Benazir Bhutto

Benazir BhuttoBenazir Bhutto¬†(Urdu:¬†ō®Ří ŔÜōłŘĆōĪ ō®ŕĺŔĻŔą‚Äé,¬†pronounced¬† ; 21 June 1953 ‚Äď 27 December 2007) was the¬†11th¬†Prime Minister of Pakistan, serving two non-consecutive terms in 1988‚Äď90 and then 1993‚Äď96. A scion of the politically powerful¬†Bhutto family, she was the eldest daughter of¬†Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a former prime minister himself who founded the centre-left,¬†social-democratic¬†Pakistan Peoples Party¬†(PPP).

In 1982, three years after her father’s assassination, 29-year-old Benazir Bhutto became the chairperson of the PPP‚ÄĒa political party, making her the first woman in Pakistan to head a major political party. In 1988, she became the first women to be elected as the head of an Islamic state’s government; she also remains Pakistan’s only female prime minister. Noted for her¬†charismatic authority and political astuteness, Bhutto drove initiatives for¬†Pakistan’s economy¬†and national security, and she implemented social-capitalist policies for industrial development and growth. In addition, her political philosophy and economic policies emphasized¬†deregulation(particularly of the financial sector),¬†flexible labour markets, the denationalization of state-owned corporations, and the withdrawal of subsidies to others. Bhutto’s popularity waned amid recession, corruption, and high unemployment which later led to the dismissal of her government by conservative President¬†Ghulam Ishaq Khan.

In 1993, Bhutto was elected for a second term after the¬†1993 parliamentary elections. She survived an attempted¬†coup d’√©tat in 1995, and her hard line against the trade unions and tough rhetorical opposition to her domestic political rivals and to neighboring India earned her the nickname “Iron Lady”;¬†she was also respectfully referred to as “BB”. In 1996,¬†charges of corruption¬†leveled against her led to the final dismissal of her government by President¬†Farooq Leghari. Bhutto conceded her defeat in the¬†1997 Parliamentary elections¬†and went into exile in Dubai in 1999.

Nine years later, in 2007, she returned to Pakistan, having reached an understanding with President¬†Pervez Musharraf, who granted her¬†amnesty¬†and withdrew all corruption charges against her. Bhutto was¬†assassinated¬†in a bombing on 27 December 2007, after leaving PPP’s last rally in Rawalpindi, two weeks before the scheduled¬†2008 general election¬†in which she was a leading opposition candidate.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir’s father, was Prime Minister of Pakistan and founding chairman of the PPP.

Benazir Bhutto was born at Karachi’s Pinto Hospital on 21 June 1953, ¬†She was the eldest child of¬†Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, of¬†Sindhi¬†ethnicity,¬† ¬†and Begum Nusrat Ispahani, of Iranian¬†Kurdish¬†descent.¬†¬† ¬†She had three younger siblings‚ÄĒMurtaza,¬†Shahnawaz¬†and¬†Sanam. According to Benazir herself, she felt herself to be Kurdish because her mother was a Kurd.

Bhutto was raised to speak both English and Urdu, the former being her first language. While she was fluent in Urdu, it was often colloquial rather than grammatical. Despite her family being Sindhi speakers, she barely spoke the language. 

She attended the Lady Jennings Nursery School and Convent of Jesus and Mary in Karachi.  After two years at the Rawalpindi Presentation Convent, she was sent to the Jesus and Mary Convent at Murree. She passed her O-level examinations aged 15.  She then went on to complete her A-Levels at the Karachi Grammar School.

After completing her early education in Pakistan, she pursued her higher education in the United States. From 1969 to 1973 she attended Radcliffe College¬†at¬†Harvard University, where she obtained a BA with¬†cum laude¬†honors in¬†comparative government.¬†She was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa.¬†Bhutto later called her time at Harvard “four of the happiest years of my life” and said it formed “the very basis of her belief in democracy”. Later in 1995 as Prime Minister, she arranged a gift from the Pakistani government to¬†Harvard Law School.

The next phase of her education happened in Britain. Between 1973 and 1977 Bhutto studied¬†Philosophy, Politics, and Economics¬†at¬†Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she took additional courses in¬†International Law¬†and Diplomacy.¬†After LMH she attended¬†St Catherine’s College, Oxford¬†and in December 1976 she was elected president of the¬†Oxford Union, becoming the first Asian woman to head the prestigious debating society.¬†Her undergraduate career was dogged by controversy, partly relating to her father’s unpopularity with student politicians.

On 18 December 1987, she married Asif Ali Zardari in Karachi. The couple had three children: two daughters, Bakhtawar and Asifa, and a son, Bilawal. When she gave birth to Bakhtawar in 1990, she became the first modern head of government to give birth while in office.

Zia’s Pakistan, 1977‚Äď88

Zulfikar’s assassination and Benazir’s arrests

General Zia-ul-Haq, Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan, had Zulfikar Ali Bhutto arrested and hanged in 1979 after what is widely considered to be a sham trial.

In 1977, Bhutto’s father, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was removed from office following a military coup led by General¬†Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the Chief of Army Staff. Zia imposed martial law but promised to hold elections within three months. However, instead of holding general elections, Zia charged Zulfikar Ali Bhutto with conspiring to murder the father of dissident politician¬†Ahmed Raza Kasuri. Zulfikar’s family struggled against Zia’s ultra-conservative military dictatorship, despite negative consequences for themselves due to their opposition. Benazir Bhutto and her brother Murtaza spent the next eighteen months in and out of¬†house arrest¬†while she worked to rally political support in an attempt to force General Zia to drop murder charges against her father.

On behalf of Bhutto’s former¬†law minister¬†Abdul Hafeez Pirzada¬†and¬†Fakhruddin Abrahim, the Bhutto family filed a petition at the Chief Martial Law Administrator Office for the reconsideration the sentence of Zulfikar Bhutto, and for the release of his friend¬†Mubashir Hassan. However, General Zia claimed to have misplaced the petition. Despite the accusation being “widely doubted by the public”, and many clemency appeals from foreign leaders, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged on 4 April 1979 under the effective orders of¬†Supreme Court of Pakistan.¬†During this time Benazir Bhutto and her immediate family were held in a “police camp” until May 1979.

Following the hanging of Zulfikar, Benazir and Murtaza were arrested. After PPP’s victory in the local elections, General Zia postponed the national elections indefinitely and moved Benazir, Murtaza, and their mother Nusrat from Karachi to¬†Larkana Central Jail. This was the seventh time Nusrat and her children had been arrested within two years of the military coup. After repeatedly placing them under house arrest, the regime finally imprisoned her under solitary confinement in a desert cell in Sindh in summer 1981. She described the conditions in her wall-less cage in her autobiography¬†Daughter of Destiny,

The summer heat turned my cell into an oven. My skin split and peeled, coming off my hands in sheets. Boils erupted on my face. My hair, which had always been thick, began to come out by the handful. Insects crept into the cell like invading armies. Grasshoppers, mosquitoes, stinging flies, bees and bugs came up through the cracks in the floor and through the open bars from the courtyard. Big black ants, cockroaches, seething clumps of little red ants and spiders. I tried pulling the sheet over my head at night to hide from their bites, pushing it back when it got too hot to breathe

After her six-month imprisonment in Sukkur jail, she was hospitalized for months and was then transferred to Karachi Central Jail, where she remained imprisoned until 11 December 1981. She was then placed under house arrest in Larkana for eleven months before being transferred to Karachi where she was placed under house arrest for an additional fourteen months.

Release and self-imposed exile

In January 1984, after six years of house arrests and imprisonment, General Zia succumbed to international pressure and allowed Bhutto’s family to travel abroad for medical reasons. After undergoing surgery, she resumed her political activities and began to raise awareness about the mistreatment of political prisoners in Pakistan at the hands of the Zia regime. Now exiled in Britain, Bhutto became a¬†leader in exile¬†of the¬†Pakistan People‚Äôs Party¬†(PPP), the populist outfit founded by her late father. For the first time in the¬†history of Pakistan, a woman was the chair of a major political party.

Bhutto’s efforts intensified pressure on General Zia, forcing him to holding a referendum to prove his government’s legitimacy. Held on 1 December 1984, the vote was a farce; only ten percent of the electorate turned out despite encouragement by the state machinery. In 1985 Bhutto received news at a local hotel in¬†Nice, France¬†that her brother Shahnawaz was murdered by poisoning. The Bhutto family believed that this was done under orders from Zia, prompting them to go into hiding.

Further pressure from the international community forced General Zia to hold elections, which he did for a unicameral legislature on a non-party basis. Bhutto announced a boycott of the election on the grounds that they were not being held in accordance with the Constitution of Pakistan. She continued to raise her voice against human-rights violations by the Zia regime and addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 1985. In retaliation for the speech, Zia announced death sentences for 54 members of her party at a military court in Lahore headed by Zia himself.

Following¬†Zia’s death¬†in a plane crash in August 1988, that November the first open¬†general elections¬†in more than a decade were held. Bhutto’s PPP won several provinces and had the largest percentage of seats in the¬†National Assembly, the lower house of¬†Pakistan’s parliament. As the chairperson of her party, Bhutto was set to become Prime Minister of Pakistan.

First term as Prime Minister, 1988‚Äď90

Benazir Bhutto on a visit to Washington, D.C. in 1989

Benazir Bhutto became the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan on 2 December 1988. Arriving at the Prime Minister Secretariat, she addressed the huge crowd:

We gather together to celebrate freedom, to celebrate democracy, to celebrate the three most beautiful words in the English language: `”We the People“.

‚ÄĒBenazir Bhutto on 2 December 1988,

Initially on 2 December, Benazir Bhutto formed a¬†coalition government¬†with the¬†Muttahida Qaumi Movement¬†(MQM), a liberal party, as her ally. As time passed, Bhutto quietly isolated MQM’s influence from government and later ousted them, establishing a single-party government that claimed a mandate from all of Pakistan. During this time, the effects of¬†Zia’s domestic policies¬†began to reveal themselves and she found them difficult to counter. During her first term, Bhutto vowed to repeal the controversial¬†Hudood Ordinance¬†and to revert theEight Amendment¬†to the Constitution. Bhutto also promised to shift Pakistan’s¬†semi-presidential system¬†to a¬†parliamentary system. But none of the reforms were made and Bhutto began to struggle with conservative President¬†Ghulam Ishaq Khan¬†over the issues of executive authority. President Khan repeatedly vetoed proposed laws and ordinances that would have lessened his presidential authority. Bhutto’s accomplishments during this time were in initiatives for nationalist reform and modernisation, which some conservatives characterised as Westernization.

Relations with India and Afghanistan war

Bhutto took the office during the fag end of the¬†Cold War, and closely aligned with the U.S. President¬†George H. W. Bush, based on a mutual distrust of communism. ¬†However she strongly opposed the U.S. government’s support of the Afghan Mujahideen which she labeled “America’s Frankenstein” during her first state visit there in 1989. ¬†Bhutto’s government oversaw and witnessed the major events in the alignment of the Middle East and South Asia. ¬†On the Western front, the¬†Soviet Union¬†was¬†withdrawing¬†its forces from the¬†Afghanistan¬†and the U.S.-Pakistan alliance had¬†broken off¬†in 1990 due to the U.S. government’s suspicions concerning Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program.

