Women Empowerment

Benazir Bhutto
(1953–2007)

Benazir Bhutto was the first democratically elected female leader of a Muslim country. In a male-dominated Islamic society she got elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan twice. After completing her early education in Pakistan, she pursued her higher education in the United States. From 1969 to 1973, she attended Radcliffe College, and then Harvard University, from where she graduated. Then she moved to United Kingdom to study at Oxford from 1973 to 1977. There, she completed a course in International Law and Diplomacy. Her family and close Western friends knew her as “Pinky.” As a Muslim woman leader, Bhutto was almost an iconic figure in the West.

After her father’s death, her political struggle largely comprises almost tawdry cycle of exile, house arrest, ascent into power and dismissal, much sound and fury and signifying little. She took over as chairperson of the PPP in 1982. She returned to campaign for office in 1986 amid military rule in Pakistan.

She became Prime Minister on December 1, 1988 and first government lasted until August 1990. Her government passed no legislation except a budget during its first 14 months in power. She returned to power in 1993 and she released political prisoners and took other steps to restore fundamental human rights. Heavy restrictions on the press were lifted along with limitations on assembly by unions and student groups.

FILE – In this Dec. 27, 2007 file photo, Pakistan former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto waves to her supporters at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. A U.N. commission on Thursday, April 15, 2010 blamed inadequate security by Pakistan’s federal, state and district governments for the 2007 assassination of Bhutto. (AP Photo/B.K.Bangash, File)

Being Prime Minister of Pakistan she emphasized economic growth, argued for decreased government subsidies and greater privatization in the economy. She demonstrated considerable skill in winning international diplomatic and economic support for Pakistan and effectively used the Kashmir dispute with India to rally domestic public sentiment without unnecessarily inflaming it. She went into exile in Dubai in 1998, continued to direct her party from abroad and was re-affirmed as PPP leader in 2002.

The final chapter of her politics kicked off at a time when world looked warily at the future of Pakistan due to serious threats posed by radicalization. She struck a deal with then President General Pervez Musharraf. The last quarter of 2007 was filled with political maneuverings. On October 18, 2007 she returned to Pakistan with plans to participate in the 2008 general election.

Her homecoming rally was hit by a suicide attack, killing 136 people. Bhutto termed the November 3rd act by Pervez Musharraf Pakistan’s “blackest day” and threatened to bring her supporters on to the streets in mass demonstrations. She was placed under house arrest Nov. 9. But she was killed during an attack at a PPP rally on December 27, 2007. The attack also killed 28 others and wounded at least another 100.