Bhutto, Benazir 1953-2007

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Bhutto, Benazir 1953-2007


See index for CA sketch: Born June 21, 1953, in Karachi, Pakistan; assassinated December 27, 2007, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Political leader, activist, and author. Bhutto was, in 1988, the first woman elected to lead a modern Islamic nation, thus following in the footsteps of her father, former Pakistani prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto was raised in luxury and educated at Radcliffe College in the United States and Oxford University in England. Her original goal was to become a diplomat, but her father's untimely death by execution propelled her into politics. In fact, there were some who believed that the driving force of her entire political career was rooted in avenging his death. Bhutto had a difficult ascent to power as an activist with the Pakistan People's Party, interrupted as it was by repeated periods of imprisonment, house arrest, and exile. She would serve as the prime minister of her country twice, until 1990, then again from 1993 to 1996. Bhutto campaigned for a democratic, secular government that would remain respectful of Islam while opposing fundamentalist extremism. Her goals were lofty, particularly in regard to free speech and women's rights, but progress was slow in a country where military and religious factions controlled large spheres of influence. In the mid-1990s, Bhutto's leadership role was diminished by rumors of corruption, especially on the part of her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, and she was twice forced to flee the country for Europe, where she remained for several years. Bhutto reportedly matured during her last exile and attempted to develop collaborative partnerships with other Pakistani power brokers, including President Pervez Musharaf, whose own public image had begun to suffer in the face of increasing political unrest and international scrutiny. Though these negotiations ultimately failed, Bhutto felt by 2007 that her own position was strong enough for her to return home, to declare herself "leader for life" of the Pakistani People's Party, and to make one more bid for the leadership of her country. She acknowledged that she, like other family members, was a target of the opposition and predicted that her life would be in danger, yet she would not be deterred. It turned out that she was right. Her return was marked by violence, including the attack on her motorcade by a suicide bomber that killed nearly 150 others but spared her life. Two months later, in another motorcade, another assassin succeeded while Bhutto waved to onlookers from the open roof of her car. Bhutto was a complex woman of many contradictions, but her very public assassination during a bid to lead a democratic Pakistan through turbulent times will undoubtedly color her memory in the eyes of the world. Bhutto's writings include an autobiography which was published in 1989, shortly after her first election as prime minister but long before her life and career reached their zenith, as well as the books Foreign Policy in Perspective (1978), Pakistan: The Gathering Storm (1983), The Way Out: Interviews, Impressions, Statements, and Messages (1988), and Whither Pakistan: Dictatorship or Democracy? (2007).



Bhutto, Benazir, Daughter of Destiny, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1989.


Chicago Tribune, December 28, 2007, sec. 1, p. 7.

Los Angeles Times, December 28, 2007, p. A18.

New York Times, December 28, 2007, p. A14; December 31, 2007, p. A2; January 5, 2008, p. A2.