Bhutto deliberately attempted to warm Pakistan’s relations with neighbouring India and met with Prime Minister¬†Rajiv Gandhi¬†in 1989 where she negotiated for a trade agreement when the Indian premier paid a farewell visit to Pakistan. ¬†The goodwill relations with India continued until 1990 after¬†V. P. Singh¬†succeeded Gandhi as premier. The right-wingBharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) influence on Singh forced him to abrogate with agreements, and tensions began to rise with Pakistan after the BJP enforced its hardline policies inside Kashmir which the Pakistani government denounced. Soon, the Singh administration launched a military operation in Kashmir to curb the secessionist movement. ¬†In response, Benazir allegedly authorized for¬†covert operations¬†to support secession movements in¬†Indian Kashmir.¬†¬† ¬†In 1990 Major General¬†Pervez Musharraf, who headed the Directorate-General for the Military Operations (DGMO), proposed a strategic plan against India to Bhutto calling for a¬†Kargil¬†infiltration, but Bhutto refused because he didn’t have a strategy for dealing with any resultant international fallout.¬†In 1988, Lieutenant General¬†Hamid Gul, chief of the¬†Inter-Services Intelligence¬†(ISI) met with Bhutto and advocated for a plan supporting the¬†Khalistan movement, a Sikh nationalist movement. Gul justified this strategy as the only way of pre-empting a fresh Indian threat to Pakistan’s territorial integrity. Bhutto disagreed with his views and asked him to stop playing this “card”. Gul reportedly told her “Madam’ Prime Minister, keeping ¬†¬†Punjab destabilized is equivalent… to the Pakistan Army… having an extra division at no cost to the taxpayers…”.

On the Western front, Bhutto also authorised further aggressive military operations in Afghanistan to topple the fragile communist regime and the Soviet influence in the region. One of her notable military authorisations was military action in¬†Jalalabad¬†of¬†Soviet Afghanistan¬†in retaliation for the Soviet Union’s long unconditional support of India, a¬†proxy warin Pakistan, and Pakistan’s loss in the 1965 and 1971 wars. This operation was “a defining moment for her government” to prove the loyalty to the armed forces. This operation was planned by Hamid Gul, along with¬†U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan¬†Robert B. Oakley. Known as the¬†Battle of Jalalabad, it aimed to gain a conventional victory on a Soviet Union that was withdrawing its troops. The mission brutally failed in a couple of months with no effective results produced. The morale of the mujahideen involved in the attack slumped and many local commanders ended truces with the government.

Angered and frustrated with the outcomes of the operation, Bhutto, already displeased with Gul, immediately sacked him. Bhutto’s decision to depose Gul was one of her authoritative moves that surprised many senior statesman, though they did back her. Gul’s replacement was¬†Shamsur Rahman Kallu, another Lieutenant General, who proved to be more a capable officer. Taking matters into her own hands, Bhutto favoured a political settlement between all the Afghan Mujahideen factions and hence international legitimacy for the new government. This was never achieved and the factions began fighting each other, further destabilising the country.

Science policy

During her 1990 trip to Britain, Bhutto paid a visit to Dr.¬†Abdus Salam, a¬†Nobel laureates in physics¬†and a science advisor to her father. During her first and second terms, Bhutto followed the same policy on science and technology that her father had laid in 1972, and she promoted¬†military funding of science and technology¬†as part of her policy. However, in 1988, Benazir Bhutto was denied access to the country’s classified national research institutes run under the army, which remained under the control of civilian President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the Chief of Army Staff. Bhutto was kept unaware about the progress of the nuclear complexes when the country passed the milestone of manufacturing fissile core decades ago. U.S. Ambassador Robert Oakley was the first diplomat to have been notified about the complexes in 1988. ¬†Shortly after this, Benazir summoned thePakistan Atomic Energy Commission’s chairman,¬†Munir Ahmad Khan, to her office; Khan brought along¬†Abdul Qadeer Khan¬†with him to the meeting and introduced him to the prime minister. ¬†There, Bhutto learned the status of this crash program which had been matured since 1978, and on behalf of A. Q. Khan, visited¬†Khan Research Laboratoriesfor the first time in 1989, much to the anger of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.¬† ¬†Bhutto also responded to Khan when she moved the¬†Ministry of Science and Technology’s office to the Prime Minister Secretariat with Munir Ahmad Khan directly reporting to her.¬†Bhutto had successfully eliminated any possibility of Khan’s involvement and prevented him from having any influence in science research programmes, a policy which also benefited her successor¬†Nawaz Sharif. During her first and second terms, Bhutto issued funding of many projects entirely devoted to the country’s national defence and security. The dismissal of Lieutenant-General Gul by Benazir Bhutto had played a significant role on Chief of Army Staff General¬†Mirza Aslam Beg, who did not interfere in matters pertaining to science and technology, and remained supportive towards Benazir Bhutto’s hard line actions against the President.

In 1990, Benazir denied to allot funds of any military science projects that would be placed under Lieutenant-General¬†Zahid Ali Akbar, despite Akbar’s being known to be closed to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In 1990, she forced Akbar to resign from active duty, and as director-general of¬†Army Technological Research Laboratories¬†(ATRL); she replaced him with Lieutenant-General¬†Talat Masood¬†as¬†E-in-C¬†of ATRL as well as director of all military projects.

‚Äú If we don’t, India will go ahead and adopt aggressive designs on us… To preserve theminimum deterrence, tests should be performed this month of year…. ‚ÄĚ
‚ÄĒBenazir Bhutto, 1998,

In the 1980s, Benazir Bhutto started aerospace projects such as¬†Project Sabre II,¬†Project PAC,¬†Ghauri project¬†under dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan in 1990 and the¬†Shaheen programme¬†in 1995 under dr. Samar Mubarakmand.¬† ¬†The starting of the¬†integrated space weapons programme¬†was one of the major contributions that enhanced Pakistan’s atomic bomb program as well. To some observers and historians, Benazir is widely considered as “mother” of Pakistan’s space programme, is widely given cr . for given the authorisation and nurturing the development of the¬†Ghauri¬†and¬†Shaheen¬†programme.

During her second term, Benazir Bhutto declared 1996 as a year of “information technology”, and envisioned her policy of making Pakistan a “global player” in information technology. One of her initiatives was the launching of a package to promote¬†computer literacy¬†through participation from the private sector. Benazir issued an executive decree allowing the completion of duty-tariff free imports of hardware and software exports, in order to provide a low rate for data communications in both the public and private sectors. Benazir Bhutto also established and set up the infrastructure of software technology parks in rural areas and in urban cities, and approved a financial assistance loan for software houses for the public sector.

Nuclear weapons programme

In opposition to her conservative opponent Nawaz Sharif whose policy was to make the nuclear weapons programme benefit the¬†economy, Benazir Bhutto took aggressive steps and decisions in order to modernise and expand the integrated atomic weapons programme founded and started by her father in 1972, who was one of the key political administrative figures of Pakistan’s¬†nuclear deterrent development. ¬†During her first term, Benazir Bhutto established the separate but integrated nuclear testing programme in the atomic bomb programme, thus establishing a nuclear testing programme where the authorisations were required by the Prime minister and the military leadership. ¬†Despite Benazir’s denial of the authorisation of the nuclear testing programme in her second term, She continued to modernise the programme to new heights despite the United States’ embargo, which she termed “contractual obligation“.

‚Äú It took only two weeks and three days for Pakistan to master the ¬†¬†field… and (detonate) the nuclear devices of our own… ‚ÄĚ
‚ÄĒBenazir Bhutto, on first nuclear tests on May 1998,

It was during her regime that the¬†Pressler amendment¬†came in effect in an attempt to freeze the programme.During her frequent trips to the United States, Bhutto refused to compromise on the nuclear weapons programme, shifted her rogue criticism to the Indian nuclear programme, and attacked the Indian nuclear programme on multiple occasions.¬†Benazir Bhutto had misled the U.S. when she told the United States Government that the programme had been frozen, but the programme was progressively modernized and continued under her watch.¬†Under her regime, the¬†Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission¬†(PAEC) had conducted series of improvised designs of nuclear weapons designed by Theoretical Physics Group (TPG) at PAEC.¬†Benazir Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was the father of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence programme, and was instructed to keep in touch with senior scientists involved in this programme.¬†Benazir Bhutto also carried messages to¬†Munir Ahmad Khan¬†from her father and back in 1979 as her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had instructed his daughter to remain in touch with the Chairman of PAEC.¬†In this context, Bhutto had appointed Munir Ahmad Khan as her¬†Science Adviser¬†who kept her informed about the development of the programme. In all, the nuclear weapons and energy program remained Benazir’s top priority as with the country’s economy. During her first term, the nuclear program was under attack and under pressure by the Western world, particularly the United States. Despite the economic aid that was offered by the European Union and the United States in return to halt or freeze the program, Benazir did not compromise and continued this crash program under her first and second regime.

During her first term, Bhutto had approved and launched the¬†Shaheen programme¬†as she had advocated for this programme strongly. A vocal and avid supporter of the program, Bhutto also allotted funds for the programme, and strategic programs were launched under Bhutto’s premiership.¬†On 6 January 1996, Bhutto publicly announced that if India conducts a nuclear test, Pakistan could be forced to “follow suit”.¬†Bhutto later said that the day will never arise when we have to use our knowledge to make and detonate a ¬†¬†device and export our technology.

The People of (Pakistan) … are “security conscious” because of the (1971) severe trauma, and the three wars with (India). Our (Pakistan) nuclear development was peaceful … but was “an effective deterrence to India” … because (New Delhi) had detonated a nuclear device. She (Pakistan) …, thus, had to take every step to ensure its territorial integrity and sovereignty…

‚ÄĒBenazir Bhutto,¬†on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,

Space programme

Benazir Bhutto continued her policy to modernise and expand the space programme and as part of that policy, she launched and supervised the clandestine project¬†integrated research programme (IRP), a missile programme which remained under Benazir Bhutto’s watch and successfully ended in 1996, also under her auspices. ¬†As part of her policy, Benazir constituted the establishment of¬†National Development Complex ¬†and the¬†University Observatory¬†in¬†Karachi University¬†and expanded the facilities for the¬†space research. Pakistan’s first military satellite,¬†Badr-I, was also launched under her government through¬†China, while the second military satellite¬†Badr-II¬†was completed during her second term. ¬†With launching of¬†Badr-I, Pakistan became the first Muslim country to have launched and placed a satellite in Earth’s¬†orbit.¬†She declared 1990 a year of space in Pakistan and conferred national awards to scientists and engineers who took participation in the development of this satellite.

1989 military scandal

In 1989, the media reported a sting operation and political scandal, codenamed Midnight Jackal, when former members of ISI hatched a plan to topple the Bhutto government.Midnight Jackal was a political intelligence operation launched under President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg, and the objectives were to pass a no-confidence motion in parliament by bribing PPP members. Lieutenant-General Asif Nawaz had suspected the activities of Brigadier-General Imtiaz Ahmed, therefore, a watch cell unit was dispatched to keep an eye on the Brigadier.

