June 21, 1953 - December 27, 2007
"The Daughter of Pakistan" and the first female prime minister of any Islamic countryby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
When looking back at the history of government and political figures in Islamic nations, one will not often find that Islamic governments and political figures have been profitable, stable, or at all good. In fact, most have, unfortunately, been unprofitable, unstable, and bad. In most instances, this is caused by the ongoing struggle of radical Islamic terrorists who seek to "overthrow the ‘secular rulers’ of Islamic countries" such as Pakistan.1 One very popular Pakistani political figure whose government and public career went about tumultuously is Benazir Bhutto.
Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto was raised in a prominent political
family headed by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The founder of Pakistan
Peoples Party, Benazir Bhutto’s father claimed to be a moderate
Muslim and socialist; however, he proved otherwise when he nationalized
all Christian educational institutions such as schools and colleges, and
even Christian hospitals.2 In addition, he proved himself an
anti-Christian and fundamental Muslim once again when he “ordered
firing on peaceful Christian protest procession[s] [protesting] against
nationalization in Rawalpindi,” a city near Pakistan’s capital.3
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was appointed prime minister in 1973, and soon his
daughter would follow in his footsteps.
At the age of sixteen, Benazir Bhutto relocated to the United States where she studied at Harvard University and graduated in 1973 with a degree in political science. She would later refer to her years at Harvard as “the very basis of my belief in democracy.”4 Later, she studied at Oxford in the U.K.5 Her scholastic achievements also included being elected to the Standing Committee of the prestigious Oxford Union Debating Society and being elected as President of the Oxford Union. However, in 1977, Bhutto returned to her homeland to find political unrest raging.
Soon after her homecoming, the military, under the leadership of General Zia Ul Haq, seized power and threw her father, then the prime minister, into prison. He was later hanged by the military government in 1979. Bhutto was arrested several times as well, and in 1984 was finally allowed to leave the country. In exile, she moved to London and started an "underground organization to resist the military dictatorship."6 Then, in 1986 she returned to Pakistan where her arrival was greeted with much turmoil. The next two years were spent fighting against General Zia Ul Haq, and later his successor after Ul Haq’s death in an air accident. Her work paid off when, in 1988, free elections were held and Bhutto was nominated for prime minister while Ghulam Ishaq Khan was nominated for the role of president.7 At the age of 35 she was now one of the youngest national leaders in the world and the first female prime minister of an Islamic country in history.
During her time in office, Bhutto reportedly received poor reviews and spent most her energy feuding with those who opposed her. For example, one of her first acts after becoming prime minister was starting a campaign to “bribe and threaten legislators in Punjab,” with a goal of overthrowing her “nemesis, Mian Nawaz Sharif.”8 She did little of what she had promised in her campaigns. Moreover, her administration was stained with corruption scandals that led to her dismissal by President Ghulam Ishaz Khan in 1990, only two years after her election. Also, her husband, Asif Alii Zardari, whom she married in 1987, aided in giving her administration a bad name with alleged corruption scandals.
In 1993 Bhutto would once again become prime minister to Pakistan. However, this term was also laden with difficulty. Pakistan was burdened with colossal debt that caused Bhutto to raise taxes, bringing about discontent throughout the country. “Rumors soon spread that her government would be dismissed,”9 and it was, in 1996. Once again Bhutto was not able to deliver her promises. Not only promises to the whole Pakistani population, but also promises to Pakistani Christians. Although she was prime minister two times, she failed to “fulfill her promises to Christians,” which included repealing “blasphemy laws” and “introducing Dual Voting rights.”10 While campaigning for office, she declared that “being a Christian should not be a bar to participating in her populist PPP party’s election platform.”11 She spoke about such changes during campaigns, but failed to remember them when actually in office.
After being dismissed from office, her husband was imprisoned and Bhutto once again moved to London with her children, where she stayed for nine years and continued to advocate democracy in Pakistan.12 In 1999, while Bhutto was in London, the current prime minister of the time, Nawaz Sharif, was overthrown by General Pervez Musharraf and his military. Although a dictator, Musharraf became an ally to the U.S. as a “guarantor of the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan against the tide of Islamic radicalism.”13 Thus, the door was open for Benazir Bhutto to once again return to Pakistan.
