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Timeline: The Turbulent Life of Benazir
Benazir Bhutto, who became the first woman to serve as prime minister of a Muslim country, was assassinated Thursday when an attacker opened fire and then blew himself up after a political rally in Pakistan. Here, a look at key moments in her often stormy life in politics:
June 21, 1953: Benazir Bhutto is born into a wealthy family in southern Pakistan.
1973: Bhutto's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a former Pakistani president, begins serving as prime minister. Benazir Bhutto graduates from Harvard's Radcliffe College.
1976: Bhutto graduates from Oxford University.
April 4, 1979: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is executed for the murder of a political opponent, two years after his ouster as prime minister in a military coup.
April 10, 1986: Benazir Bhutto returns from exile in London to lead the Pakistan Peoples Party, founded by her father.
December 1988: Bhutto, age 35, becomes the first female prime minister of a Muslim nation after winning parliamentary elections.
Aug. 6, 1990: President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismisses Bhutto's government, citing corruption and a failure to control ethnic violence.
Oct. 19, 1993: Bhutto takes oath for a second term as prime minister.
1996: Bhutto's brother Murtaza dies in a gun battle with police in Karachi. Her brother Shahnawaz had died under mysterious circumstances in France a decade earlier.
Nov. 5, 1996: President Farooq Leghari dismisses Bhutto's second administration amid accusations of nepotism and undermining the justice system.
April 14, 1999: A court finds Bhutto guilty of corruption while she is out of the country. The conviction is later quashed, but Bhutto remains in exile.
Oct. 12, 1999: Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the head of the armed forces, seizes power from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup.
Oct. 5, 2007: Musharraf signs an amnesty covering cases against Bhutto, opening the way for her return and a possible power-sharing agreement.
Oct. 18, 2007: Bhutto returns to Pakistan after more than eight years of exile. She narrowly escapes a suicide bombing that kills nearly 140 people during a homecoming procession in Karachi.
Nov. 9, 2007: Police throw barbed wire around Bhutto's house to keep her from speaking at a rally to protest Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule.
Nov. 13, 2007: Authorities put Bhutto under house arrest again. She urges Musharraf to resign.
Dec. 1, 2007: Bhutto launches her election campaign.
Dec. 27, 2007: Minutes after Bhutto addresses thousands of supporters in Rawalpindi, she and at least 20 others are killed when a gunman opens fire and a suicide bomb explodes.
10 Things You Didn't Know About Benazir Bhutto
Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi, the city in which her father was hanged in 1979.
1. Benazir Bhutto was born June 21, 1953, in Karachi, Pakistan. Her name means "one without equal."
2. Bhutto was known to her friends as Pinkie, a childhood nickname given to her by her family because she was an unusually pink baby.
3. She attended Catholic schools in Pakistan. She entered Harvard University's Radcliffe College at age 16 and earned a cum laude degree in comparative government in 1973. She went on to Oxford University where she was the first Asian woman to be elected president of the Oxford Union, an elite debating society. Following her 1977 graduation from Oxford, Bhutto returned to Pakistan hoping to enter the foreign service in the government headed by her father, who was prime minister.
5. Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was the founder of the Pakistan People's Party. He served as president and then prime minister of Pakistan from 1971 to 1977. He was deposed in a 1977 coup by Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and executed in 1979.
6. In 1986, when Bhutto returned to Pakistan from exile in Britain, she was greeted by such large crowds that it took her motorcade 9 ½ hours to travel the 8 miles from the airport to a rally site in Lahore.
7. Bhutto was married on Dec. 18, 1987, to Asif Ali Ardari, a wealthy businessman who would later be jailed on corruption charges. The marriage was arranged by her mother; Bhutto did not meet her future husband until five days before their engagement. She opted to keep her name, saying, "Benazir Bhutto doesn't cease to exist the moment she gets married. I am not giving myself away. I belong to myself and I always shall."
8. In 1988, Bhutto was the first woman ever elected to govern a Muslim country. In the weeks prior to her election, Islamic scholar Mohammed Amin Minhas quoted the prophet Mohammed, saying "a nation that elects to be governed by a woman will not prosper," according to the Los Angeles Times. However, after she took her oath of office, Minhas reconsidered. "Allah has given us this woman as our leader, and Miss Benazir has acknowledged that this new power she possesses is, indeed, Allah's gift," he said.
9. Bhutto once mentioned that former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Britain's "Iron Lady," was her role model but noted: "As a Muslim woman, I have great respect for Khadija, wife of the prophet of Islam, because she was a working woman."
10. Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi, the city in which her father was hanged in 1979.