This operation was exposed by ISI when it had obtained a VHS tape containing the conversation between two former army officers and former members of ISI, from the¬†Intelligence Bureau¬†(IB). The tape was confiscated by ISI director-general Lieutenant-General Shamsur Rahman Kallu who showed this tape to Benazir the next day. The video tape showed the conversation of Major Amir Khan and Brigadier-General Imtiaz Ahmad revealed that Chief of Army Staff General Mirza Aslam Baig of that time wanted to end government due to some issues. Though, the Brigadier had failed to prove the General Beg’s involvement, General Mirza, on the other hand, sharply denied the accusation and started a full fledged courts martial of these officers with Benazir being the civilian Judge of¬†JAG Branch¬†to proceed the hearings. The officers were deposed from their services and placing them at¬†Adiala military correctional institute¬†in 1989. It was not until 1996, that the officers were released from the military correctional institute by the order of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.


By 1990, following the revelation of¬†Midnight Jackal, Bhutto had successfully lessened President Ghulam Ishaq Khan’s influence in national politics, the government and the military.¬†Bhutto was thought by the president to be a young and inexperienced figure in politics, though highly educated. But he had miscalculated her capabilities who emerged as a ‘power player’ in international politics. Bhutto’s authoritative actions frustrated the President who was not taken in confidence while the decisions were made, and by 1990 a power struggle between the Prime minister and President ensued. Because of the semi-presidential system, Bhutto needed permission from Khan for imposing new policies, which Khan vetoed as he felt they contradicted his point of view. Bhutto, through her legislators, also attempted to shift to a¬†parliamentary democracy¬†to replace the semi-presidential system, but Khan’s constitutional powers always vetoed Bhutto’s attempts.

Tales of corruption in public-sector industries began to surface which undermined the credibility of Bhutto. The unemployment and labour strikes began to take place which halted and jammed the economic wheel of the country and Bhutto was unable to solve these issues due to in a cold war with the President. In November 1990, after a long political battle, Khan finally used the Eighth Amendment to dismiss the Bhutto government following charges of corruption, nepotism, and despotism. Khan soon called for new elections in 1990 where Bhutto conceded defeat.

First term as leader of the opposition, 1990‚Äď93

Nawaz Sharif, conservative leader, and Bhutto’s chief political rival

Following her dismissal in 1990, the Election Commission of Pakistan called for the new parliamentary elections in 1990. The Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (Islamic Democratic Alliance (IDA) under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif won the majority in the Parliament; Bhutto accepted her defeat soon after. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, conservatives had a chance to rule the country, and Sharif became the 12th Prime Minister of Pakistan and Bhutto became Leader of the Opposition for the next five years.

In November 1992, Bhutto attempted to perform a 10-mile march from Rawalpindi to Islamabad. However, she was forced to discontinue the rally due to a threat of being arrested from Prime Minister Sharif.  The demonstration was an anti-government rally that upset Pakistan officials.  As a result, she was placed under house arrest and vowed to bring down the Pakistani government.  In December 1992, a two-day march was conducted in protest of Nawaz Sharif.  In July 1993, Nawaz Sharif resigned from his position due to political pressure.

From 1990 to 1993, Benazir Bhutto worked for her voice and screen image. Pakistan affairs intellectual¬†Anatol Lieven¬†compared her accent as “cut-glass accent”, but acknowledged her education and good-standing academic background.¬†Bhutto began to regularly attend lunches at the Institute of Development Economics¬†(IDE), a think tank founded in the 1950s; she had been visiting IDE and reading its publications since the mid-1970s. During that time, the IDA launched a secret campaign against Benazir Bhutto’s image to demoralise the party workers; the campaign brutally backfired on Nawaz Sharif when the media exposed the culprits and motives behind this plot.¬†More than ‚ā®. 5 million were spent on the campaign and it had undermined the credibility of the conservatives who also failed to resolve issues among between them.

Despite an economic recovery in the late 1993, the IDA government faced public unease about the direction of the country and an industrialisation revolved and centred only in Punjab Province. Amid protest and civil disorder in Sindh Province, following the imposition of¬†Operation Clean-up, the IDA government lost the control of the province.¬†The Peoples Party attacked the IDA government’s unemployment records, and industrial racism.

However, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed the conservative government on same charges when Sharif attempted to revert the 8th Amendment but was unsuccessful. Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto would unite to oust the President who lost the control of the country in matter of weeks. Khan too was forced to resign along with Nawaz Sharif in 1993, and an interim government was formed until the new elections. A¬†parliamentary election¬†was called after the resignation of Nawaz Sharif and Ghulam Ishaq Khan by¬†Pakistan Armed Forces. Both Sharif and Benazir Bhutto campaigned with full force, targeting each other’s personalities.¬†Their policies were very similar but saw a clash of personalities with both parties making many promises but not explaining how they were going to pay for them.

Sharif stood on his record of privatisations and development projects and pledged to restore his taxi giveaway program.   Bhutto promised price supports for agriculture, pledged a partnership between government and business and campaigned strongly for the female vote.

Second term as Prime Minister, 1993‚Äď96

Though the PPP won the most seats (86 seats) in the election but fell short of an outright majority, with the PML-N in second place with 73 seats in the Parliament.¬†The PPP performed extremely well on Bhutto’s native province, Sindh, and rural Punjab, while the PML-N was strongest in industrial Punjab and the largest cities such as Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi.¬†On 19 October 1993, Benazir Bhutto was sworn as Prime Minister for second term allowing her to continue her reform initiatives.

Benazir Bhutto learned a valuable experience and lesson from the presidency of Ghulam Ishaq Khan, and the presidential elections were soon called after her re election. After carefully examining the candidates, Benazir Bhutto decided to appoint¬†Farooq Leghari¬†as for her president, in which, Leghari sworned as 8th President of Pakistan on 14 November 1993 as well as first Baloch to have became president since the country’s independence. Leghari was an¬†apolitical¬†figure who was educated¬†Kingston University Londonreceiving his degree in same discipline as of Benazir Bhutto. But unlike Khan, Leghari had no political background, no experience in government running operations, and had no background understanding the civil-military relations. In contrast, Leghari was a figurehead and puppet president with all of the military leadership directly reporting to Benazir Bhutto.

She first time gave the main ministry to the minorities and appointed Julius Salik as Minister for Population Welfare. The previous governments only give ministry for minority affairs as a minister of state or parliamentary secretary. J. Salik is a very popular leader among minorities and won the MNA seat by getting highest votes throughout Pakistan.

Domestic affairs

Benazir Bhutto was Prime Minister at a time of great racial tension in Pakistan. ¬†Her approval poll rose by 38% after she appeared and said in a private television interview after the elections: “We are unhappy with the manner in which tampered electoral lists were provided in a majority of constituencies; our voters were turned away.” ¬†The Conservatives attracted voters from¬†religious society (MMA)¬†whose support had collapsed. ¬†The¬†Friday Times¬†noted “Both of them (Nawaz and Benazir) have done so badly in the past, it will be very difficult for them to do worse now. If Bhutto’s government fails, everyone knows there will be no new elections. The army will take over”. ¬†In confidential official documents Benazir Bhutto had objected to the number of¬†Urdu speaking class¬†in 1993 elections, in context that she had no Urdu-speaking sentiment in her circle and discrimination was continued even in her government. Her stance on these issues was perceived as part of rising public disclosure which¬†Altaf Hussain¬†called “racism”. Due to Benazir Bhutto’s stubbornness and authoritative actions, her political rivals gave her the nickname “Iron Lady” of Pakistan. No response was issued by Bhutto, but she soon associated with the term. ¬†The racial violence in Karachi was reached at peak and became a biggest problem for Benazir Bhutto to counter. The MQM attempted to make an alliance with Benazir Bhutto under her own conditions, but Benazir Bhutto refused. Soon the second operation,¬†Operation Blue Fox¬†was launched to wipe the MQM from country’s political spectrum. The results of this operation remains inconclusive and resulted in thousands killed or gone missing, with majority being Urdu speaking. Bhutto demanded the MQM to surrender to her government unconditionally. Though the operation was halted in 1995, but amid violence continued and,¬†Shahid Javed Burki, a professor of economics, noted that “Karachi problem was not so much an ethnic problem as it was an economic question.¬† ¬†Amid union and labour strikes beginning to take place in Karachi and Lahore, which were encouraged by both Altaf Hussain and Nawaz Sharif to undermine her authority,¬†Benazir Bhutto responded by disbanding these trade union and issuing orders to arrest the leaders of the trade unions, while on other hand, she provided incentives to local workers and labourers as she had separated the workers from their union leaders successfully. Benazir Bhutto expanded the authoritative rights of¬†Police Combatant Force¬†and the¬†provisional governments¬†that tackled the local opposition aggressively. Bhutto, through her¬†Internal Security Minister¬†Naseerullah Babar, intensified the internal security operations and steps gradually putting down the opposition’s political rallies, while she did not complete abandoned the reconciliation policy. In her own worlds, Benazir Bhutto announced: “There was no basis for (strikes)… in view of the ongoing political process…”.

In August 1993, Benazir Bhutto narrowly escaped an¬†assassination attempt¬†near her residence in the early morning. While no one was injured or killed, the culprits of this attempt went into hiding. In December 1993, disturbing news began to surface in the¬†Swat valley¬†when¬†Sufi Muhammad, a religious cleric, began to mobilise the local militia calling for overthrow of the “un-Islamic rule of ¬†¬†Lady”. Benazir Bhutto responded quickly and ordered the¬†Pakistan Army¬†to crackdown the militia, leading to the movement crushed by the Army and the cleric was apprehended before he could escape.

However, corruption grew during her government, and her government became increasingly unpopular amid corruption scandals which became public. One of the most internationally and nationally reported scandals was the¬†Agosta Submarine scandal. Benazir Bhutto’s spouse¬†Asif Ali Zardari¬†was linked with former Admiral¬†Mansurul Haq¬†who allegedly made side deals with French officials and Asif Ali Zardari while acquiring the submarine technology. It was one of the consequences that her government was dismissed and Asif Ali Zardari along with Mansurul Haq were arrested and a trial was set in place. Both Zardari and Haq were detained due to corruption cases and Benazir Bhutto flew to Dubai from Pakistan in 1998.

Women’s issues

During her election campaigns, she had promised to repeal controversial laws (such as¬†Hudood¬†and¬†Zina¬†ordinances) that curtail the rights of women in Pakistan.¬†Bhutto was pro-life¬†and spoke forcefully against abortion, most notably at the¬†International Conference on Population and Development¬†in Cairo, where she accused the West of “seeking to impose adultery, abortion, intercourse education and other such matters on individuals, societies and religions which have their own social ethos.”¬†However, Bhutto was not supported by the leading women organisations, who argued that after being elected twice, none of the reforms were made, instead controversial laws were exercised more toughly. Therefore, in 1997 elections, Bhutto failed to secure any support from women’s organisations and minorities also gave Bhutto the cold-shoulder when she approached them. It was not until 2006 that the Zina ordinance was finally repealed by a Presidential Ordinance issued by¬†Pervez Musharraf¬†in July 2006.

