Monday, 13 May 2013
Superwomen of yesteryears: Benazir Bhutto
25 years ago on the 16th November, a woman became the first female prime minister of the Islamic state of Pakistan. That woman was none other than Bhutto, yes, Benazir Bhutto. The daughter of the eminent politician: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto lived out her formative years in Karachi, Pakistan and was fortunate enough to be sent to Harvard University in the USA. After studying for a politics degree, Benazir had come to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, as a postgraduate student. Of course, by then she was known as the Pakistani prime minister’s daughter, so she didn’t go unnoticed by any means. She was known around Oxford for driving her then-fashionable MGB through the streets. Her open-top sports car became her signature item and before you know it, she was elected as president of the reputable Oxford Union Society. She was already showing signs of following her father’s footsteps! But she wasn’t to bask in her luxuries for too long.
In 1977, her father was hanged as part of a military coup and after her returning to Pakistan; Bhutto was placed under house arrest subsequently. Benazir Bhutto’s life had taken a massive turn and from then on she devoted her life to her father’s memory. However, simultaneously she had manifested her first political achievement, by becoming the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) - slowly eroding the image of the subservient Pakistani woman in Muslim societies. She spent seven whole years in exile in London, and only returned to her country to stand as a candidate for the Pakistan elections. Despite the patriarchal Islamic society, Bhutto proved herself by winning the general elections and garnering the votes of Pakistani men.
This was a milestone for her and a certain reason for why she stands as one of the most notable Muslim women of history. She held the office for two terms: one from 1988 to 1990 and the other from 1993 to 1996. At this point, to neighbouring India she was the ‘Iron Lady’: resilient and still standing for yet another term in the office. Nevertheless, Bhutto’s political career wasn’t all sun and roses, and to be honest, who’s political career is? Bhutto achieving the highest office in a Muslim country was undoubtedly a turning stone in history, but she failed to impress the people of her country. Under her lead, Pakistan was associated with vast foreign debts and her government was soon dismissed by Pakistan’s president with labels such as ‘incompetence’ and even ‘corruption’. It also didn’t help that her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, was accused of corruption. Her second attempt in the office was again unsuccessful, and it was dismissed again due to several renewed allegations of corruption.
Despite facing countless charges of corruption, in exile in Dubai, she continued leading the PPP with Western governments for support. She has achieved a heroic status to every Western feminist, in her trials and her tribulations. In 2007, President Musharraf allowed her to return to Pakistan, though she was greeted with a detonation of two bombs, finishing 140 of her supporters. She didn’t relent and instead held election rallies to fight back. But this wouldn’t stop her fate addressing her. On the 27th December, she was assassinated by a suicide bomber in Rawalpindi- ceasing her political comeback in Pakistan. Some may say she was a failing political figure, but I believe she fought for the natural rights of everyday Pakistanis, and is an inspiration to women across the globe for surviving in a man’s world. And just maybe, that is why now a Pakistani woman is able to vote in the Pakistan elections today. By MD