U.S.News & World Report
The New York Times
The Los Angeles Times
Marquis Who's Who
The New York Times: I
Charismatic, striking and a canny political operator, Benazir Bhutto, 54, was reared amid the privileges of Pakistan’s aristocracy and the ordeals of its turbulent politics. Smart, ambitious and resilient, she endured her father’s execution and her own imprisonment at the hands of a military dictator to become the country’s — and the Muslim world’s — first female leader.
A deeply polarizing figure, Ms. Bhutto, the “daughter of Pakistan,” was twice elected prime minister and twice expelled from office in a swirl of corruption charges that propelled her into self-imposed exile in London for much of the past decade. She returned home this fall, billing herself as a bulwark against Islamic extremism and a tribune of democracy.
She was killed on Thursday in a combined shooting and bombing attack at a rally in Rawalpindi, one of a series of open events she attended in spite of a failed assassination attempt against her the day she returned to Pakistan in October.
A woman of grand aspirations with a taste for complex political maneuvering, Ms. Bhutto was first elected prime minister in 1988 at the age of 35. The daughter of one of Pakistan’s most charismatic and democratically inclined prime ministers, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, she inherited the mantle of the populist Peoples Party that he founded, and which she came to personify.
Despite numerous accusations of corruption and an evident predilection for luxury, Ms. Bhutto, the pale-skinned scion of a wealthy landowning family, successfully cast herself as a savior of Pakistan’s millions of poor and disenfranchised. She inspired devotion among her followers, even in exile, and the image of her floating through a frenzied crowd in her gauzy white head scarf became iconic.
In October, she staged a high-profile return to her home city of Karachi, drawing hundreds of thousands of supporters to an 11-hour rally and leading a series of political demonstrations in opposition to the country’s military leader, President Pervez Musharraf.
But in a foreshadowing of the attack that killed her, the triumphal return parade was bombed, killing at least 134 of her supporters and wounding more than 400. Ms. Bhutto herself narrowly escaped harm and shouted at later rallies, “Bhutto is alive!”
Despite her courageous, or rash, defiance of danger, her political plans were sidetracked from the moment she set foot in Pakistan: She had been negotiating for months with Mr. Musharraf over a power-sharing arrangement, only to see the general declare emergency rule instead.
The political dance she has deftly performed since her return — one moment standing up to President Musharraf, the next seeming to accommodate him — stirred hope and distrust among Pakistanis. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford, she brought the backing of the governments in Washington and London, where she impressed with her political lineage and considerable charm and was viewed as a palatable alternative to the increasingly unpopular Mr. Musharraf.
But her record in power left ample room for skepticism. During her two stints in that job — first from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996 — she developed a reputation for acting imperiously and impulsively. She faced deep questions about her personal probity in office, which led to corruption cases against her in Switzerland, Spain and Britain, as well as in Pakistan. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, was jailed for eight years in Pakistan on corruption charges before his release on bail in 2004.
During her years in office, as during those of her rival, the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan ran up enormous and unserviceable foreign debts and billions of dollars in foreign aid went unaccounted for. Ms. Bhutto, though progressive in her approach to Islam, was not above bending to the will of religious conservatives for when politically expedient.
Ms. Bhutto grew up in the most rarefied atmosphere the poor, turbulent country had to offer. One longtime friend and adviser, Peter W. Galbraith, a former American ambassador to Croatia, recalled meeting Ms. Bhutto 1962 when they were children: he the son of John Kenneth Galbraith, the economist and American ambassador to India; she the daughter of the future Pakistani prime minister. Mr. Galbraith’s father was accompanying Jacqueline Kennedy to a horse show in Lahore.
The two met again at Harvard, where Mr. Galbraith remembered Ms. Bhutto arriving as a prim, cake-baking 16-year-old fresh from a Karachi convent.
Ms. Bhutto often spoke of how her father encouraged her to study the lives of legendary female leaders, including Indira Gandhi and Joan of Arc, and as a young woman, she observed his political maneuvering up close.
After her father’s death — he was hanged by another general who seized power, Zia ul-Haq — Ms. Bhutto stepped into the spotlight as his successor. She called herself chairperson for life of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, a seemingly odd title in an organization based on democratic ideals and one she has acknowledged quarreling over with her mother, Nusrat Bhutto, in the early 1990s.
Until her death, Ms. Bhutto ruled the party with an iron hand, jealously guarding her position, even while leading the party in absentia for nearly a decade.
Members of her party saluted her return to Pakistan, saying she was the best choice against President Musharraf. Chief among her attributes, they said, was her sheer determination.
