Benazir Bhutto was a Pakistani politician who served as Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996.

She was the first woman to head a democratic government in a Muslim majority nation.

Benazir Bhutto Young

Bhutto was born on 21 June 1953 in the Pakistani city of Karachi.

Of mixed Sindhi and Kurdish parentage, Bhutto was born in Karachi to a politically important, wealthy aristocratic family.

Benazir’s first language was English; as a child she spoke Urdu less frequently, and barely spoke the local Sindhi language.

Benazir Bhutto education

Benazir initially attended the Lady Jennings Nursery School in Karachi. From 1969 to 1973, Bhutto studied for an undergraduate degree at Radcliffe College, Harvard University.

In December 1976, student elected Benazir the president of the Oxford Union. She become the first Asian woman to head the prestigious debating society. After completing university, she returned to Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto With her children
Benazir Bhutto With her children

Benazir wanted to join the Foreign Service but her father wanted her to contest the Assembly election. However, because of her age, she was not allowed to do so, and hence Bhutto assisted her father as an advisor.

Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had been elected Prime Minister.

In July 1977, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq led a military coup to overthrown Zulfikar Bhutto. Zulfikar urged his wife and daughter to leave Pakistan, but they refused.

Army executed him on April 1979. Bhutto was repeatedly imprisoned by Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s military government and then exiled to Britain in 1984. She returned in 1986.

Benazir Bhutto Husband

On returning to Pakistan in the 1987, Bhutto’s mother arranged for her marriage to the businessman Asif Ali Zardari.

She consistently presented an image of loyalty to her husband, throughout the many accusations and periods of imprisonment he faced.

The couple had three children: a son, Bilawal, was born in September 1988, while she was campaigning for that year’s election.

She also had two daughters, Bakhtawar and Aseefa. When she gave birth to Bakhtawar in 1990, she became the first elected head of government to give birth while in office.

Benazir Bhutto Biography

She transformed the PPP’s platform from a socialist to a liberal one, before leading it to victory in the 1988 election.

As Prime Minister, conservative and Islamist forces stifled her attempts at reform, including President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the powerful military.

Later President Ghulam Ishaq Khan accused her administration of corruption and nepotism, and dismissed her in 1990.

Intelligence services rigged that year’s election to ensure a victory for the conservative Islamic Democratic Alliance (IJI). Later Bhutto served as the Leader of the Opposition.

After president dismissed the IJI government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on corruption charges, Bhutto led the PPP to victory in the 1993 elections.

Later her second term oversaw economic privatisation and attempts to advance women’s rights.

Several controversies damaged image of her government, including the assassination of her brother Murtaza, a failed 1995 coup d’état, and a further bribery scandal involving her and her husband Asif Ali Zardari.

In response to the latter, the President again dismissed her government. The PPP lost the 1997 election and in 1998 she went into self-exile in Dubai, leading her party mainly through proxies.

A widening corruption inquiry culminated in a 2003 conviction in a Swiss court.

Benazir Bhutto Return & Death

Following United States-brokered negotiations with President Pervez Musharraf, she returned to Pakistan in 2007 to compete in the 2008 elections; her platform emphasised civilian oversight of the military and opposition to growing Islamist violence.

On the morning of 27 December 2007, Bhutto met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

In the afternoon, she gave a speech at a PPP rally held in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat National Bagh. On leaving in a bulletproof vehicle, she opened the car’s escape hatch and stood up to wave to the surrounding crowds.

A man stood within two to three metres of the car, fired three gunshots at her. He also detonated a suicide vest packed with ball bearings.

The following day, her family buried her next to her father in the Bhutto family mausoleum, her family graveyard near Larkana. PPP supporters rioted in various parts of Pakistan.

The Salafi jihadi group al-Qaeda claimed responsibility, although media suspected the involvement of the Pakistani Taliban and rogue elements of the intelligence services. She was buried at her family mausoleum.

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