Benazir Bhutto Queen of Democracy in Pakistan

By Mahjabeen Malik

  Tears appear in my eyes while penning down about this great princess of hearts of many Pakistanis. She was the true soul of democracy. She was the only one, a peerless mogul like her name Benazir. Ah, we have lost her on December 27, 2007. Everybody was shocked by the news of her brutal assassination even the eyes of her rivals were flooded. Benazir Bhutto was born on 21 June 1953 in Karachi the biggest city of Pakistan. She was born with a golden spoon in her mouth; Bhutto family was an aristocratic, rich landlord from Karachi. They were Sunni Muslims but Begum Nusrat Bhutto was born in a Shia Muslim family in Iran. Benazir’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a renowned politician of Pakistan and he served as a Prime Minister of Pakistan and he had founded Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Her mother Begum Nusrat Isphani belonged to a Kurdish family in Iran. Her grandfather Shah Nawaz Bhutto was also a prominent politician who had been serving as Premier of the Junagarh State.

Early Life

Benazir Bhutto was the first child of her parents and she had three siblings: Murtaza Bhutto, Sanam Bhutto and Shahnwaz Bhutto. Benazir’s first language was English and she was scarcely frequent in Urdu and Sindhi languages. She was sent to the Convent of Jesus and Mary in Karachi from where she was sent to the Jesus and Mary Convent, a boarding school in Murree. She had passed her O-level exam with distinction. Benazir’s source of inspiration was her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The relationships between her parents were stressed while Benazir was in her childhood. Begum Nusrat travelled to Iran but she had to come back for the sake of her children. Her father became the cabinet Minister when Benazir was only 5 years old and he became Foreign Minister of Pakistan when she was only 9 years of age. His father established his party PPP after resignation from the government when she was thirteen years of age. And she got an opportunity to come across with foreign diplomats and important personalities who were visiting her father distinctively Zhou Enlaj, Henry Kissinger and Hubert Humphrey.

And when his father was arrested and imprisoned in 1968, he wrote a letter to his loving daughter Benazir Bhutto for encouraging her studies.

University studies: 1969–1977

She was sent to Radcliff College, Harvard University for higher studies at the age of sixteen. John Kenneth Galbraith who was the professor of economics at Harvard and friend of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became her local guardian, later on; she met with his son Peter Galbraith who became her lasting friend. Her brother Murtaza Bhutto reached Harvard just after one year. She continued her studies from 1969 to 1977. She wrote a letter to her cousin on 27, January 1970 when she was just sixteen: “The courses I wish to take next semester were planned out during the fall term. I am going to continue with my Indian and European history courses, perhaps take Shakespeare’s tragedies and romances, and a course on the concept of freedom”.

In another letter dated October 10, 1970: “After reading Montesquieu, I have concluded that Pakistan is now under a Republican aristocracy, except instead of the aristocracy, it should be militancy. However, from conclusions drawn from Montesquieu, such a state of affairs is better than despotism. Try reading Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws and you shall be enlightened.

“I have not the slightest idea of what is going on in Karachi, because my Stallworth friends only write about the intellectual, educational stuff. It is on matters of great importance that we hold discussions. Not mere trifles — like gossip.”

Extra-Curricular Activities                                      

She was a brilliant and active student of her class however she was selected as a campus tour guide and the social secretary of her dormitory. From Eliot house, she participated in campaigns against American involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1971, she involved in a United Nations Security Council. During her undergraduate studies at the University of Oxford, she stayed at Lady Margret Hall.

In 1972, Benazir accompanied her father to the India-Pakistan Summit in Simla as a substitution of her mother who was sick. She was introduced to the Indian Prime Minister Indra Gandhi. During Simla summit, she got the attention of many political figures and this was her first exposure of meeting so many prominent peers. She began her undergraduate degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford in 1973. She was the first Asian woman who was elected as a President of the Oxford Union debating society. According to one of her friends and biographer Brooke Allen wrote that her time at Oxford was “almost certainly the happiest, most carefree time of her life”. She directed a campaign at Oxford University to bestow an honorary degree to her father. Her father’s old tutor, the historian Hugh Trevor Roper supported her greatly in the effort for her father.