But her egotism and her proclivity for back-room deals provoked distrust among detractors and some supporters.
“She believes she is the chosen one, that she is the daughter of Bhutto and everything else is secondary,” said Feisal Naqvi, a corporate lawyer in Lahore who knew Ms. Bhutto.
Ms. Bhutto’s marriage to Mr. Zardari was arranged by her mother, a fact that Ms. Bhutto has often said was easily explained, even for a modern, highly educated Pakistani woman. To be acceptable to the Pakistani public as a politician she could not be a single woman, and what was the difference, she would ask, between such a marriage and computer dating?
Mr. Zardari, 51, is known for his love of polo and other perquisites of the good life like fine clothes, expensive restaurants, homes in Dubai and London, and an apartment in New York. He was minister of investment in Ms. Bhutto’s second government. And it was from that perch that he made many of the deals that haunted Ms. Bhutto, and him, in the courts.
There were accusations that the couple had illegally taken $1.5 billion from the state. It is a figure Ms. Bhutto vigorously contested.
Indeed, one of Ms. Bhutto’s main objectives in seeking to return to power was to restore the reputation of her husband, especially after his prison term, said Abdullah Riar, a former senator in the Pakistani Parliament and a former colleague of Ms. Bhutto’s.
“She told me, ‘Time will prove he is the Nelson Mandela of Pakistan,’” Mr. Riar said.
The New York Times: II
Her rosy complexion as a toddler gave her the nickname Pinky. That’s what she was called in convent schools and later in the halls of Oxford and Harvard, where as a student she was a campus tour guide, listened to Carly Simon and looked like Joan Baez.
After graduating from Harvard, the lyrics from Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of the 1960s song — “I’m leavin’ on a jet plane/Don’t know when I’ll be back again” — were stuck in her head as she boarded a plane for home. She returned to the United States 16 years later, in 1989, not as Pinky but as Benazir Bhutto, the new prime minister of Pakistan — the first woman elected to lead an Islamic country.
Her time in office would be as tumultuous as her childhood had been idyllic, ending in her assassination by the Pakistani Taliban on Dec. 27, 2007, just days before general elections, which her populist party was expected to win.
“I didn’t choose this life,” Bhutto said. “It chose me.”
Ms. Bhutto was born on this day in 1953 to a wealthy family whose lands were once so extensive it took days to appraise them. In a country where families dominated business and politics in an almost feudal manner, the Bhuttos seemed destined to rule. As Ms. Bhutto grew up, her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, rose in power, from a post in Pakistan’s United Nations delegation to prime minister. He imparted lessons to her along the way.
But her political education went into overdrive when a top army general, Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, overthrew her father and imprisoned him. She was 24. Ms. Bhutto visited him often, absorbing one-on-one political seminars in the grimmest of settings. Her father encouraged her to study other female leaders, including Indira Gandhi and Joan of Arc.
Mr. Bhutto was hanged in 1979, charged with orchestrating the murder of a political rival. Ms. Bhutto was forbidden to attend his funeral.
She and her mother were soon given leadership of her father’s People’s Party. But as the opposition to a military regime, Ms. Bhutto spent half her time in prison or under house arrest, sometimes in solitary confinement.
When the ruling general’s plane mysteriously fell from the sky in 1988, much of the nation rejoiced, and elections were set. Ms. Bhutto seized her moment, campaigned as the “daughter of Pakistan” and, at 35, reclaimed the office of prime minister for her family.
She was elected twice, serving from December 1988 to August 1990 and again from October 1993 to November 1996.
“Charismatic, striking and a canny political operator,” The Times said in an appraisal after her death. “She ruled the party with an iron hand, jealously guarding her position, even while leading the party in absentia for nearly a decade.”
Ms. Bhutto could be imperial in bearing, charming and also ruthless. At one point she ousted her mother from the party’s leadership, provoking the elder Ms. Bhutto to remark, “She talks a lot about democracy, but she’s become a little dictator.”
After accusing her government of corruption, her younger brother Murtaza, a member of the provincial legislature, was gunned down outside his home in a police ambush. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, whom she had named minister of investment, was indicted in the murder but exonerated. Witnesses were either arrested, intimidated or killed.
Each of her terms as prime minister ended when she was dismissed by the president on graft charges. When she and her husband left office in 1996, they were worth hundreds of millions of dollars, though the source of their wealth was unclear. Pakistan was named one of the world’s three most corrupt countries.
“In her mind, she was Pakistan, so she could do as she pleased,” her former adviser, Husain Haqqani, said.
