Benazir Bhutto (Karachi, June 21, 1953 – Rawalpindi, December 27, 2007) became the first woman to be the head of government of a Muslim-majority country when she was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1988. She was the eldest child of former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Bhutto was strongly pro-life. In 1994, she was a leader of a delegation to the widely publicized United Nations population conference in Cairo, where she opposed those seeking to create a new international right to abortion. One of only two women who addressed the conference, Bhutto declared, "I dream ... of a world where we can commit our social resources to the development of human life and not to its destruction."
Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on December 27, 2007. The assailant reportedly shot at Benazir three times at close range before detonating an explosive vest. Despite undergoing emergency surgery at Rawalpindi General Hospital, she did not recover from her injuries. The Pakistani government has stated that she was not hit by bullets or bomb shrapnel, but died after the shock waves from the blast knocked her head into a lever attached to the sunroof, fracturing her skull.
After Bhutto's death, CNN's Wolf Blitzer reported that Bhutto had sent him an email two months prior saying that in the event of her death, she wanted to blame Pervez Musharraf, the Army's Chief of Staff.
Born in 1953 in the province of Sindh, from the age of 9, Bhutto was groomed by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, for political office in Pakistan. He introduced her to many of the leading politicians of the day and ensured she was well educated. After completing her early education in Pakistan, between 1969 and 1973 she attended Radcliffe College and Harvard University, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude in Comparative Government. Between 1973 and 1977 she studied at Oxford University, obtaining a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and also studying International Law and Diplomacy. In 1973 her father became Prime Minister of Pakistan. Ousted from office on charges of corruption in 1975, his trial in 1977 for conspiracy resulted in a death sentence being awarded. Ten days after her return to Pakistan in 1977, martial law was declared, her father was arrested and she was placed under house arrest. Benazir became the focus for her father's supporters and he continued to advise her what to say to the crowds. He was hanged in 1979. In the same year, Benazir became the leader of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), and remained under house arrest until 1984, when she was allowed to go into exile in Great Britain.
In 1986 Benazir returned to Pakistan, and on November 16, 1988, the PPP won the majority of seats in the National Assembly. Bhutto was sworn in as Prime Minister of the coalition government on December 2, 1988, and became the youngest person and the first woman to head the government of a Muslim-majority state.
Echoing the charges laid against her father, Bhutto's government was dismissed in 1990 following unsubstantiated charges of corruption. Nawaz Sharif and his party, Pakistan Muslim League N, superseded Benazir's PPP, although she was re-elected in 1993. In 1996, Benazir's husband was jailed for corruption and accused of murdering her brother, and the government was dissolved by then president Farooq Leghari, with further corruption charges leveled against them. Benazir denied all corruption charges and argued that the investigations were purely politically motivated. She once more went into exile in Britain.
Return to Pakistan
In 1999 a military coup d'état headed by Musharraf, removed Sharif as Prime Minister, and Musharraf declared himself "Chief Executive". In 2001, Musharraf appointed himself to the office of President. In 2002, he altered Pakistan's constitution to prevent prime ministers from serving more than two terms, in a move believed to be aimed at preventing Bhutto and Sharif forming a popular opposition to him.
- Ahmad, Munir "Pakistan: Bhutto Died of Skull Fracture" Associated Press 28/12/07 Accessed 28 December 2007.