Benazir Bhutto


Benazir Bhutto, an ardent advocate for democracy and for the human rights of the most vulnerable sections of society, particularly women, children and religious minorities, was twice elected prime minister of Pakistan. She holds the honour of becoming the First Woman Prime Minister of an Islamic state and at the age of 35 years, the youngest Chief Executive in the world. She became the first Asian Woman President of Oxford Union while she was pursuing her studies at the University of Oxford, UK. Benazir Bhutto was born in Karachi in 1953, the daughter of one of Pakistan’s most popular Prime Ministers, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Her father was overthrown by a military coup in 1974 and subsequently hanged after a brief judicial trial. Benazir and her mother were imprisoned. Few years after the exile, Ms. Bhutto became extremely active in opposing the military dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq. In 1986, she returned as a charismatic political leader and chaired the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). As leader of Pakistan’s opposition she was arrested on numerous occasions and spent nearly six years in prison or under detention. Her goal throughout her struggle was to transform Pakistani society by focusing attention on programs for health, social welfare, and education for the underprivileged. She received the Bruno Kreisky Award for Human Rights in 1988 and UN Prize in the field of Human Rights on 60th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She struggled for the democratic rights of the people of Pakistan against the military dictatorship. Seeking to advance women’s rights, in her second term Ms. Bhutto signed Pakistan to the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. She was also a founding member of the Council of Women World Leaders, a group established in 1996. Ms. Bhutto oversaw the creation of a women’s division in the government, headed by a senior female civil servant, as well as a women’s bank and first women judges were appointed to the High Court(s). After returning to Pakistan in 2007, following years in exile, Ms. Bhutto was assassinated in an attack in Rawalpindi. The international community expressed great sadness as she was seen as a beacon of hope for a struggling democracy.