Ms. Bhutto spent most of the last nine years of her life in self-imposed exile, much of it in a palatial estate in Dubai. After receiving amnesty on the pending charges, she returned in late 2007 to seek a third term.
A close ally of the Afghan Taliban — which her government supported in its infancy in 1996 — killed her at a rally outside the capital. It happened in a park where Pakistan’s first prime minister was also assassinated, in 1951.
Pakistan still waits today for a real democracy to emerge, and an elected leader from outside the few feudal families that have ruled the country, alternating with the military, since its birth.
Benazir Bhutto excelled at asserting her right to rule. In a male-dominated, Islamic society, she rose to become her slain father's political successor, twice getting elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan. She would also be exiled twice. In the end, Bhutto was better at rallying people to the idea of her power than at keeping them inspired by her use of it.
She was a child of privilege, and took the mantle of power from her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the fiery and magnetic founder of the Pakistan People's Party, who himself would become a martyr for democracy when he was executed in 1979 by the military dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq. She inherited her bearing and physical presence from her mother Nusrat Ispahan, from a distinguished Kurdish family from Iran. Educated at Radcliffe and Harvard, she would also study law at Oxford. Her family and close Western friends knew her as "Pinky."
As a Muslim woman leader, Bhutto was almost an iconic figure in the West. But her actual career in office was one of great populist spectacles and little governmental achievement. It was a personna she parlayed. "I am not one of those leaders who sell lies and buy time," she told TIME in the mid-1990s. "No leader, no dictator could do what I have done."
However, in the final analysis, her career was an almost tawdry cycle of exile, house arrest, ascent into power and dismissal, much sound and fury and signifying little. Jailed and then exiled after her father's fall, Bhutto returned to campaign for office in 1986 after Zia's military government gave in to international pressure to slowly restore democracy. (Despite his dictatorship, Zia was a key ally of the West, supporting the Mujaheddin against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.) In a scene reminiscent of her second coming in October 2007, she was greeted in April 1986 by hundreds of thousands of frenzied supporters, who enveloped her motorcade and staged a daylong demonstration that was the largest display in memory of discontent with Zia's government. "Zia is a dog," chanted the demonstrators again and again. "We love Benazir."
Zia's death in a plane crash in August 1988 helped to further loosen the military strictures around the country, and Bhutto became Prime Minister by December of that year. As a ruler, Bhutto got few favorable reviews in Pakistan. Her government passed no legislation except a budget during its first 14 months in power. Much of its energy was squandered feuding with the opposition. Among the first acts of Bhutto's party after coming to power was a campaign to bribe and threaten legislators in Punjab. The goal: to overthrow Bhutto's nemesis, Mian Nawaz Sharif, Punjab's chief minister, a wealthy industrialist and a close associate of Zia's. Worse yet, her Cabinet stank with corruption scandals, including allegations against her husband Asif Ali Zardari and her father-in-law Hakim Ali Zardari, who was chairman of the parliamentary public-accounts committee. With so much fractiousness and scandal, Bhutto's first government lasted only until August 1990, dismissed by the country's President for "horse-trading for personal gain." Soon after, in November 1990, Nawaz Sharif, campaigning on an anti-corruption platform, became Prime Minister.
Bhutto returned to power in 1993, after Sharif was felled by his own corruption scandal. "This is my victory. It is a clear and decisive victory," she declared after a bitter name-calling campaign between herself and Sharif. But despite her claims, she did not have a working majority in parliament and had to wobble through her next few years in office as head of a fractious coalition, beholden to contentious blocs of power. At the same time, Pakistan owed huge amounts to the International Monetary Fund as part of servicing its enormous $28.6 billion in foreign debts. Bhutto had raised taxes, which raised the level of discontent in the country. But even so, her government did not collect enough revenue. In an effort to appease the IMF, Bhutto gave up the finance portfolio she had held since retaking the government. "The debt servicing is breaking our backs — debt that I didn't incur," she told TIME. "But as Prime Minister, I have to pay it back." Rumors soon spread that her government would be dismissed. "Rubbish," she said. But that is exactly what happened. Soon, Nawaz Sharif was Prime Minister again.
Sharif himself would be overthrown in a coup by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999. Musharraf would become an indispensable ally of the U.S. after Sept. 11, 2001, when he became the guarantor of the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan against the tide of Islamic radicalism.
