Pakistan’s icon of democracy Benazir Bhutto
“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.”
— Benazir Bhutto
Today marks the 61st birth anniversary of one of the most iconic figures of Pakistan, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
Benazir was born on 21st June 1953 in Karachi to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Nusrat Bhutto. She belonged to an influential political family which became a dynasty in Pakistan.
She left for Harvard University at the age of 16 to pursue her higher studies. She received her undergraduate degree at Harvard and went to Oxford University in England.
At the time when Benazir was pursuing her education, Pakistan politics was in state of flux. Her father was criticized by the religious parties and was imprisoned and hanged by General Zia-ul-Haq on a murder charge.
She raised her voice against the military dictator due to which she was put on house arrests and was exiled later. She got settled in London and continued her struggle against the military regime of General Zia.
When Shahnawaz Bhutto, Benazir’s youngest sibling, was mysteriously killed in 1985 in an apartment in France, she returned to Pakistan only to be arrested for provoking anti-government sentiments amongst the masses.
In 1986, Benazir announced that she will be returning to Pakistan. This sent shockwaves in the political scenario of the country as anti-Zia movement gained momentum. Hundreds of thousands of people arrived at Lahore to see her return.
On 17th August 1988, General Zia was killed in a plane crash and elections were called. Pakistan Peoples Party won the elections and Benazir became Prime Minister at the age of 35 years. She holds the honor to be the first woman Head of State of any Muslim country
She was opposed by her family as well. Her brother Mir Murtaza Bhutto emerged as a fierce opponent criticizing Benazir led government. Murtaza was killed in a police encounter in Karachi during Benazir’s government in 1996. However, Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed Bhutto from office on allegations of corruption and mismanagement in August 1990. She was re-elected as Prime Minister in 1993. Her aim was to make Pakistan a progressive country with food, cloth and shelter as a basic necessity for the citizens.
She was again dismissed from office in 1996 and the Parliament was dissolved. Asif Ali Zardari was imprisoned for many years and Benazir again went into exile. During exile, Benazir continued her fight for democracy.
Despite threats from radical Islamists and insurgent groups, Benazir decided to return to Pakistan on 18th October, 2007. She was greeted by a crowd of millions.
However, a thing turned into disaster as her procession, just hours after her return, was attacked by twin suicide blasts in Karachi, killing more than hundred people.
Weeks before the General Elections in which PPP was poised to win , Benazir’s electoral campaign was hit by a suicide attack at Liaquat Bagh of Rawalpindi in which she was killed alongwith large number of party activists.
Benazir Bhutto is considered one of the most dynamic figures in world politics and her struggle for democracy is being honored in the world.