With Musharraf’s image quickly depleting, and Bhutto’s exile and corruption charges still penned against her, Bhutto made a deal with Musharraf. The plan was for Bhutto to join with Musharraf as prime minister while restoring “democratic credibility to a moderate Pakistani government;” something the United State was desperately hoping for, seeing as though Musharraf was supposed to be an ally for the U.S. against terrorism.14 In October 2007 Bhutto was greeted upon arrival in Pakistan by a slew of supporters ready to once again rally behind her and make her prime minister for the third time. However, on December 27, 2007, Bhutto was tragically assassinated by an unknown shooter. After her death, the country erupted with chaos, mayhem, and confusion. Many believe her death was an act of Islamic fundamentalists who, hating the idea of a democratic Islamic nation, were hoping to destabilize the coming January elections for which Bhutto was campaigning, thus further destabilizing Musharraf by taking away the person who was supposed to re-shine his image. Ultimately, if they did do it, Islamic fundamentalists were sowing “the seeds of chaos from which an extremist takeover becomes possible.”15 All this would lead to a weakening of the U.S.’s efforts in destroying Islamic terrorism.
Others believe that it was Musharraf himself who is behind Bhutto’s assassination. This is because he belongs to the group of Muslims who don’t want democracy in the Middle East, yet ally with the U.S. basically by saying that they are the better alternative and lesser evil to radical “Bin Laden” type Muslims.16 In this case, Musharraf could have done this simply to wipe out Bhutto’s democratic policies.
Ultimately, Benazir Bhutto’s political career was a tumultuous one, just like many others. It seemed as though it was “almost [a] tawdry cycle of exile, house arrest, ascent into power and dismissal, much sound and fury and signifying little.”17 There were many causes for this; the first being simply the terrorism of Islamic fundamentalists, whose goal is to bring down “democratic” Islamic nations. The second is that it seemed as though she was “better at rallying people to the idea of her power than at keeping them inspired by her use of it.”18 And although she may have said she was an advocate for Pakistani Christian’s freedom, she did nothing to help the Christian cause while she was prime minister. In her life Benazir Bhutto was a strong advocate for democracy as far as it could be applied to Islamic nations. In her death she was a victim of Islamic terrorists who give their lives in attempts at destroying any form of democracy.
1 Reagan, David R. “The Truth About Islam.” [http://lamblion.com/New08.php]
MMVI Lamb & Lion Minitries (April 5, 2008)
2, 3, 10 Bhatti, Nazir S. “What is Behind Curtain of
2003 Pakistan Christian Post. (April 5, 2008)
4 Crimson Staff Writer. “Bhutto ’73 Assassinated”
December 27, 2007.
[http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=521437] (April 5, 2008)
5, 7 “Benazir Bhutto.” June 1, 2003. Story of
Pakistan. 2000-2007 Enterprise Team
[http://www.storyofpakistan.com/person.asp?perid=P024&Pg=1] (April 5, 2008)
6, 12 “Pioneer for Democracy” January 4, 2008.
1996 - 2008 American Academy of
Achievement. [http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/bhu0bio-1] (April 5, 2008)
8, 9, 17, 18Chua-Eoan, Howard. “Benazir Bhutto.”
December 27, 2007. 2007 Time Inc.
[http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1698498,00.html?iid=sphere- inline-sidebar] (April 5, 2008)
11, 13 Belz, Mindy. “Assassination of a Dream.”
January 12, 2008. 2008 WORLD Magazine January 12, 2008, Vol. 23, No. 1
[http://www.worldmag.com/articles/13659] (April 5, 2008)
15, 16 D’Souza, Dinesh. “Who’s Afraid of Benazir Bhutto?” December 27, 2007. AOL@News © 2008 AOL LLC. All Rights Reserved.
[http://news.aol.com/newsbloggers/2007/12/27/whos-afraid-of-benazir-bhutto/] (April 5, 2008)