And that is where Bhutto's final chapter picks up — as the popularity of the Musharraf regime collapses and the world looks warily at the future of Pakistan and the threat of radicalism. In exile once again and with corruption charges against her, Bhutto struck a deal with Musharraf, who was under pressure to restore democracy. Washington smiled on it and Bhutto, now anointed as the West's favorite to restore democratic credibility to a moderate Pakistani government, returned to retake what she always believed was hers. Thousands showed up to welcome her and more than 100 died when that welcome-back parade was attacked by still unknown bombers. The last quarter of 2007 was filled with political maneuverings between herself, Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif, who had also returned from exile. After one more stint under house arrest while Musharraf imposed a brief emergency rule, she seemed set for another triumph at the polls. But in the end, the violent cycle of Pakistani politics claimed another victim. And once and for all, Benazir Bhutto will rally people to her cause without being able to deliver on its promise.
Voice of America
In 1988 Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as prime minister of Pakistan, not only becoming the first woman to head a Muslim country, but at the age of 35, its youngest.
Her charismatic father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, served as both Pakistan's president and prime minister, and founded the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Born into a wealthy and educated family, Benazir was groomed by her father to be his political successor.
A populist who was recognized internationally as an skilled diplomat and impressive leader, he ultimately was deposed in 1977 by his army chief General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq. Ali Bhutto was tried and convicted of authorizing the murder of a political opponent in 1979. He was executed by hanging later that year.
Zia, an conservative Islamist, ruled Pakistan with an iron fist. Benazir Bhutto and her siblings spoke out often against the military government, becoming the de facto political opposition. Wary of her influence, Zia jailed Bhutto for several years. After her release, she lived in London in exile. By the time she returned to Pakistan in 1986, Benazir had become a beloved opposition politician, and frustration with Zia's dictatorship offered Bhutto the chance to politically challenge the military government.
By then, she had becpme a symbol of women's empowerment in a deeply religious society.
Benazir's first return from exile
Benazir Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan People's Party, arrives in Lahore on April 10, 1986. Benazir Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan People's Party, arrives in Lahore on April 10, 1986. She won the post of prime minister in 1988, running as a moderate Muslim, who pledged to provide basic services and education to Pakistan's poor and illiterate. And Bhutto made good on some of those promises, bringing electricity, housing and other necessities to parts of rural Pakistan.
But as a young and inexperienced woman in conservative Muslim country, she faced intense backlash by the political remnants of Zia’s dictatorship and conservative Islamist. Bhutto lost the 1990 election and was charged, along with her husband, of corruption.
Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto with her husband Asif Zardari during dinner party at the state guest house in Islamabad, April 19, 1990. Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto with her husband Asif Zardari during dinner party at the state guest house in Islamabad, April 19, 1990. She returned to power in 1993, but lost her second term just three years later.
While in self-imposed exile in Britain and Dubai, she was convicted in 1999 of corruption and sentenced to three years in prison.
She directed the PPP from abroad, she was reaffirmed its leader in 2002.
Five years later, Bhutto was determined to return to Pakistan to challenged the military government, then led by President Pervez Musharraf, who had granted her amnesty on the corruption charges. That very day she narrowly escaped an assassination attempt.
Less than two months later in December 2007, she was assassinated during a gun and suicide bomb attack after a political rally. She was 54 years old.
Military dictatorship is born from the power of the gun, and so it undermines the concept of the rule of law and gives birth to a culture of might, a culture of weapons, violence and intolerance.
I found that a whole series of people opposed me simply on the grounds that I was a woman. The clerics took to the mosque saying that Pakistan had thrown itself outside the Muslim world and the Muslim umar by voting for a woman, that a woman had usurped a man's place in the Islamic society.
Democracy is necessary to peace and to undermining the forces of terrorism.
As a woman leader, I thought I brought a different kind of leadership. I was interested in women's issues, in bringing down the population growth rate... as a woman, I entered politics with an additional dimension - that of a mother.
A people inspired by democracy, human rights and economic opportunity will turn their back decisively against extremism.
America's greatest contribution to the world is its concept of democracy, its concept of freedom, freedom of action, freedom of speech, and freedom of thought.
The military wants a system that protects its policies and privileges.
Whatever my aims and agendas were, I never asked for power.
I seek to lead a democratic Pakistan which is free from the yoke of military dictatorship and that will cease to be a haven, the very petri dish of international terrorism.
Pakistan is heir to an intellectual tradition of which the illustrious exponent was the poet and philosopher Mohammad Iqbal. He saw the future course for Islamic societies in a synthesis between adherence to the faith and adjustment to the modern age.
I've never had a bank account in Switzerland since 1984. Why would the Swiss do this to me? Maybe the Swiss are trying to divert attention from the Holocaust gold scandal.
Pakistan's future viability, stability and security lie in empowering its people and building political institutions. My goal is to prove that the fundamental battle for the hearts and minds of a generation can be accomplished only under democracy.
