Who was Benazir Bhutto?

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Benazir Bhutto


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281207 -
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 1988.

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.

Addressing at UN

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 Pakistan .

Bhutto's platform has been leftist, including food for the hungry, health care, jobs, slum clearance and a monthly minimum wage.

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 October 11.

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 demonstrations.

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 countries.

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.


Bruno Kreisky Award of Merit in human Rights, 1988.

Honorary Phi Beta Kappa Award (1989), presented by Radcliffe College.

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 (1996)

Key to the city of Los Angeles, presented by the Mayor of Los Angeles (1995)

Presidential Medal, Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Science (1995)

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 (1994)

Honorary Doctorate from Mendanao State University, Philippines (1995)

Honorary Doctorate of Law (Honoris Causa), Peshawar University (1995)

Honorary Doctorate of Economics, Gakushuin University, Tokyo (1996)

Honorary Fellowship by Lady Margaret Hall, University Oxford, (1989)

Honorary Fellowship by St. Catherine College, University of Oxford, (1989)

Honorary Professor of the Kyrghyz State National University (1995) Kyrghyzstan.

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 political establishment.

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 political rallies.

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.

Corruption charges

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 officials.

Army mistrust

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 militants.

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".

Unhappy family

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 father's fall.

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.


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