Bhutto was an active and founding member of the Council of Women World Leaders, a network of current and former prime ministers and presidents.

Economic issues

The total¬†GDP per capita¬†stood between 8.4% (in the 1970s) and 8.3% (in 1993‚Äď96), periods of nationalisation.¬†Bhutto was an economist by profession; therefore during her terms as prime minister, she herself took charge of the¬†Ministry of Finance. Bhutto sought to improve the country’s economy which was declining as the time was passing. Benazir disagreed with her father’s nationalization and¬†socialist economics. Soon after the collapse of the¬†Soviet Union, Benazir attempted to privatize major industries that were nationalized in the 1970s.¬†Bhutto promised to end the nationalisation programme and to carried out the industrialisation programme by means other than the state intervention. But controversially Bhutto did not carry out thedenationalization¬†programme or liberalization of the economy during her first government. No nationalized units were privatized, few economic regulations were reviewed.

During the periods of 1993‚Äď96, the¬†local production¬†of coal remained steady.

Pakistan suffered a currency crisis when the government failed to arrest the 30% fall in the value of the¬†Pakistani Rupee¬†from ‚ā®. 21 to ‚ā®.30 compared to the United States dollar. Soon economic progress became her top priority but her investment and industrialisation programs faced major setbacks due to conceptions formed by investors based upon her People’s Party nationalisation program in the 1970s. By the 1990s, Khan and Bhutto’s government had also ultimately lost the¬†currency war¬†with the Indian Rupee which beat the value of Pakistan rupee for the first time in the 1970s. Bhutto’s denationalisation program also suffered from many political setbacks, as many of her government members were either directly or indirectly involved with the government corruption in major government-owned industries, and her appointed government members allegedly sabotaged her efforts to privatised the industries.

‚Äú Justice is economic independence. Justice is social equality… ‚ÄĚ
‚ÄĒBhutto, 1996, Cited source

Overall, the living standard for people in Pakistan declined as inflation and unemployment grew at an exponential rate particularly as UN sanctions began to take effect. During her first and second term, the difference between rich and poor visibly increased and the middle class in particular were the ones who bore the brunt of the economic inequality. According to a calculation completed by the¬†Federal Bureau of Statistics, the rich were statistically were improved and the poor declined in terms of living standards.¬†Benazir attributed this economic inequality to be a result of ongoing and continuous illegal¬†Bangladeshi immigration. Bhutto ordered a crackdown on and deportation of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Her action strained and created tensions inBangladesh‚ÄďPakistan relations, as Bangladesh Prime Minister¬†Khaleda Zia¬†refused to accept the deportees and reportedly sent two planeloads back to Pakistan. Religious parties also criticised Bhutto and dubbed the crackdown as anti-Islamic.

This operation backfired and had devastating effects on Pakistan’s economy.¬†President Khan saw this as a major economic failure despite Khan’s permission granted to Bhutto for the approval of her economic policies. Khan blamed Bhutto for this extensive economic slowdown and her policy that failed to stop the illegal immigration. Khan attributed Bhutto’s government members corruption in government-owned industries as the major sink hole in Pakistan’s economy that failed to compete with neighbouring India’s economy.

Privatization and era of stagflation

The¬†GDP growth¬†rate was at ~4.37% in 1993, which fell to ~1.70% in 1996, before Bhutto’s dismissal.

During her second term, Bhutto continued to follow former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s¬†privatisation¬†policies, which she called a “disciplined macroeconomics policy”. After the 1993 general elections, the privatisation programme of state-owned banks and utilities accelerated; more than ‚ā® 42 billion was raised from the sale of nationalised corporations and industries, and another US$20 billion from the foreign investment made the United States.¬† ¬†After 1993, the country’s national economy again entered in the second period of the stagflation and more roughly began bite the country’s financial resources and the¬†financial capital. ¬†Bhutto’s second government found it extremely difficult to counter the¬†second era of stagflation¬†with Pressler amendment and the US financial and military embargo tightened its position. ¬†After a year of study, Bhutto implemented and enforced the¬†Eighth Plan¬†to overcome the stagflation by creating a dependable and effective mechanism for accelerating economic and social progress. But, according to American ambassador to Pakistan,¬†William Milam’s bibliography,¬†Bangladesh and Pakistan:Flirting with Failure in South Asia, the Eighth Plan (which reflected the¬†planned economy of the Soviet Union) was doomed to meet with failure from the very beginning of 1994, as the policies were weak and incoherent.

On many occasions, Bhutto resisted to privatise globally competitive and billion-dollar-worth state-owned enterprises (such as¬†Pakistan Railways¬†and¬†Pakistan Steel Mills), instead the grip of nationalisation in those state-owned enterprises was tightened in order to secure the¬†capital investment¬†of these industries. The process of privatisation of the nationalised industries was associated with the marked performance and improvement, especially the terms of¬†labour productivity.¬†A number of privatization of industries such as gas,¬†water supply and sanitation, and electricity general, were¬†natural monopolies¬†for which the privatization involved little competition.¬†Furthermore, Benazir denied that privatisation of the Pakistan Railways would take place despite the calls made in Pakistan, and was said to have told¬†Planning Commission¬†chief¬†Naveed Qamar, “Railways privatization will be the ‘blackhole’ of this government. Please never mention the railways to me again”. Bhutto always resisted privatisation of¬†United Bank Limited Pakistan¬†(UBL), but its management sent the recommendation for the privatisation which dismayed the labour union. The United Group of Employees Management asked Bhutto for issue of regulation sheet which she denied. The holding of UBL in government control turned out to be a move that ended in “disaster” for Bhutto’s government.

Foreign policy

Benazir Bhutto’s foreign policy was controversial. As for her second term, Benazir Bhutto expanded Pakistan’s relations with the rest of the world. As before like her father, Benazir Bhutto sought to strengthen the relations with¬†socialist states, and Benazir Bhutto’s first visit to¬†Libya¬†strengthened the relations¬†between the two countries. Benazir also thanked Muammar al-Gaddafi¬†for his tremendous efforts and support for her father during before Zulfikar’s trial in 1977. Ties continued with Libya but deteriorated after Nawaz Sharif became prime minister in 1990 and again in 1997. In Pakistan, Gaddafi was said to be very fond of Benazir Bhutto and was a family friend of¬†Bhutto family, but disliked Nawaz Sharif due to his ties with General Zia in the 1980s.

Benazir Bhutto is said to have paid a state visit to North Korea in early 1990 and in 1996, and according to journalist¬†Shyam Bhatia, Bhutto smuggled CDs containing¬†uranium enrichment¬†data to North Korea on a state visit that same year in return for data on missile technology.¬†According to the expert, Benazir Bhutto acted as female “James Bond”, and left with a bag of computer disks to pass on to her military to North Korea.

Benazir Bhutto in the United States, 1989.

Major-General Pervez Musharraf closely worked with Benazir Bhutto and her government in formulating the foreign strategy with Israel. In 1993, during Benazir Bhutto’s state visit to the United States, Major-General Pervez Musharraf who was tenuring as the Director-General of the Pakistan Army’s Directorate-General for the Military Operation (DGMO), was ordered by Bhutto to join this state visit. As unusual and unconventional it was for the Director of the Directorate-General for Military Operations (DGMO) to join this trip, Benazir Bhutto and her DGMO had chaired a secret meeting with Israeli officials in New York in 1993 who especially flew to Washington. Under her guidance, General Musharraf had intensified the ISI’s liaison with Israel’s¬†Mossad. A final meeting took place in 1995, and General Musharraf had also joined this meeting with Benazir Bhutto after she ordered General Musharraf to fly to New York immediately.¬†Benazir Bhutto also strengthened¬†relations¬†with communist state¬†Vietnam¬†and visited Vietnam to sign the mutual trade and international political cooperation between both countries. In 1995, Benazir Bhutto paid a state visit to United States where she held talks with U.S. President¬†Bill Clinton. During the visit, Benazir Bhutto urged the United States to amend the Pressler Amendment and emphasized United States to launch a campaign against the extremism. Though, the Prime Minister criticized U.S.’s nonproliferation policy and demanded that the United States honour its contractual obligation.

During her second term, the relationship with Indian Prime Minister¬†P. V. Narasimha Rao¬†further deteriorated. As like her father, Benazir Bhutto used the rhetoric opposition to India, campaigning international community against the Indian nuclear programme. On 1 May 1995, Benazir Bhutto used harsh language and publicly warned India for her “continuation of ¬†¬†nuclear programme would have terrible consequences”. ¬†India responded to this statement as interfering in India’s “internal matter”, and the Indian Army fired a¬†RPG¬†near at the¬†Kahuta¬†which further escalating the events leading into the full-fledged war. ¬†When the news reached Benazir Bhutto, she responded by high-alerting theAir Force Strategic Command¬†which ordered heavily armed¬†Arrows,¬†Griffins,¬†Black Panthers¬†and the¬†Black Spiders¬†(all of these squadrons are part of the Strategic Command) to begin air sorties and to patrol the Indo-Pakistan border on day-and-night regular missions. On 30 May, India test fired the¬†Prithvi-1¬†missile near the Pakistan border, which was condemned by Benazir Bhutto. Following this test, Benazir responded by deploying¬†Shaheen-I¬†missiles; however, these missiles were not armed. Benazir Bhutto permitted¬†PAF¬†to deploy the¬†Crotale missile defence¬†and the¬†Anza-Mk-III¬†near the Indian border, which escalated the conflict, but it had produced effective results that kept the¬†Indian Army¬†and theIndian Air Force¬†from launching any surprise attack.

In 1995, the ISI reported to Bhutto that Narasimha Rao had authorised nuclear tests, and that the tests could be conducted any minute. ¬†Benazir responded by putting the country’s nuclear arsenal programme on high-alert ¬†emergency preparations were made by the government, and Benazir Bhutto ordered the Pakistan Armed Forces to stay on high-alert. ¬†However, after the United States intervened, the Indian operations for conducting the nuclear tests were called off and the Japanese tried to provide mediation between both countries. However, in 1996, Benazir Bhutto met with Japanese officials and warned India about conducting the nuclear tests, and for the first time, Benazir Bhutto revealed that Pakistan has achieved “parity” with India in its “capacity” to produce nuclear weapons and their “delivery capability.” While talking to the Indian press, Benazir Bhutto said that Pakistan “cannot afford to negate the parity we maintain with India” in the nuclear area. Benazir Bhutto’s statements represented a departure from Pakistan’s previous policy of “nuclear ambivalence.” ¬†Soon after learning this news, Prime minister Benazir Bhutto issued a statement concerning the tests in which she reportedly told the international press that she condemned the Indian nuclear tests, as she put it:

if (India) conducts a nuclear test, it would forced her (Pakistan) to.. “follow suit…The day will never arise… when we (Pakistan)…have to use our knowledge to make and detonate a ¬†¬†device and export our ¬†¬†technology…”

‚ÄĒBenazir Bhutto,¬†6 January 1996,

Benazir Bhutto also intensified her policy on Indian Kashmir by rallying against India.¬†Benazir Bhutto, accompanied by her then-Speaker of the National Assembly¬†Yousaf Raza Gillani¬†(future prime minister) at the¬†Inter-Parliamentary Union¬†meeting at the United Nations, gave a vehement and intensified criticism to India which upset and angered the Indian delegation headed by prime minister¬†Atal Bihari Vajpayee.¬†Vajpayee responded by saying: “It is Pakistan which is flouting the United Nations resolution by not withdrawing its forces from Kashmir…You people create problems every time. You know the Kashmiri people themselves acceded to India. First, the Maharajah, then the Kashmiri parliament both decided to go with India”.