In 1974, she travelled to Lahore accompanied by her father to attend the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s summit. Nevertheless, she got an opportunity of meeting a good number of senior leaders of Muslim countries: Muammar Qaddafi from Libya, Anwar Sadat from Egypt, Hafez al Assad from Syria and Shah Faisal from Saudi Arab and Hussein from Jordan.

In 1977 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was re-elected in a general election however the Chief of Army Staff General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq had overpowered him and he declared Martial Law in Pakistan. However Benazir and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto thought that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is assisting Zia-ul-Haq as the U.S diplomat Henry Kissinger had told him that Zulfikar claimed that in a 1976 meeting, U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger had told him that the U.S. would make “a horrible example” of him if he did not terminate Pakistan’s efforts to build a nuclear bomb. After taking control of the country, Zia-ul-Haq imposed Martial law and to extend his rule, he designed the Islamization program under the principles of an Islamic fundamentalist. He sent Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to jail for a half month around but more than one million people staged a protest in Karachi against the arrest of ousted premier thus Zia thought to get rid of him permanently. However, Zulfikar was re-arrested in September in the charge against the murder of Muhammad Ahmed Khan Kasturi.

In these crucial hours, Benazir stayed there in Pakistan and she was used to visiting her father in jail. She worked with her mother for encouraging people to stage demonstrations to support the party’s founder as Zulfikar had appointed his wife co-chair of the PPP whereas Benazir substituted his role after his demise. In such circumstances, her brothers were sent overseas to run a campaign in the support of their father. Unfortunately, all efforts go waste and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was executed in April 1979. Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto were put into jail for around six months and they were placed under house arrest for six months; finally, they were released on April 1980.

In February 1981, she had established the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) on an official basis and she had strengthened the main objectives of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) founded by her father. Her brothers Murtaza and Shahnawaz built the Al Zulfikar group for a paramilitary action to carry out acts of assassination and disrupt to expel the military government. Eventually, Benazir along with her mother was arrested and imprisoned. She was kept in solitary confinement in Karachi and Sukkar prisons; she had to suffer health issues during the period of imprisonment. Peter Galbraith, Claiborne Pell and James Buckley raised the issue of Miss Bhutto’s imprisonment with Zia when he visited Washington D.C in 1982. Ultimately, in January 1984 she was released as the international pressure escalated on the government of Pakistan.

Personal Life

Benazir Bhutto had married Asif Ali Zardari the son of a landlord and a businessman Hakim Ali Zardari hailing from Sindh. It was astonishing for people that an Oxford and Harvard graduate Benazir accepted an arranged marriage proposal whereas she was introduced to Asif Ali Zardari just 5 days before receiving the proposal in London. Asif Ali’s stepmother Begum Zarin had proposed Begum Nustar Bhutto for her daughter Benazir Bhutto on July 29, 1987; while Asif Ali Zardari was studying at the School of Economics in London. Asif had already won Begum Nusrat Bhutto’s heart as he had been occasionally visiting Begum Nusrat during the exile of Benazir. On Feb 17, 1987, a huge marriage ceremony was arranged in Karachi and two immense and influential families were tied into a relationship.

Benazir told to American newspaper the Los Angeles Times before her wedding, “I don’t expect people in the West to understand. Every mother wants her daughter married and I felt obligations to my family and my religion.”

Many of Benazir’s foreigner friends came to attend the wedding ceremony. Benazir was dressed in a white silk tunic with gold embroidery and Asif was clothed in a traditional Baloch turban and cream-colour traditional trousers. The Nikah ceremony took place amid a colossal crowd; it could easily be mistaken for a huge public meeting. Asif Ali’s wedding gift for Benazir was a heart-shaped ring, studded with diamonds and sapphires. God had bestowed her with a son Bilawal and two daughters Bakhtawar and Asifa.