Extremism can flourish only in an environment where basic governmental social responsibility for the welfare of the people is neglected. Political dictatorship and social hopelessness create the desperation that fuels religious extremism.
In 1988, when democracy was restored, the military establishment was still very powerful. The extremist groups were still there. And when the aid and assistance to Pakistan was cut, we had to adopt harsh economic policies. So in a way, it showed that democracy doesn't pay, and the military was able to reassert itself.
The United Nations charter gives every nation the right to self defence, therefore when the American embassies were bombed it was a matter of time before the Americans responded by going for what they suspected were the causes of the attack.
I am planning to return and contest the October elections in Pakistan.
It's true that General Musharraf opposes my return, seeing me as a symbol of democracy in the country. He is comfortable with dictatorship. I hope better sense prevails.
I am constitutionally competent to contest the elections.
General Musharraf needs my participation to give credibility to the electoral process, as well as to respect the fundamental right of all those who wish to vote for me.
Military hardliners called me a 'security threat' for promoting peace in South Asia and for supporting a broad-based government in Afghanistan.
The military destabilised my government on politically motivated charges.
The political parties have unanimously rejected the one-man constitutional changes.
Given the right to a free ballot, the people would support my return.
The government I led gave ordinary people peace, security, dignity, and opportunity to progress.
Right now, they feel they have lost their voice, and their miseries have increased since my departure.
The next few months are critical to Pakistan's future direction as a democratic state committed to promoting peace, fighting terrorism and working for social justice. Benazir Bhutto
You can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea.
You can kill a man, but not an idea.
Democracy needs support and the best support for democracy comes from other democracies. Democratic nations should come together in an association designed to help each other and promote what is a universal value - democracy.
Being nice should never be perceived as being weak. It's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of courtesy, manners, grace, a woman's ability to make everyone...feel at home, and it should never be construed as weakness.....
Freedom is not an end. Freedom is a beginning.
I dream ...of a world where we can commit our social resources to the development of human life and not to its destruction
It's quite difficult for me not to be able to return to my country, but in my country justice has been murdered.
A people inspired by democracy, human rights and economic opportunity will turn their back decisively against extremism.
In distinguishing between Islamic teachings and social taboos, we must remember that Islam forbids injustice; Injustice against people, against nations, against women. It shuns race, color, and gender as a basis of distinction amongst fellowmen. It enshrines piety as the sole criteria for judging humankind.
Clearly it's not easy for women in modern society, no matter where they live. We still have to go the extra mile to prove that we are equal to men. we have to work longer hours and make more sacrifices. And we must emotionally protect ourselves from unfair, often vicious attacks made on us via the male members of our family.
Ultimately, leadership is about the strength of one's convictions, the ability to endure the punches, and the energy to promote an idea. And I have found that those who do achieve peace never acquiesce to obstacles, especially those constructed of bigotry, intolerance, and inflexible tradition.
Whatever my aims and agendas were, I never asked for power.
Purusing peace means rising above one's own wants, needs, and emotions.
Every dictator uses religion as a prop to keep himself in power.
Democracy is necessary to peace and to undermining the forces of terrorism.
I am planning to return and contest the October elections in Pakistan.
Democracy is the best revenge.
The best hijab is in the eyes of the beholder.
As a woman leader, I thought I brought a different kind of leadership. I was interested in women's issues, in bringing down the population growth rate... as a woman, I entered politics with an additional dimension - that of a mother.
Extremism can flourish only in an environment where basic governmental social responsibility for the welfare of the people is neglected. Political dictatorship and social hopelessness create the desperation that fuels religious extremism.
To make peace, one must be an uncompromising leader. To make peace, one must also embody compromise.
My father always would say, "My daughter will go into politics? My daughter will become prime minister", but it's not what I wanted to do. I would say, "No, Papa, I will never go into politics." As I've said before, this is not the life I chose; it chose me ... But I accepted the responsibility and I've never wavered in my commitment.
We learned at an early age that it was men's interpretation of our religion that restricted women's opportunities, not our religion itself. Islam in fact had been quite progressive toward women from its inception ...
I don't fear death. I remember my last meeting with my father when he told me, You know, tonight when I will be killed, my mother and my father will be waiting for me. It makes me weepy... but I don't think it can happen unless God wants it to happen because so many people have tried to kill me.
No, I am not pregnant. I am fat. And, as the Prime Minister, its my right to be fat if I want to.
America's greatest contribution to the world is its concept of democracy, its concept of freedom, freedom of action, freedom of speech, and freedom of thought.