In 1996, Benazir Bhutto attacked the Indian nuclear programme and warned India of “tragic consequences”. Bhutto criticised Indian held-Kashmir and described it as the worst example of “Indian intransigence”. Benazir also countered Indian allegation for Pakistan’s¬†putative nuclear test¬†as “baseless allegation”. Bhutto criticised India as a bid to hide its plan to explode a nuclear device, and failure to cover up its domestic problems including its failure in suppressing the freedom struggle in Kashmir.

Relations with military

During her first term, Benazir Bhutto had strained relationship with the Pakistan Armed Forces, especially with Pakistan Army. Army chief Mirza Aslam Beg had cold relations with the elected prime minister, and continued to undermine her authority. As for the military appointments, Benazir Bhutto refused to appoint General Beg as the¬†Chairman¬†of the¬†Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, instead invited Admiral¬†Iftikhar Ahmed Sirohey¬†to take the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.¬† ¬†In 1988, Benazir Bhutto appointed Air Chief Marshal¬†Hakimullah¬†as the¬†Chief of Air Staff¬†and Admiral¬†Jastural Haq¬†as the¬†Chief of Naval Staff. In 1988, shortly after assuming the office, Benazir Bhutto paid a visit to¬†Siachen region, to boost the moral of the soldiers who fought the¬†Siachen war¬†with India. This was the first visit of any civilian leader to any military war-zone area since the country’s independence in 1947. ¬†In 1988, Benazir appointed Major-General Pervez Musharraf as Director-General of the Army Directorate General for Military Operations (DGMO); and then-Brigadier-General¬†Ashfaq Parvez Kayani¬†as her Military-Secretary. ¬†In 1989, the Pakistan Army exposed the alleged Operation Midnight Jackal against the government of Benazir Bhutto. When she learned the news, Benazir Bhutto ordered the arrest and trial of former¬†ISI¬†officer Brigadier Imtiaz Ahmad and Major Amir Khan, it was later revealed that it was General Beg who was behind this plot. General Beg soon paid the price in 1993 elections, when Benazir Bhutto politically destroyed the former general and his career was over before taking any shifts in politics.¬†During her first term, Benazir Bhutto had successfully removed senior military officers including Lieutenant-Generals Hamid Gul,¬†Zahid Ali Akbar Khan, General¬†Jamal A. Khan, and Admiral¬†Tariq Kamal Khan, all of whom had anti-democratic views and were closely aligned to General Zia, replacing them with officers who were educated in Western military institutes and academies, generally the ones with more westernised democratic views.

During her second term, Benazir Bhutto’s relations with the Pakistan Armed Forces took a different and pro-Bhutto approach, when she carefully appointed General¬†Abdul Waheed Kakar¬†as the Chief of Army Staff. General Abdul Waheed was an uptight, strict, and a professional officer with a views of Westernized democracy. Benazir also appointed Admiral¬†Saeed Mohammad Khan¬†as Chief of Naval Staff; General¬†Abbas Khattak¬†as Chief of Air Staff. Whilst, Air Chief Marshal¬†Farooq Feroze Khan¬†was appointed Chairman Joint Chiefs who was the first (and to date only) Pakistani¬†air officer¬†to have reached to such¬†4 star¬†assignment. Benazir Bhutto enjoyed a strong relations with the Pakistan Armed Forces, and President who was hand-picked by her did not questioned her authority. She hand-picked officers and promoted them based on their pro-democracy views while the puppet President gave constitutional authorisation for their promotion. The senior military leadership including¬†Jehangir Karamat, Musharraf, Kayani,¬†Ali Kuli Khan, Farooq Feroze Khan, Abbas Khattak and¬†Fasih Bokhari, had strong Western-democratic views, and were generally close to Bhutto as they had resisted Nawaz Sharif’s conservatism. Unlike Nawaz Sharif’s second democratic term, Benazir worked with the military on many issues where the military disagreement, solving many problems relating directly to civil‚Äďmilitary relations. Her tough and hardline policies on Afghanistan, Kashmir and India, which the military had backed Benazir Bhutto staunchly.

After the assassination was attempted, Benazir Bhutto’s civilian security team headed under¬†Rehman Malik, was disbanded by the Pakistan Army whose¬†X-Corps’¬†111th¬†Psychological¬†Brigade‚ÄĒ an army brigade tasked with countering the¬†psychological warfare‚ÄĒ took control of the security of Benazir Bhutto, that directly reported to Chief of Army Staff and the Prime Minister. Benazir Bhutto ordered General Abdul Waheed Kakar and the Lieutenant-General¬†Javed Ashraf Qazi¬†director-general of¬†ISI, to start a sting and manhunt operation to hunt down the ringmaster,¬†Ramzi Yousef. After few arrests and intensive manhunt search, the¬†ISI¬†finally captured Ramzi before he could flew the country. In matter of weeks, Ramzi was secretly extradited to the United States, while the¬†ISI¬†managed to kill or apprehend all the culprits behind the plot. In 1995, she personally appointed General¬†Naseem Rana¬†as the Director-General of the¬†ISI, who later commanded the Pakistan Army’s assets in which came to known as “Pakistan’s secret war in Afghanistan”. During this course, General Rana directly reported to the prime minister, and led the intelligence operations after which were approved by Benazir Bhutto. In 1995, Benazir also appointed Admiral¬†Mansurul Haq¬†as the Chief of Naval Staff, as the Admiral had personal contacts with the Benazir’s family. However, it was the Admiral’s large-scale corruption, sponsored by her husband¬†Asif Zardari, that shrunk the credibility of Benazir Bhutto by the end of 1996 that led to end of her government after all.

Policy on Taliban

1996 was crucial for Bhutto’s policy on Afghanistan when Pakistan-backed extremely religious group¬†Taliban¬†took power in Kabul in September.¬†She continued her father’s policy on Afghanistan taking aggressive measures to curb the anti-Pakistan sentiments in Afghanistan. During this time, many in the international community at the time, including the United States government, viewed the Taliban as a group that could stabilise Afghanistan and enable trade access to the¬†Central Asian republics, according to author¬†Steve Coll.

He claims that her government provided military and financial support for the Taliban, even sending a small unit of the¬†Pakistan Army¬†into Afghanistan. Benazir had approved the appointment of Lieutenant-General¬†Naseem Rana¬†who she affectionately referred to him as “Georgy Zhukov”; and had reported to her while providing strategic support to Taliban. During her regime, Benazir Bhutto’s government had controversially supported the hardline Taliban, and many of her government officials were providing financial assistance to the Taliban. ¬†Fazal-ur-Rehman, a right-wing cleric, had a traditionally deep influence on Bhutto as he convinced and later assisted her to help the regime of Taliban she established the¬†Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. ¬†In a reference written by American scholar,¬†Steve Coll¬†in¬†Ghost Wars, he dryly put it: “Benazir Bhutto was suddenly the matron of a new Afghan faction‚ÄĒthe Taliban.”

Under her government, Pakistan had recognised the Taliban regime as legitimate government in Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to open an¬†embassy¬†in Islamabad. In 1996, the newly appointed¬†Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan¬†Mullah¬†Abdul Salam Zaeef¬†presented her¬†diplomatic credentials¬†while he paying a visit to her.¬†Other authors also wrote extensively on Benazir Bhutto’s directives towards Taliban, according to one author, that it was later founded and became a historical fact that it was Benazir, a Western-educated woman, who set in motion the events leading to¬†9/11¬†incident in the United States.

However in 2007, she took an anti-Taliban stance, and condemned terrorist acts allegedly committed by the Taliban and their supporters.

Coup d’√©tat attempt

In 1995, Benazir Bhutto’s government survived an¬†attempted coup d’√©tat¬†hatched by renegade military officers of the Pakistan Army. The culprit and ringleader of the coup was a junior level officer, Major-General¬†Zahirul Islam Abbasi, who had radical views. Others included Brigadier-Generals Mustansir Billa, and Qari Saifullah of Pakistan Army. The secret ISI learned of this plot and tipped off the Pakistan Army and at midnight before the coup could take place, it was thwarted. The coup was exposed by Ali Kuli Khan, the¬†Military Intelligence¬†chief, and Jehangir Karamat,¬†Chief of General Staff. The Military Intelligence led the arrest of 36 army officers and 20 civilians in Rawalpindi; General Ali Kuli Khan reported to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto early morning and submitted his report on the coup. After learning this, Benazir was angered and dismayed, therefore a full-fledged running court martial was formed by Benazir Bhutto. Prime Minister Benazir issued arrests of numbers of religiously conservatives leaders and therefore denied the amnesty and clemency calls made by the Army officers. By the 1996, all of the dissident officers were either jailed or shot dead by the Pakistan Army and a report was submitted to the Prime minister. General Kuli Khan and General Karamat received wide appreciation from the prime minister and were decorated with the civilian decorations and award by her.

Death of younger brother

In 1996, the Bhutto family suffered another tragedy in Sindh Province, Benazir Bhutto’s stronghold and political lair.¬†Murtaza Bhutto, Benazir’s younger brother, was controversially and publicly shot down in a police encounter in Karachi. Since 1989, Murtaza and Benazir had a series of disagreements regarding the PPP’s policies and Murtaza’s opposition towards Benazir’s¬†operations¬†against the Urdu-speaking class. Murtaza also developed serious disagreement with Benazir’s husband, Zardari, and unsuccessfully attempted to remove his influence in the government. Benazir and Murtaza’s mother, Nusrat, sided with Murtaza which also dismayed the daughter. In a controversial interview, Benazir declared that Pakistan only needed one Bhutto, not two, though she denied giving or passing any comments. Her younger brother increasingly made it difficult for her to run the government after he raised voices against Benazir’s alleged corruption. Alone in Sindh, Benazir lost the support of the province to her younger brother. At the political campaign, Murtaza demanded party elections inside the PPP, which according to Zardari, Benazir would have lost due to Nusrat backing Murtaza and many workers inside the party being willing to see Murtaza as the country’s Prime minister as well as the chair of the party. More problems arose when Abdullah Shah Lakiyari,¬†Chief Minister of Sindh, and allegedly her spouse created disturbances in Murtaza’s political campaign. On 20 September 1996, in a controversial police encounter, Murtaza Bhutto was shot dead near his residence along with six other party activists. As the news reached all of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto hurriedly returned to Karachi, and an emergency was proclaimed in the entire province. Benazir Bhutto’s limo was stoned by angered PPP members when she tried to visit Murtaza’s funeral ceremonies. ¬†Her brother’s death had crushed their mother, and she was immediately admitted to the local hospital after learning that her son had been killed. ¬†At Murtaza’s funeral, Nusrat accused Benazir and Zardari of being responsible, and vowed to pursue prosecution.¬†¬†

President Farooq Leghari, who dismissed the Bhutto government seven weeks after Murtaza’s death, also suspected Benazir and Zardari’s involvement.¬†Several of Pakistan’s leading newspapers alleged that Zardari wanted his brother-in-law out of the way because of Murtaza’s activities as head of a breakaway faction of the PPP.¬†In all, after this incident, Benazir Bhutto lost all support from Sindh Province. Public opinion later turned against her, with many believing that her spouse was involved in the murder, a claim her spouse strongly rejected.

Second dismissal

In spite of her tough rhetoric to subdue her political rivals and neighbouring India and Afghanistan, the Bhutto government’s corruption heightened and exceeded its limits during her second regime; the most notable figures among those suspect were Asif Ali Zardari and Admiral¬†Mansurul Haq. Soon after the death of her younger brother, Bhutto widely became unpopular and public opinion turned against her government. In Sindh, Bhutto lost all the support from the powerful feudal lords and the political spectrum turned against her. In 1996, the major civil‚Äďmilitary scandal became internationally and nationally known when her spouse Zardari was linked with then-navy chief and former Admiral Mansurul Haq. Known as¬†Agosta class scandal, many of higher naval admirals and government officials of both French and Pakistan governments were accused of getting heavy commissions while the deal was disclosed to sell this sensitive submarine technology to Pakistan Navy.

In November 1996, Bhutto’s government was dismissed by President Leghari primarily because of corruption and Murtaza’s death, ¬†who used the Eighth Amendment discretionary powers to dissolve the government. Benazir was surprised when she discovered that it was not the military who had dismissed her but her own hand-picked puppet President who had used the power to dismiss her. She turned to the Supreme Court hoping for gaining Leghari’s actions unconstitutional. But the Supreme Court justified and affirmed President Leghari’s dismissal in a 6‚Äď1 ruling. ¬†Many military leaders who were close to Prime minister rather than the President, did not wanted Benazir Bhutto’s government to fall, as they resisted the Nawaz Sharif’s conservatism. ¬†When President Leghari, through public media, discovered that General Kakar (Chief of Army Staff), General Khattak (Chief of Air Staff), and Admiral Haq (Chief of Naval Staff) had been backing Benazir to come back in the government; President Leghari aggressively responded by dismissing the entire military leadership by bringing the pro-western democracy views but neutral military leadership that would supervise the upcoming elections. This was the move that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (elected in 1997) did repeat in 1999, when Nawaz Sharif had deposed General Jehangir Karamat after developing serious disagreements on the issues of national security.

Criticism against Benazir Bhutto came from the powerful political spectrum of the¬†Punjab Province¬†and the¬†Kashmir Province¬†who opposed Benazir Bhutto, particularly the nationalisation issue that led the lost of Punjab’s privatised industries under the hands of her government. Bhutto blamed this opposition for the destabilisation of Pakistan.Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Jehangir Karamat at one point intervened in the conflict between President and the Prime Minister, and urged Benazir Bhutto to focus on¬†good governance¬†and her ambitious programme of making the country into a¬†welfare state, but the misconduct of her cabinet ministers continued and the corruption which she was unable to struck it down with a full force. Her younger brother’s death had devastating effect on Benazir’s image and her political career that shrunk her and her party’s entire credibility. At one point, Chairman of Joint Chiefs General Jehangir Karamat noted that:

In my opinion, if we have to repeat of past events then we must understand that Military leaders can pressure only up to a point. Beyond that their own position starts getting undermined because the military is after all is a mirror image of the society from which it is drawn.

‚ÄĒGeneral Jehangir Karamat commenting on Benazir’s dismissal

Soon after her government was ended, the¬†Naval intelligence¬†led the arrest of Chief of Naval Staff and acquitted him with a running¬†court-martial¬†sat up at the¬†Naval Judge Advocate General Corps¬†led by active duty 4-star admiral.¬†Many of her government members and cabinet ministers including her spouse were thrown in jails and the trials were sat up at the civilian Supreme Court. Faced with serious charges by the Nawaz Sharif’s government, Bhutto flew to Dubai with her three young children while her spouse was thrown in jail. Shortly after rising to power in a 1999 military coup, General Pervez Musharraf characterized Bhutto’s terms as an “era of sham democracy” and others characterized her terms a period of corrupt, failed governments.

Second term as leader of the opposition, 1996‚Äď99

Benazir Bhutto suffered wide range public disapproval after the intense corruption cases were made public, and it was clearly seen after Bhutto’s defeat in¬†1997 parliamentary elections. Soon, Bhutto left for Dubai taking her three children with her, while her husband was set to face trial.

Bhutto assumed the position of Leader of Opposition in parliament despite living in Dubai, working to enhance her public image while being supportive of public reforms. In 1998, soon after India’s¬†Pokhran-II¬†nuclear tests, Bhutto publicly called for Pakistan’s own tests, rallying and pressuring Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take the decision. Bhutto learnt from sources close to Sharif that the prime minister was reluctant to carry out the tests. Therefore, it was felt, her public call for the Test would increase her popularity. However, this move backfired when the Prime Minister indeed authorised and gave orders to the scientists from PAEC and¬†KRL¬†to conduct the tests. A wide range of approvals of these tests was conceived by the Prime Minister; the public image and prestige of Nawaz Sharif was at its peak point.¬†As for Bhutto, it was another political defeat and her image gradually declined in 1998.

However, 1999 would bring dramatic changes for Bhutto as well as the entire country. Bhutto criticized Sharif for violating the Armed Forces’s code of conduct when he illegally appointed General Pervez Musharraf as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan also criticised the Prime Minister.¬†In early months of 1999, Sharif remained widely popular as he tried to make¬†peace¬†with India. However, this all changed when Pakistan became involved with unpopular and¬†undeclared war¬†with India. This conflict, known as¬†Kargil war, brought international embarrassment for the country, and the prime minister’s public image and prestige was destroyed in matter of two months. Bhutto gave rogue criticism to the prime minister, and called the Kargil War, “Pakistan’s greatest blunder”.

Ali Kuli Khan, Director-General of ISI at that time, also publicly criticised the prime minister and labelled this war as “a disaster bigger than East Pakistan”.¬†Bhutto, now joined by religious and liberal forces, made a tremendous effort to destroy the prestige and credibility of her political enemy, according to historian¬†William Dalrymple.¬†In August 1999, Sharif soon faced an event that completely shattered what remained of his image and support. Two Indian Air Force¬†MiG-21¬†fighters shot down a Pakistan Navy reconnaissance plane, killing 16 naval officers. Bhutto criticised Sharif for having failed to gather any support from the navy. The Armed Forces began to criticise the prime minister for causing the military disasters. During this time, Bhutto’s approval ratings were favourable and the Armed Forces chiefs remained sympathetic towards Bhutto as she continued to criticise the now-unpopular Sharif.

Bhutto was highly confident that her party would secure an overwhelming victory in the coming Senate elections on 1999 on Sharif’s conservatives in the Senate due to widespread unpopularity of the prime minister. Controversially, when the coup d’√©tat was initiated by the Pakistan Armed Forces, Bhutto did not issue any comments or criticism, rather remaining silent in support of General Musharraf, as noted by Dalrymple.¬†Sheremained supportive towards Musharraf’s coordinated arrests of Sharif’s supporters and staff in Pakistan. Ultimately, Musharraf destroyed Sharif’s political presence in Sindh and Kashmir provinces. Many political offices of Sharif’s constituency were forcefully closed and his sympathisers were jailed. In 2002, Bhutto and the MQM made a side-line deal with Musharraf that allows both to continue underground political activities in Sindh and Kashmir, and to fill the gap after Musharraf had destroyed Sharif’s presence in the both provinces. The effects of the arrests was seen clearly in the¬†2008 parliamentary elections, when Nawaz Sharif failed to secure support back in those two provinces.

Charges of corruption

After the dismissal of Bhutto’s first government on 6 August 1990 by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on the grounds of corruption, the government of Pakistan issued directives to its intelligence agencies to investigate the allegations. After national elections held shortly after, Nawaz Sharif became the Prime Minister and intensified prosecution proceedings against Bhutto. Pakistani embassies through western Europe, in France, Switzerland, Spain, Poland and Britain were directed to investigate the matter. Bhutto and her husband faced a number of legal proceedings, including a charge of laundering money through¬†Swiss banks. Though never convicted, her husband,¬†Asif Ali Zardari, spent eight years in prison on similar corruption charges. After being released on bail in 2004, Zardari suggested that his time in prison involved torture; human rights groups have supported his claim that his rights were violated.

A 1998¬†New York Times¬†investigative report ¬†claims that Pakistani investigators have documents that uncover a network of bank accounts, all linked to the family’s lawyer in Switzerland, with Asif Zardari as the principal shareholder. According to the article, documents released by the French authorities indicated that Zardari offered exclusive rights toDassault, a French aircraft manufacturer, to replace the air force’s¬†fighter jets¬†in exchange for a 5% commission to be paid to a Swiss corporation controlled by Zardari. The article also said a Dubai company received an exclusive license to import gold into Pakistan for which Asif Zardari received payments of more than $10 million into his Dubai-basedCitibank¬†accounts. The owner of the company denied that he had made payments to Zardari and claims the documents were forged.

Bhutto maintained that the charges levelled against her and her husband were purely political.¬† ¬†An¬†Auditor General of Pakistan¬†(AGP) report supports Bhutto’s claim. It presents information suggesting that Benazir Bhutto was ousted from power in 1990 as a result of a witch hunt approved by then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The AGP report says Khan illegally paid legal advisers 28 million rupees to file 19 corruption cases against Bhutto and her husband in 1990‚Äď92.

Yet the assets held by Bhutto and her husband continue to be scrutinised and speculated about. The prosecutors have alleged that their Swiss bank accounts contain ¬£740 million. ¬†Zardari also bought a neo-Tudor¬†mansion and estate worth over ¬£4 million in¬†Surrey, England.¬† ¬†The Pakistani investigations have tied other overseas properties to Zardari’s family. These include a $2.5 million manor in¬†Normandy¬†owned by Zardari’s parents, who had modest assets at the time of his marriage. ¬†Bhutto denied holding substantive overseas assets.

Despite numerous cases and charges of corruption registered against Bhutto by Nawaz Sharif between 1996 and 1999 and¬†Pervez Musharraf¬†from 1999 until 2008, she was yet to be convicted in any case after a lapse of twelve years since their commencement. The cases were withdrawn by the government of Pakistan after the return to power of Bhutto’s PPP in 2008.

