Inspiring Thurdsay: Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto, (born June 21, 1953, Karachi, Pakistan—died December 27, 2007, Rawalpindi, Pakistan), was a Pakistani politician who became the first woman leader of a Muslim nation in modern history.

Bhutto was the daughter of the politician Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, leader of Pakistan from 1971 until 1977. She was educated at Harvard University and subsequently studied philosophy, political science, and economics at the University of Oxford. After her father’s execution in 1979 during the rule of a military dictator, Bhutto became the titular head of her father’s party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and endured frequent house arrest from 1979 to 1984.  She moved to England in 1984, becoming the joint leader in exile of the PPP, then returned to Pakistan on April 1986, to launch a nationwide campaign for open elections. Soon Bhutto became the foremost figure in the political opposition.

In the subsequent elections, Bhutto’s PPP won the single largest bloc of seats in the National Assembly. Bhutto was elected prime minister barely three months after giving birth to her first child. She became the first ever female prime minister of a Muslim nation on December 1, 1988. During her government, Bhutto was unable to do much to combat Pakistan’s widespread poverty, governmental corruption, and increasing crime. In August 1990, the president of Pakistan dismissed her government on charges of corruption and other malfeasance and called for new elections. Bhutto’s PPP suffered a defeat in the national elections of October 1990; thereafter she led the parliamentary opposition against her successor.

In elections held in October 1993 the PPP won a plurality of votes, and Bhutto again became head of a coalition government. Under renewed allegations of corruption, economic mismanagement, and a decline of law and order, her government was dismissed again in November 1996. After continuous charges of corruption against her and her husband, Bhutto remained in exile in London and Dubai from the late 1990s, facing standing arrest warrants in Pakistan. Because of government’s 2002 decree banning prime ministers from serving a third term, Bhutto was not permitted to stand for elections that same year. In addition, legislation in 2000 that prohibited a court-convicted individual from holding party office hindered her party, as Bhutto’s unanimously elected leadership would have excluded the PPP from participating in elections.

In 2006/2007 finally the president of Pakistan granted Bhutto a long-sought amnesty for the corruption charges brought against her. In October 2007 Bhutto returned to Karachi from Dubai after eight years of self-imposed exile. Tragically, Bhutto’s homecoming rally was hit by a suicide attack, which killed 136 people. She only survived after ducking down at the moment of impact behind her armoured vehicle. Bhutto was placed under house arrest soon after, on November 9.

Bhutto was killed when an assassin fired shots and then blew himself up after an election campaign rally in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. The attack also killed 28 others and wounded at least another 100. The attacker struck just minutes after Bhutto addressed a rally of thousands of supporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. The shooting and bombing attack on the charismatic former prime minister plunged Pakistan into turmoil.

Bhutto’s continuous demands to democracy, freedom and peace for Pakistan made her a very inspirational figure for her country and the entire world between 1980s and 2000s. All the difficulties made her stronger and she will always be remembered as the women of conviction, bravery and unbreakable strength.

Written by WAVE intern Diva Adelaide Edosini