honorary Doctorate from Mendanao State University, Philippines
Honorary Doctorate of Law (Honoris Causa), Peshawar University
Honorary Doctorate of Economics, Gakushuin University, Tokyo
Honorary Fellowship by Lady Margaret Hall, University Oxford,
Honorary Fellowship by St. Catherine College, University of
Honorary Professor of the Kyrghyz State National University
Honorary Professor of Yassavi Kazakh Turkish University, Kazakh-Turkish
International Language University, Kazakhstan, 1995.
Honorable Member of OHYUKAI, Alumni Association of Gakushuin,
conferred by OHYUKAI Tokyo (1996).
Awarded the 2000 Millennium Medal of Honor by American
Biographical Institute, Inc. in November 1998. Awarded American
Academy Award of Achievement in London, October 28, 2000
Benazir Bhutto followed her father into politics, and both of
them died because of it - he was executed in 1979, she fell
victim to an apparent suicide bomb attack.
Her two brothers also suffered violent deaths.
Like the Nehru-Gandhi family in India, the Bhuttos of Pakistan
are one of the world's most famous political dynasties.
Benazir's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was prime minister of
Pakistan in the early 1970s.
His government was one of the few in the 30 years following
independence that was not run by the army.
Born in 1953 in the province of Sindh and educated at Harvard
and Oxford, Ms Bhutto gained credibility from her father's high
profile, even though she was a reluctant convert to politics.
She was twice prime minister of Pakistan, from 1988 to 1990, and
from 1993 to 1996.
On both occasions she was dismissed from office by the president
for alleged corruption.
The dismissals typified her volatile political career, which was
characterised by numerous peaks and troughs. At the height of
her popularity - shortly after her first election - she was one
of the most high-profile women leaders in the world.
Young and glamorous, she successfully portrayed herself as a
refreshing contrast to the overwhelmingly male-dominated
But after her second fall from power, her name came to be seen
by some as synonymous with corruption and bad governance.
The determination and stubbornness for which Ms Bhutto was
renowned was first seen after her father was imprisoned by Gen
Zia ul-Haq in 1977, following a military coup. Two years later
he was executed after a much criticised trial on charges of
conspiring to murder a political opponent.
Ms Bhutto was imprisoned just before her father's death and
spent most of her five-year jail term in solitary confinement.
She described the conditions as extremely hard.
During stints out of prison for medical treatment, Ms Bhutto set
up a Pakistan People's Party office in London, and began a
campaign against General Zia.
She returned to Pakistan in 1986, attracting huge crowds to
After Gen Zia died in an explosion on board his aircraft in
1988, she became one of the first democratically elected female
prime ministers in an Islamic country.
During both her stints in power, the role of Ms Bhutto's husband,
Asif Zardari, proved highly controversial.
He played a prominent role in both her administrations, and has
been accused by various Pakistani governments of stealing
millions of dollars from state coffers - charges he denies, as
did Ms Bhutto herself.
Many commentators argued that the downfall of Ms Bhutto's
government was accelerated by the alleged greed of her husband.
None of about 18 corruption and criminal cases against Mr
Zardari has been proved in court after 10 years. But he served
at least eight years in jail.
He was freed on bail in 2004, amid accusations that the charges
against him were weak and going nowhere.
Ms Bhutto also steadfastly denied all the corruption charges
against her, which she said were politically motivated.
She faced corruption charges in at least five cases, all without
a conviction, until amnestied in October 2007.
She was convicted in 1999 for failing to appear in court, but
the Supreme Court later overturned that judgement.
Soon after the conviction, audiotapes of conversations between
the judge and some top aides of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
were discovered that showed that the judge had been under
pressure to convict.
Ms Bhutto left Pakistan in 1999 to live abroad, but questions
about her and her husband's wealth continued to dog her.
She appealed against a conviction in the Swiss courts for money-laundering.
During her years outside Pakistan, Ms Bhutto lived with her
three children in Dubai, where she was joined by her husband
after he was freed in 2004.
She was a regular visitor to Western capitals, delivering
lectures at universities and think-tanks and meeting government
Ms Bhutto returned to Pakistan on 18 October 2007 after
President Musharraf signed into law an ordinance granting her
and others an amnesty from corruption charges.
Observers said the military regime saw her as a natural ally in
its efforts to isolate religious forces and their surrogate
She declined a government offer to let her party head the
national government after the 2002 elections, in which the party
received the largest number of votes.
In the months before her death, she had emerged again as a
strong contender for power.
Some in Pakistan believe her secret talks with the military
regime amounted to betrayal of democratic forces as these talks
shored up President Musharraf's grip on the country.
Others said such talks indicated that the military might at long
last be getting over its decades-old mistrust of Ms Bhutto and
her party, and interpreted it as a good omen for democracy.
Western powers saw in her a popular leader with liberal leanings
who could bring much needed legitimacy to Mr Musharraf's role in
the "war against terror".
Benazir Bhutto was the last remaining bearer of her late
father's political legacy.
Her brother, Murtaza - who was once expected to play the role of
party leader - fled to the then-communist Afghanistan after his
From there, and various Middle Eastern capitals, he mounted a
campaign against Pakistan's military government with a militant
group called al-Zulfikar.
He won elections from exile in 1993 and became a provincial
legislator, returning home soon afterwards, only to be shot dead
under mysterious circumstances in 1996.
Benazir's other brother, Shahnawaz - also politically active but
in less violent ways than Murtaza - was found dead in his French
Riviera apartment in 1985.