Early 2000s in exile

By the end of the 1990s, the one-time populist prime minister Nawaz Sharif had become widely unpopular, and following the military coup, Sharif’s credibility, image and career was destroyed by General Musharraf. Musharraf formed the¬†Pakistan Muslim League (Q)¬†(PMLQ) in order to politically banish the former prime minister’s party support across the country. The PMLQ had consisted of those who were initially part of Sharif’s party but then moved with Musharraf in order to avoid persecution and going to jail. 2000 brought positive changes for Bhutto who widely became unpopular in Pakistan in 1996. In the 2000s, following the declassification of secret¬†Hamoodur Rahman Commission’s papers and other secret documents of the 1970s, Bhutto’s support in Pakistan began to rally. Her image in the country widely became positive and the PPP seemed to be coming back in the government as soon the¬†2002 elections¬†were scheduled to take place. Amid fears of Bhutto coming back, a threatened Musharraf released many of the political prisoners of the liberal-secular force, the MQM. Musharraf saw MQM as the vital political weapon of holding back of PPP. But MQM had only support in Karachi at that time, and lacked its support in urban areas of Sindh, which remained a vital threat for Musharraf. Therefore, in 2002, President Musharraf amended Pakistan’s constitution to ban prime ministers from serving more than two terms. This disqualified Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif from ever holding the office again. This move was widely considered to be a direct attack on them.

While living in Dubai Bhutto cared for her three children and her mother, who was suffering from¬†Alzheimer’s disease. She also travelled to give lectures in the U.S. and kept in touch with the PPP’s supporters. She and the children were reunited with her husband in December 2004 after more than five years.¬†¬†¬† ¬†In 2006,¬†Interpol¬†issued a request for the arrest of Bhutto and her husband on corruption charges, at the request of Pakistan. The Bhuttos questioned the legality of the requests in a letter to Interpol. On 27 January 2007, she was invited by the United States to speak to President¬†George W. Bush¬†and Congressional and State Department officials. ¬†Bhutto appeared as a panellist on the¬†BBC TV¬†programme¬†Question Time¬†in the UK in March 2007. She has also appeared on BBC current affairs programme¬†Newsnight¬†on several occasions. She rebuffed comments made by¬†Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq¬†in May 2007 regarding the¬†knighthood of Salman Rushdie, citing that he was calling for the assassination of foreign citizens.¬†¬†

In mid 2007, Bhutto declared her intention to return to Pakistan by the end of the year. However Musharraf said he would not allow her to ahead of the country’s general election, due late 2007 or early 2008. Still, it was speculated that she may have been offered the office of Prime Minister again.¬† ¬†At the same time, the US appeared to be pushing for a deal in which Musharraf remained president, but stepped down as military head, and either Bhutto or one of her nominees became prime minister.

On 11 July 2007, the Associated Press, in an article about the possible aftermath of the Red Mosque incident, wrote:

Bhutto, the former prime minister and opposition leader expected by many to return from exile and join Musharraf in a power-sharing deal after year-end general elections, praised him for taking a tough line on the Red Mosque. “I’m glad there was no cease-fire with the militants in the mosque because cease-fires simply embolden the militants,” she told Britain’s Sky TV on Tuesday. “There will be a backlash, but at some time we have to stop appeasing the militants.”

This remark about the Red Mosque was seen with dismay in Pakistan as reportedly hundreds of young students were burned to death and remains are untraceable and cases are being heard in Pakistani supreme court as a missing persons issue. This and subsequent support for Musharraf led Elder Bhutto’s comrades like Khar to criticise her publicly. Bhutto however advised Musharraf in an early phase of the latter’s quarrel with the Chief Justice, to restore him. Her PPP did not capitalise on its influential¬†CEC¬†statesman,¬†Aitzaz Ahsan, the chief Barrister for the Chief Justice, in successful restoration. Rather, he was seen as a rival of Bhutto, and was isolated on that issue with PPP.

2002 election

The Bhutto-led PPP secured the highest number of votes (28.42%) and won eighty seats (23.16%) in the national assembly during the¬†October 2002 general elections. Pakistan Muslim League (N)¬†(PML-N) managed to win only eighteen seats. Some of the elected candidates of PPP formed a faction of their own, calling it PPP-Patriots, which was being led by¬†Faisal Saleh Hayat, the former leader of Bhutto-led PPP. They later formed a coalition government with Musharraf’s party,¬†PML-Q.

Return to Pakistan

Possible deal with the Musharraf government

In mid-2002 Musharraf implemented a two-term limit on prime ministers. Both Bhutto and Musharraf’s other chief rival, Nawaz Sharif, had already served two terms as prime minister.

In July 2007, some of Bhutto’s frozen funds were released. ¬†Bhutto continued to face significant charges of corruption. In an 8 August 2007 interview with the¬†Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Bhutto revealed the meeting focused on her desire to return to Pakistan for the 2008 elections, and of Musharraf retaining the Presidency with Bhutto as Prime Minister. On 29 August 2007, Bhutto announced that Musharraf would step down as chief of the army.¬† ¬†On 1 September 2007, Bhutto vowed to return to Pakistan “very soon”, regardless of whether or not she reached a power-sharing deal with Musharraf before then.

On 17 September 2007, Bhutto accused Musharraf’s allies of pushing Pakistan into crisis by their refusal to permit democratic reforms and power-sharing. A nine-member panel of Supreme Court¬†judges deliberated on six petitions (including one from¬†Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s largest¬†Islamic¬†group) asserting that Musharraf be disqualified from contending for the presidency of Pakistan. Bhutto stated that her party could join one of the opposition groups, potentially that of Nawaz Sharif. Attorney-general Malik Mohammed Qayyum stated that,¬†pendente lite, the¬†Election Commission¬†was “reluctant” to announce the schedule for the presidential vote. Bhutto’s party’s¬†Farhatullah Babar¬†stated that the Constitution of Pakistan¬†could bar Musharraf from being elected again because he was already chief of the army: “As Gen. Musharraf was disqualified from contesting for President, he has prevailed upon the Election Commission to arbitrarily and illegally tamper with the Constitution of Pakistan.”

Musharraf prepared to switch to a strictly civilian role by resigning from his position as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He still faced other legal obstacles to running for re-election. On 2 October 2007, Gen. Musharraf named Lt. Gen.¬†Ashfaq Kayani, as vice chief of the army starting 8 October with the intent that if Musharraf won the presidency and resigned his military post, Kayani would become chief of the army. Meanwhile, Minister¬†Sheikh Rashid Ahmed¬†stated that officials agreed to grant Benazir Bhutto¬†amnesty versus pending corruption charges. She has emphasised the smooth transition and return to civilian rule and has asked Pervez Musharraf to shed uniform. ¬†On 5 October 2007, Musharraf signed the National Reconciliation Ordinance, giving amnesty to Bhutto and other political leaders‚ÄĒexcept exiled former premier Nawaz Sharif‚ÄĒin all court cases against them, including all corruption charges. The Ordinance came a day before Musharraf faced the crucial presidential poll. Both Bhutto’s opposition party, the PPP, and the ruling PMLQ, were involved in negotiations beforehand about the deal. ¬†In return, Bhutto and the PPP agreed not to boycott the Presidential election. ¬†On 6 October 2007, Musharraf won a parliamentary election for President. However, the Supreme Court ruled that no winner can be officially proclaimed until it finishes deciding on whether it was legal for Musharraf to run for President while remaining Army General. Bhutto’s PPP party did not join the other opposition parties’ boycott of the election, but did abstain from voting. ¬†Later, Bhutto demanded security coverage on-par with the President’s. Bhutto also contracted foreign security firms for her protection.

Return to Pakistan and the assassination attempt

While under house arrest, Benazir Bhutto speaks to supporters outside her house.

Bhutto was well aware of the risk to her own life that might result from her return from exile to campaign for the leadership position. In an interview on 28 September 2007, with reporter Wolf Blitzer of CNN, she readily admitted the possibility of attack on herself.

After eight years in exile in Dubai and London, Bhutto returned to Karachi on 18 October 2007, to prepare for the 2008 national elections.   

En route to a rally in Karachi on 18 October 2007, two explosions occurred shortly after Bhutto had landed and left Jinnah International Airport. She was not injured but the explosions, later found to be a suicide-bomb attack, killed 136 people and injured at least 450. The dead included at least 50 of the security guards from her PPP who had formed a human chain around her truck to keep potential bombers away, as well as six police officers. A number of senior officials were injured. Bhutto, after nearly ten hours of the parade through Karachi, ducked back down into the steel command center to remove her sandals from her swollen feet, moments before the bomb went off.She was escorted unharmed from the scene.

Bhutto later claimed that she had warned the Pakistani government that suicide bomb squads would target her upon her return to Pakistan and that the government had failed to act. She was careful not to blame¬†Pervez Musharraf¬†for the attacks, accusing instead “certain individuals within the government who abuse their positions, who abuse their powers” to advance the cause of¬†Islamic militants. Shortly after the attempt on her life, Bhutto wrote a letter to Musharraf naming four persons whom she suspected of carrying out the attack. Those named included ¬†Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, a rival PML-Q politician and chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province,¬†Hamid Gul, former director of theInter-Services Intelligence, and¬†Ijaz Shah, the director general of the Intelligence Bureau, another of the country’s intelligence agencies. All those named are close associates of General Musharraf. Bhutto had a long history of accusing parts of the government, particularly Pakistan’s premier military intelligence agencies, of working against her and her party because they oppose her liberal, secular agenda. Bhutto claimed that the ISI has for decades backed militant Islamic groups in¬†Kashmir¬†and in¬†Afghanistan. ¬†She was protected by her vehicle and a “human cordon” of supporters who had anticipated suicide attacks and formed a chain around her to prevent potential bombers from getting near her. The total number of injured, according to PPP sources, stood at 1000, with at least 160 dead (The New York Times¬†claims 134 dead and about 450 injured).

A few days later, Bhutto’s lawyer Senator¬†Farooq H. Naik¬†said he received a letter threatening to kill his client.

2007 state of emergency and response

On 3 November 2007, President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency, citing actions by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and religious extremism in the nation. Bhutto returned to the country, interrupting a visit to family in Dubai. She was greeted by supporters chanting slogans at the airport. After staying in her plane for several hours she was driven to her home in Lahore, accompanied by hundreds of supporters. While acknowledging that Pakistan faced a political crisis, she noted that Musharraf’s declaration of emergency, unless lifted, would make it very difficult to have fair elections. She commented that “The extremists need a dictatorship, and dictatorship needs extremists.”¬†¬†

On 8 November 2007, Bhutto was placed under house arrest just a few hours before she was due to lead and address a rally against the state of emergency.

The following day, the Pakistani government announced that Bhutto’s arrest warrant had been withdrawn and that she was free to travel and to appear at public rallies. However, leaders of other opposition political parties remained prohibited from speaking in public.

Preparation for 2008 elections

On 2 November 2007, Bhutto participated in an interview with¬†David Frost¬†on¬†Al Jazeera, stating¬†Osama Bin Laden¬†had been murdered by¬†Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who is one of the men convicted of kidnapping and killing U.S. journalist¬†Daniel Pearl. Frost never asked a follow up question regarding the claim that Bin Laden was dead. ¬†Her interview could later be viewed on¬†BBC’s website, although it was initially altered by the BBC as her apparent claim about Bin Laden’s death was taken out. But, once people discovered this and started posting about her statement on YouTube, the BBC replaced its version with the version that was originally aired on Al Jazeera. ¬†Several commentators have noted that as she had just been speaking about one of the sons of bin Laden, in all likelihood, Bhutto simply misspoke and instead intended to say, “Omar Sheikh, the man who murdered¬†Daniel Pearl,” rather than “…the man who murdered bin Laden” ‚Äď such an important revelation about bin Laden’s fate would certainly not have been stated so casually. Additionally, in subsequent interviews, Bhutto spoke about bin Laden in the context of him being alive.

On 24 November 2007, Bhutto filed her nomination papers for January’s Parliamentary elections; two days later, she filed papers in the Larkana constituency for two regular seats. She did so as former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, following seven years of exile in¬†Saudi Arabia, made his much-contested return to Pakistan and bid for candidacy.

When sworn in again on 30 November 2007, this time as a civilian president after relinquishing his post as military chief, Musharraf announced his plan to lift the Pakistan’s state of emergency rule on 16 December. Bhutto welcomed the announcement and launched a manifesto outlining her party’s domestic issues. Bhutto told journalists in Islamabad that her party, the PPP, would focus on “the five E’s”: employment, education, energy, environment, equality.¬†

On 4 December 2007, Bhutto met with Nawaz Sharif to publicise their demand that Musharraf fulfill his promise to lift the state of emergency before January’s parliamentary elections, threatening to boycott the vote if he failed to comply. They promised to assemble a committee that would present to Musharraf the list of demands upon which their participation in the election was contingent.¬†

On 8 December 2007, three unidentified gunmen stormed Bhutto’s PPP office in the southern western province of¬†Balochistan. Three of Bhutto’s supporters were killed.


Mausoleum of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto and other Bhutto family members in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, Sindh, Pakistan

Memorial at the site of the assassination

On 27 December 2007, Benazir Bhutto was killed while leaving a campaign rally for the PPP at Liaquat National Bagh in the run-up to the January 2008 parliamentary elections. After entering her bulletproof vehicle, Bhutto stood up through its sunroof to wave to the crowds. At this point, a gunman fired shots at her, and subsequently explosives were detonated near the vehicle killing approximately 20 people. Bhutto was critically wounded and was rushed to Rawalpindi General Hospital. She was taken into surgery at 17:35 local time, and pronounced dead at 18:16.    The cause of death, whether it was gunshot wounds, the explosion, or a combination thereof, was not fully determined until February 2008. Eventually, Scotland Yard investigators concluded that it was due to blunt force trauma to the head as she was tossed by the explosion. She was buried alongside her father in Naudero near Larkana.

The events leading up to Benazir Bhutto’s death correlated with the protest in 1992. In the month of December, Bhutto met with Nawaz Sharif and expressed frustration with their government. In response, a rally was conducted in Rawalpindi, the same place as 1992. Alternatively, these events resulted in her death in 2007.

Al-Qaeda¬†commander¬†Mustafa Abu al-Yazid¬†claimed responsibility for the attack,¬†and the Pakistani government stated that it had proof that¬†Baitullah Mehsud, affiliated with¬†Lashkar i Jhangvi‚ÄĒan al-Qaeda-linked militant group‚ÄĒwas the mastermind.¬†However this was vigorously disputed by the Bhutto family, the PPP that Bhutto had headed, and by Mehsud.¬†On 12 February 2011, an Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi issued an arrest warrant for Musharraf, claiming he was aware of an impending assassination attempt by the Taliban, but did not pass the information on to those responsible for protecting Bhutto.

After the assassination, there were initially a number of riots resulting in approximately 20 deaths, of which three were of police officers.  President Musharraf decreed a three-day period of mourning.

Bhutto’s 19-year-old son¬†Bilawal Bhutto Zardari¬†succeeded his mother as titular head of the PPP, with his father effectively running the party until his son completes his studies at¬†Christ Church, Oxford.

On Friday 26 April 2013 a court ordered house arrest for Musharraf in connection with the death of Benazir Bhutto

On the morning of 3 May 2013, Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali, special prosecutor in charge of the investigation of Mrs Bhutto’s murder was killed in Islamabad when attackers on a motorcycle sprayed his car with bullets as he drove to the courthouse.


Atomic proliferation with North Korea

The defence cooperation between North Korea and Pakistan started sometime in 1994 and the country led by Benazir Bhutto and her personal role had much more deeper and controversial role in North Korea’s nuclear programme. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had lasting friendship with¬†Kim Il-sung‚ÄĒ founder of the¬†North Korean¬†communist state. In a¬†state visit paid by Benazir Bhutto in 1994, Benazir Bhutto closed the deal with the transfer of North Korean missile technology in return of nuclear technology, an allegation Benazir Bhutto had strongly dismissed. According to Zahid Hussain, author of “Frontline Pakistan“, there was a huge respect for Benazir Bhutto in the North Korean military, and they persuaded Bhutto to go and meet with¬†Kim Jong-il.

Shyam Bhatia, an Indian journalist, alleged in his book¬†Goodbye Shahzadi¬†that in 1993, Bhutto had downloaded secret information on uranium enrichment, through Pakistan’s former top scientist Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, to give to North Korea in exchange for information on developing¬†ballistic missiles¬†(Rodong-1) and that Benazir Bhutto had asked him to not tell the story during her lifetime.¬†David Albright¬†of the Institute of Science and International Security said the allegations “made sense” given the timeline of North Korea’s nuclear program. George Perkovich of the¬†Carnegie Endowment for International Peace¬†called Bhatia a “smart and serious guy.” Selig Harrison of the¬†Center for International Policy¬†called Bhatia “credible on Bhutto.” The officials at the¬†Pakistan Embassy¬†in Washington, D.C. sharply denied the claims and the senior¬†U.S. State Department¬†officials dismissed them, insisting that, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, who had been earlier accused of proliferating secrets to North Korea (only to deny them later, prior to Bhatia’s book), was the source. ¬†In spite of Pakistan Government’s denial. In 2012, senior scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, summed up to¬†The News International¬†that “the transfer of¬†atomic technology¬†was not so easy that one could put it into his pocket and hand it over to another country.” Abdul Qadeer Khan also asserted that: “The-then prime minister (Mohtarma) Benazir Bhutto summoned me and named the¬†two countries¬†which were to be assisted and issued clear directions in this regard.”

The members of PPP and the government itself strongly dismissed all the “allegations” made by Qadeer Khan regarding Benazir Bhutto’s role in¬†atomic proliferation. The¬†Foreign Office¬†categorically rejected Qadeer Khan’s claim, and maintained to the fact that “the proliferation activity was an individual act, and did not carry authorization of any¬†Pakistan Government, at any stage.”¬†The spokesperson of peoples party,¬†Farhatullah Babar, also rebutted the claims as “a desperate attempt to wash his own guilt.”

Position on 1998 tests

In May 1998, India detonated its five nuclear devices in the¬†Pokhran¬†test range, and established itself as the world’s sixth nuclear power.¬†The Bhutto-headed Central Executive Committee of the PPP publicly called for Pakistan’s nuclear tests in response.¬†It was later confirmed that Bhutto and the PPP had political gains for the calls of conducting atomic tests to increase their popularity numbers on the country’s political scoring board, which had been shattered in the 1996 scandals. However, Bhutto’s calls for the tests gained momentum on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to order and authorise the nuclear testing programme, which bloomed the Prime minister’s reputation at a record level, despite Bhutto being first to publicly call for them.

In¬†recent declassified and undated papers¬†released by¬†Wikileaks¬†in 2011, Bhutto falsely assured the American diplomats that she was against conducting nuclear tests, as the similar assurances given by Nawaz Sharif to American diplomats. But it later turns out that Bhutto did not keep to that commitment and made another public calls for Pakistan to conduct tests in reply to Indian nuclear tests (see¬†Pokhran-II). Bhutto justified that the “eat grass” statements ‚Äď frequently used by her father Zulfikar Bhutto and rival Nawaz Sharif ‚Äď have been used to assure people of Pakistan that austerity measures would be adopted but national security would not be compromised. In an undated leaks, Bhutto was sought by the American diplomats multiple times to soften her stance and support for nuclear tests, and cautioned Bhutto that her reaction to India’s tests had been criticized in the West media. At that meeting, Bhutto and her party’s elite officials notified the senior U.S. diplomats that “PPP publicly state that the issue of tests was too important to be used as a “political football”. While talking to an unnamed American diplomat, Bhutto said that: “The time for the test had passed and it would have a disastrous impact on Pakistan’s national economy and an international reputation. She maintained and famously quoted: “I cannot say these things publicly, but neither will I call for a (nuclear) detonation”.

After observing the successful detonation and her rival’s public speech, Bhutto calculated her rival’s popularity in Pakistan after the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had authorized the tests. Bhutto asserted that these tests “had erased the existed doubts and fear from the minds of people of Pakistan who questioned Pakistan’s deterrence capability after¬†1971 collapse”.


Commenting on her legacy, William Dalrymple writes that “it’s wrong for the West simply to mourn Benazir Bhutto as a martyred democrat since her legacy was far murkier and more complex”.¬†Despite her western and positive image in the world, Bhutto’s controversial policies and support have made her legacy much more complicated.¬†Benazir Bhutto failed to revert the controversial Hudood Ordinance‚ÄĒa controversial presidential ordinance enforced which is criticised for to subordinate and suppressing woman’s rights.¬†In 2009, the¬†CBS News, described her legacy as “mixed”, and commented that: “it’s only in death that she will become an icon‚ÄĒin some ways people will look at her accomplishments through rose-tinted glasses rather than remembering the corruption charges, her lack of achievements or how much she was manipulated by other people.” In spite of criticism, Benazir Bhutto, the Iron Lady, remains respected among her rivals, and is often remembered with good wishes. Her rivals always referred to her as “BB” and have never called her by her actual name in accordance to her respect. Benazir Bhutto is often seen as a symbol of women’s empowerment and today parties from across Pakistan’s political spectrum allow women to be part of their organisation and to fully participate in elections.

Her efforts and struggle to save her father and democracy remain a lasting legacy that is deeply respected among her rivals. The Pakistan government honored Bhutto on her birthday by renaming Islamabad’s airport as¬†Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Muree Road of Rawalpindi as Benazir Bhutto Road and Rawalpindi General Hospital as Benazir Bhutto Hospital. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, a member of Bhutto’s PPP, also asked President Pervez Musharraf to pardon convicts on death row on her birthday in honour of Bhutto.¬†The city of¬†Nawabshah¬†in Sindh was renamed¬†Benazirabad¬†in her honour. A university in the Dir Upper district of NWFP was founded in her name.Benazir Income Support Program¬†(BISP), a program which provides benefits to the poorest Pakistanis, is named after Bhutto.

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