Ian Buruma: BB's autobiography, 1989
Daughter of the East
by Benazir Bhutto
Simon and Schuster, 394 pp., $21.95
Political autobiography, as a genre, tends to produce tiresome, self-serving, ghost-written works. But once in a while a book stands out; not necessarily because it is better written than the usual stuff, but because it is the closest thing we have to classic mythology. The message is moral; the characters stand for Good and Evil; the story is a variation of the quest for a holy grail, involving not just hardship—“tests”—but exile of one kind or another. The authorship is often anonymous—ghostwriters seldom reveal their names.
When the heroes and villains come from countries where pure myths still cast their spells, where, as a Pakistani politician recently put it to me, “words have magic,” these political fairy tales follow the traditional patterns more closely than in the modern West, where the drama tends to get lost in media buzzwords, earnest political analysis, academic jargon, or a ghastly combination of all three. Besides, the complexity of modern life leaves little room for mythical feats of heroism. Good and evil are not so clear-cut. Our politics, as puritans of all persuasions keep telling us, has lost its moral dimension.
We can be just as much enchanted by myths of course, and sometimes something approaching classic myth will occur: Winston Churchill emerging from “his years in the wilderness” (exile) to save the world from evil dragons in the name of freedom and democracy (the grail). But this could only happen in a war, and Churchill was rather exceptional in that he was the greatest narrator of his own myth—no ghostwriters for him. Today’s great leaders, the Iron Lady, the Gipper, even Gorby, might aspire to mythical status, but cannot really pull it off convincingly.
No, for the truly inspiring tales we must turn to that mythical land called The Third World. That is where we can escape from not so much the decadence as the banality of Western life, and be enchanted once again, like children, our disbelief suspended. More than that, in the third world we can retrieve the pure moral order that we feel is lost to us in the West. The story of Cory Aquino—already made into a TV miniseries, by Australians I believe—was perfect: she, a religious paragon of modesty and virtue, her opponents, symbols of villainy and greed. How enchanting it must have been in 1986 for American senators and congressmen to take a break from their daily affairs and don yellow ribbons for St. Cory of Manila.
Kim Dae Jung tried his hardest to be a mythical hero, and many Western reporters did their best to help him, but he never quite made the grade. His story had all the makings of the real thing: evil generals, exile, heroic hardship, the quest for freedom…. But then something went wrong: Kim suddenly appeared less heroic, more like his opponents, aggressive, intransigent, hungry for power. Perhaps South Korea is too prosperous now, not third world enough, in a word, too modern for fairy tales.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is about as third world as you can get, and the story of Benazir Bhutto’s quest to avenge her father’s death at the hand of the wicked General Zia ul-Haq fits all the requirements of the classic myth. Her book, clearly written to enchant Western readers, does not disappoint. The heroes are saintly, the villains drip with poison. There is excruciating hardship; there are years of exile; there is the wonderful combination of Western high life and ancient Oriental culture (at one point in the story, our heroine is “enthused with a sense of Asian identity”); and, finally, there is victory, made all the sweeter for the difficulties of the quest.
Miss Bhutto’s prose, though satisfyingly breathless and emotional in parts, shows the dead hand of the ghost in others. Those interested in the true language of myths should turn to a collection of Benazir’s speeches, interviews, and assorted public utterances, aimed at her domestic supporters, entitled The Way Out.1 There we find the “clarion calls,” the “night of the tyrant,” the “streets painted in blood.” To quote one typical clarion call:
We must face the oppressor, the Tyrant, the Usurper, the unjust in whatever fashion or manner he manifests himself. The martyr is the life of history and history is woven of the threads of revolution….
But how fragile it is. How easily it is crushed. How easily the crystal that dazzled the rainbow color in the morning light vanishes.
The martyr is of course Benazir’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged for murder in 1979, on orders of General Zia, who had ousted Bhutto two years before in a military coup. But that is getting ahead of the story. Let us begin at the beginning.
Benazir Bhutto was born in 1953 in Karachi, “my skin evidently so rosy that I was immediately nicknamed ‘Pinkie.”‘ Very soon Pinkie began to lead what can only be called a bicultural life. There was Miss Bhutto, educated in English, first at Lady Jennings’s nursery school and later by Irish nuns at the Convent of Jesus and Mary. The older students were divided into houses with such inspirational names as “Discipline,” “Courtesy,” “Endeavour,” and “Service.” This was the same Miss Bhutto who later went to Radcliffe, where she savored the delights of peppermint ice cream, apple cider, Joan Baez, and peace marches. It was also the Miss Bhutto who moved on to Oxford, her father’s alma mater, where she drove a sports car, sharpened her wit at the Oxford Union, and was squired around town by dashing young men in velvet jackets. Let us, for the sake of simplicity, call this stylish young woman the Radcliffe Benazir.
