A Primer on Benazir Bhutto

Who was Benazir Bhutto?

Bhutto was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state, twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. She was sworn in for the first time in 1988 but removed from office 20 months later under orders of then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan on grounds of alleged corruption. In 1993 Bhutto was re-elected but was again removed in 1996 on similar charges, this time by President Farooq Leghari.

Bhutto went into self-imposed exile in Dubai in 1998, where she remained until she returned to Pakistan on October 18, 2007, after reaching an understanding with General Musharraf by which she was granted amnesty and all corruption charges were withdrawn.

She was the eldest child of former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a Pakistani of Sindhi descent, and Begum Nusrat Bhutto, a Pakistani of Iranian-Kurdish descent. Her paternal grandfather was Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto who came to Larkana Sindh before partition from his native town of Bhatto Kalan which was situated in the Indian state of Haryana.

Benazir Bhutto was born in Karachi, Dominion of Pakistan on June 21, 1953. She attended the Lady Jennings Nursery School and then the Convent of Jesus and Mary in Karachi.[4] After two years of schooling at the Rawalpindi Presentation Convent, she was sent to the Jesus and Mary Convent at Murree. She passed her O-level examination at the age of 15.[5] She then went on to complete her A-Levels at the Karachi Grammar School.

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, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude in comparative government.[6] She was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa.[5]

The next phase of her education took place in the United Kingdom. Between 1973 and 1977 Bhutto studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She completed a course in International Law and Diplomacy while at Oxford.[7] In December 1976 she was elected president of the Oxford Union, becoming the first Asian woman to head the prestigious debating society.[5]

On 18 December 1987 she married Asif Ali Zardari in Karachi. The couple had three children: Bilawal, Bakhtwar, and Aseefa.

Benazir Bhutto’s father, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was dismissed as Prime Minister in 1975, on charges similar to those Benazir Bhutto would later face. Later, in a 1977 trial on charges of conspiracy to murder the father of dissident politician Ahmed Raza Kasuri, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was sentenced to death.

Despite the accusation being “widely doubted by the public”,[8] and despite many clemency appeals from foreign leaders, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged on 4 April 1979. Appeals for clemency were dismissed by acting President General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Benazir Bhutto and her mother were held in a “police camp” until the end of May, after the execution.[9]

In 1980, Benazir Bhutto’s brother Shahnawaz was killed under suspicious circumstances, in France. The killing of another of her brothers, Mir Murtaza, in 1996, contributed to destabilizing her second term as Prime Minister.

Her Death:

On December 27, 2007, Benazir Bhutto was killed whilst entering a vehicle to leave a political rally for the Pakistan People’s Party in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. An assassin fired shots in her direction before detonating an explosive vest hidden about his person, killing about 20 people and wounding many more.

The attack occurred just after Ms. Bhutto left the rally, where she had given a campaign address to party supporters in the run-up to the January 2008 parliamentary elections. She died at 6:16 pm local time at Rawapindi General Hospital. It is currently unclear as to whether her death was caused by the blast itself or the shots fired by the assassin.

Above info courtesy: Wikipedia

Here are some other facts on Benazir Bhutto (courtesy: Indian Express):

- Benazir Bhutto was born on June 21, 1953, into a wealthy landowning family. Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founded the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and was president and later prime minister of Pakistan from 1971 to 1977.

- After gaining degrees in politics at Harvard and Oxford universities, she returned to Pakistan in 1977, just before the military seized power from her father. She inherited the leadership of the PPP after her father’s execution in 1979 under military ruler General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq.

- First voted in as prime minister in 1988, Bhutto was sacked by the then-president on corruption charges in 1990. She took power again in 1993 after her successor, Nawaz Sharif, was forced to resign after a row with the president. Bhutto was no more successful in her second spell as prime minister, and Sharif was back in power by 1996.

- In 1999, both Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, were sentenced to five years in jail and fined $8.6 million on charges of taking kickbacks from a Swiss company hired to fight customs fraud. A higher court later overturned the conviction as biased. Bhutto, who had made her husband investment minister during her period in office from 1993 to 1996, was abroad at the time of her conviction and chose not to return to Pakistan.

- Geneva lawyers for Bhutto said last month they had lodged an appeal in a Swiss inquiry into alleged money laundering by Bhutto and her husband. The motion filed with Geneva’s criminal appeals court could lead to hearings in the long-running case, but not before early 2008.

- In 2006 she joined an Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy with her arch-rival Sharif, but the two disagreed over strategy for dealing with military president Pervez Musharraf. Bhutto decided it was better to negotiate with Musharraf, while Sharif refused to have any dealings with the general.

- Bhutto returned to Pakistan in October 2007 from eight years of self-imposed exile after Musharraf, with whom she had been negotiating over Pakistan’s transition to civilian-led democracy, granted her protection from prosecution in old corruption cases.

- On her return, as she was driving through Karachi, a suicide bomber struck killing 139 supporters and members of her security team.

- On Dec. 26, Bhutto vowed to fight for workers’ rights as she took her campaign for January general elections to an industrial belt near the capital.


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