First Term of Benazir Bhutto (1988-1990) as a Prime Minister of Pakistan

In 1988 Benazir Bhutto came into power and she became the first Muslim female Prime Minister of Pakistan. She had made several foreign tours like the first female premier of the Islamic World.

During her tenure also made endeavoured to foster good associations with the leaders of Islamic countries who had also had good relationships with her father, including Gaddafi from Lybia, Sheikh Zayed from Abu Dhabi, and the royal family of Saudi Arabia. In 1989, she attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, where Pakistan was re-admitted to the Commonwealth of Nations. In January 1989, she performed a second pilgrimage to Mecca, and in June visited the U.S. to address both houses of Congress and giving the commencement speech at Harvard. In August 1990, President Ishaq Khan had dismissed Miss Bhutto’s government under the Eighth Amendment of the constitution blaming that her government is corrupt and incompetent to maintain law and order situation in the country.

From 1990 to 1993 she had been serving as an opposition leader during the premiership of Nawaz Sharif.

Second Term of Benazir Bhutto (October 1993- November 1996) as a Prime Minister of Pakistan

Benazir Bhutto took oath as a Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1993 for the second time. Unfortunately, her government could not accomplish the tenure of five years; and on July 1996, Ameer Jamat-e-Islami Qazi Hussain Ahmad had decided to stage a sit-in against the government; and he started a protest against the government of Benazir Bhutto alleging corruption on her government in October 1996. Ultimately, on 4 November 1996, President Farooq Leghari dismissed her government using the power of the Eighth Amendment.

Benazir’s second term as an opposition leader began from 1996 which lasted till 1999 during the government of Nawaz Sharif. In 1999, after launching a military coup, Pervez Musharraf had ousted Mian Nawaz Sharif and became the President of Pakistan.

The Ehtesab Bench of the Lahore High Court had dismissed her from an official post while convicted her five years of a prison sentence and fine of $8.6 million in April 1999. At the time of the court’s announcement she was in London, however, she moved to Dubai instead of coming back to Pakistan. The President of the United Arab Emirates had been a longstanding family friend so she settled in a villa that was given to her by the government of Arab Emirates in Emirates Hills along with her three children. She had been living there for around eight years out of which five years her husband remained imprisoned in Pakistan. Living in Dubai she brought up her children and looked after her mother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Despite living in self-imposed exile, she remained head of her party PPP for the following nine years.

When his party contested in the election of 2002, she was living in Dubai. Despite this PPP won a huge number of votes but achieved only 63 seats in the National assembly. In 2004, when Musharff released her husband Asif Ali Zardari, he moved to New York.

Come back to Pakistan 2007

A huge crowd of party workers and supporters welcomed Benazir in Karachi when she came back to Pakistan in October 2007. She had a great chance of becoming Prime Minister of Pakistan in the national election in 2008. Musharaff felt obnoxious on her arrival in Pakistan particularly her growing popularity among the people of the country. However, the relationship between BB and Musharraf were distraught.

Brutal Assassination of the Great Lady

On 27 December 2007, she addressed a massive crowd of a rally in Liaqat Bagh situated in Rawalpindi. The rally remained successful and BB was as excited as her close friend Naheed told, “She said to me ‘Naheed, they are standing here for me. If I don’t get up, they will think our leader is a coward”.

Bibi’s heart was filled with happiness and love for her supporters so despite lurking security risks, she came out of the sunroof of the bulletproof car to wave her hand to devotees surrounding her car.

Alas! A deadly bullet of enemy deprived Pakistan of its great political figure. Three innocent children lost their loving mother. A beautiful red rose that blossom in Liaqat Bagh was crushed down till setting sun in the west around 5:30 pm.


Benazir Bhutto had composed two books:

  1. Daughter of the East
  2. Reconciliation,Islam and Democracy


After her death, several things and buildings were named as: