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Benazir Bhutto
بينظير بُھٹو
Oliver Mark - Benazir Bhutto, Dubai 2006 (cropped).jpg
Bhutto in 2006
11th and 13th Prime Minister of Pakistan
In office
18 October 1993 – 5 November 1996
President Wasim Sajjad (acting)
Farooq Leghari
Preceded by Moeenuddin Ahmad Qureshi (caretaker)
Succeeded by Malik Meraj Khalid (Caretaker)
In office
2 December 1988 – 6 August 1990
President Ghulam Ishaq Khan
Preceded by Muhammad Khan Junejo
Succeeded by Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi (caretaker)
Personal details
Born (1953-06-21)21 June 1953
Karachi, Federal Capital Territory, Pakistan
Died 27 December 2007(2007-12-27) (aged 54)
Rawalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan
Cause of death Assassination
Resting place Bhutto family mausoleum
Nationality Pakistani
Political party Pakistan People's Party
(m. 1987)
  • Bhutto family
  • Zardari family
Parent(s) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Nusrat Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto (Urdu: بینظیر بُھٹو, IPA: Script error: No such module "IPA".; Sindhi: بينظير ڀُٽو; 21 June 1953 – 27 December 2007) was a Pakistani politician who served as the 11th and 13th prime minister of Pakistan from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996. She was the first woman elected to head a democratic government in a Muslim-majority country. Ideologically a liberal and a secularist, she chaired or co-chaired the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) from the early 1980s until her assassination in 2007.


Of mixed Sindhi and Kurdish parentage, Bhutto was born in Karachi to a politically important, wealthy aristocratic family. When Bhutto was five, her father Zulfikar Bhutto became the cabinet minister for energy, and when she was nine he became the country's foreign minister. From an early age, she was exposed to foreign diplomats and figures who were visiting her father, among them Zhou Enlai, Henry Kissinger, and Hubert Humphrey.

She studied at Harvard University and the University of Oxford, where she was President of the Oxford Union. Her father, the PPP leader, was elected Prime Minister on a socialist platform in 1973.

She returned to Pakistan in 1977, shortly before her father was ousted in a military coup and executed. Bhutto and her mother Nusrat took control of the PPP and led the country's Movement for the Restoration of Democracy; Bhutto was repeatedly imprisoned by Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq's military government and then self-exiled to Britain in 1984.

She returned in 1986 and—influenced by Thatcherite economics—transformed the PPP's platform from a socialist to a liberal one, before leading it to victory in the 1988 election. As Prime Minister, her attempts at reform were stifled by conservative and Islamist forces, including President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the powerful military. Her administration was accused of corruption and nepotism and dismissed by Khan in 1990. Intelligence services rigged that year's election to ensure a victory for the conservative Islamic Democratic Alliance (IJI), at which point Bhutto became Leader of the Opposition.

After the IJI government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was also dismissed on corruption charges, Bhutto led the PPP to victory in the 1993 elections. In her second term, she oversaw economic privatisation and attempts to advance women's rights. Her government was damaged by several controversies, 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, President Farooq Leghari dismissed her government.

The PPP lost the 1997 election and in 1998 she went into self-exile, living between Dubai and London for the next decade. A widening corruption inquiry culminated in a 2003 conviction in a Swiss court. Following the 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. After a political rally in Rawalpindi, she was assassinated. The Salafi jihadi group al-Qaeda claimed responsibility, although the involvement of the Pakistani Taliban and rogue elements of the intelligence services was widely suspected.

She was buried at her family mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Baksh.


Benazir bhutto 1988 cropped
Bhutto photographed in 1988. Allen stated that had Bhutto died that year, "she would be remembered as a shining example of what youth, fortitude, and idealism can accomplish even in the most brutal and repressive political culture."

Commentators and biographers have said that Bhutto shared her father's charisma but also his arrogance, and that like him she was impatient with criticism. The connection between Bhutto and her father was endorsed by Allen, who stated that they "had much in common: strength, charisma, political instinct, and the courage, part, and parcel of their arrogance, that was so characteristic of both". Bhutto imitated many of her father's mannerisms and his style of speech; the journalist Carla Hall referred to her having a "vaguely British accent". She was an accomplished orator, having honed her skill at public speaking while president of the Oxford Debating Society.

Those who met her regarded Bhutto as a "charming and intelligent" woman.


Benazir Bhutto US visit 19890605
Bhutto embarking from an airplane at Andrews Air Force Base during her 1989 state visit to the United States. She carried her son; her husband followed behind.

Bhutto was the oldest of four children. Of these, her younger sister Sanam, or "Sunny", remained close to her throughout her life.

On returning to Pakistan in 1987, Bhutto's mother arranged for her marriage to the businessman Asif Ali Zardari. Many of her friends were surprised that Bhutto acquiesced to Islamic tradition given her liberal attitudes. She consistently presented an image of respect and loyalty for her husband, throughout the many accusations and periods of imprisonment he faced.

In the final years of Bhutto's life, she and her husband lived apart. According to Allen, she would have been aware that a divorce or a public separation would have resulted in the end of her political career in Pakistan due to social stigma around the subject. In a 2007 interview, Bhutto said that she and her husband were living apart because of his medical requirements, adding that she visited him every month in New York.

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 (born on 25 January 1990) and Aseefa (born on 3 February 1993). When she gave birth to Bakhtawar, she became the first elected head of government to give birth while in office. Bhutto was devoted to her father and husband. In later life, she increasingly came to see success through the prism of her family.

Intersting facts about Benazir Bhutto

  • Benazir's first language was English; as a child she spoke Urdu less frequently although she was fluent, and barely spoke the local Sindhi language.
  • Her mother taught her some Persian as a child.
  • Throughout her youth, Bhutto idolised her father, and he, in turn, encouraged her educational development.
  • Close friends called her "BB", a name with which she signed some of her personal letters.
  • Her parents gave her the childhood nickname of "Pinkie", possibly alluding to her rosy complexion.
  • Bhutto read a number of self-help books, telling a friend that "for all the lows in my life, those self-help books helped me survive, I can tell you".
  • Her father had encouraged her to read the writings of various prominent political figures, among them Napoleon Bonaparte, Otto von Bismarck, Vladimir Lenin, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and Mao Zedong.
  • She had a love of French and Italian cuisine.
  • Bhutto was a great fan of the music of American singer Neil Diamond.
  • She enjoyed reading Mills & Boon romance novels and the celebrity-focused Hello! magazine.
  • In 1996, the Guinness Book of Records named her the most popular international politician of the year.
  • She received the French Legion of Honour and Oxford University's Doctor Honours Causa awards.
  • The Pakistani women's rights activist Malala Yousafzai—who received the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize—cited Bhutto as a personal inspiration.
  • Several universities and public buildings in Pakistan have been named after her.
  • The Pakistani government honored Bhutto on her birthday by renaming Islamabad's airport Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Muree Road of Rawalpindi as Benazir Bhutto Road and Rawalpindi General Hospital as Benazir Bhutto Hospital.
  • Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, a member of Bhutto's PPP, asked President Musharraf to pardon convicts on death row on her birthday in honour of Bhutto.
  • Several months after Bhutto's death, a series of Pakistani postage stamps were announced to mark her 55th birthday.
  • She is called Shaheed-e-Jamhuriat (Martyr of Democracy) by her fans.

Public image and legacy

Benazir Bhutto memorial coin obverse
Benazir Bhutto memorial coin, 2008 commemorative coin of Pakistan

Bhutto was a controversial figure who remains divisive. She was often criticised as being politically inexperienced, was accused of being corrupt, and faced much opposition from Pakistan's Islamist lobby for her modernising agenda.

In the early years of her career, she was nevertheless domestically popular and also attracted support from Western nations, for whom she was a champion of democracy. Posthumously, she came to be regarded as an icon for women's rights due to her political success in a male-dominated society.

Benazir Bhutto quotes

  • “You can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea.”
  • “Leadership is about the strength of one’s convictions, the ability to endure the punches, and the energy to promote an idea.”
  • “...the fight for the truth is important. There will come a day when you will see the result of your struggles.”

See also

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