There is another Miss Bhutto, however, one who expresses herself better in the mythical language of The Way Out. This is the Benazir, sitting adoringly at her father’s feet at the family estate in Larkana, listening to his tales of heroic ancestors, “directly traceable to the Muslim invasion of India in 712 AD.” One of these heroes, her great-grandfather, defied the British by taking an English lover. Rather than hand her back to the outraged officers of the raj, his retinue killed the woman. This, said the hero, was a matter of honor.
We might call this romantic lady the Larkana Benazir. She was the one who, as she writes in her autobiography, “loved hearing these family stories, as did my brothers Mir Murtaza and Shah Nawaz, who naturally identified with their namesakes. The adversities faced by our ancestors formed our own moral code, just as my father had intended. Loyalty. Honour. Principle.”
Here, clearly, is a family born to rule. The Bhuttos are landowning grandees, in the desertland of Sindh, a backward part of the subcontinent, a kind of sandy Sicily, where politics consist of murky family feuds. Benazir’s grandfather, Sir Shah Nawaz, founded the first political party in Sindh in the days of the British raj. He was, as his title suggests, a very grand personage indeed. Benazir tells us nothing much about her paternal grandmother, Sir Shah Nawaz’s second wife, for she, a humble Hindu from Bombay who converted to Islam just before her marriage, does not fit in so neatly into the illustrious family annals—something, by the way, which Z.A. Bhutto’s political opponents exploited in their campaigns against him: he was, they said, not a “real” Pakistani, but the son of an Indian, and a Hindu Indian to boot.
Just as there are two Benazirs (who sometimes get mixed up: only the Radcliffe Benazir could be “enthused” by her Asian identity), there are two Bhutto families: one is compared to the Kennedys; the blessed clan destined to deliver the people from poverty and oppression, but punished by political martyrdom. Like Kathleen Kennedy, “who had worn her father’s parka at Radcliffe long after the Senator had been killed,” Benazir “tried to keep my father near me by sleeping with his shirt under my pillow.” And then there is the family inspired by Muslim martyrdom. Benazir calls her father shaheed, a martyr for Islam. In The Way Out she finds the appropriate words:
The same dedicated workers whose courage is higher than the mountains and whose dedication is deeper than the oceans are even now ready to come forward and to sacrifice inspired by Shaheed Bhutto and in the manner of sacrifice known only to the political descendents of Muslim Martyrs.
It is sometimes tempting to sneer at the Radcliffe Benazir, shocked at army thugs “lolling on one of Mummy’s delicate blue and white brocade Louix XV chairs,” trying to act as the daughter of a Muslim martyr. So much about the Larkana Benazir smacks of kitsch; so much of the Radcliffe Benazir strikes one as half-backed. But to reconcile the two roles, or, indeed, to forgo the sports cars and May Balls and risks torture or death, took extraordinary courage. After her father’s execution in 1979, Ms. Bhutto spent much of the next five years under appalling conditions in Zia’s jails. And having braved the worst at the hands of a military dictator, her political success has given hope to millions. It all makes one feel a little churlish to challenge some of her more cherished myths. But, as Benazir herself remarks, when describing some fraud perpetrated by General Zia’s government, “what matters is the truth.” And the truth, however enchanting and moving Benazir’s own tale may be, is an elusive thing.
But let us return to the story. When Benazir was still with the Irish nuns, her father was foreign minister in the government of General Ayub Khan. In 1966 the general and Z.A. Bhutto parted ways, one year after India and Pakistan had fought over Kashmir. Bhutto thought Ayub Khan had been soft on the Indians. Benazir appears to agree: “During the peace negotiations held in the southern Russian city of Tashkent, President Ayub Khan lost everything we had gained on the battlefield.” But, according to Benazir, her father’s resignation was a matter of democratic principles: “After my father broke with Ayub Khan in 1966, the words ‘civil liberties’ and ‘democracy’ were the ones that came up most, words that were mythical to most Pakistanis.”
The general’s rule, in Benazir’s account, was marked by lawlessness, violence, corruption, and economic failure. Only Ayub’s “family and a handful of others had become rich.” But now, with Z.A. Bhutto on the loose, the first crusade for democracy, that mythical word, was about to begin. The first clarion call, so to speak, had sounded.
This is not entirely the way less partisan observers saw things. Shahid Javed Burki,2 for example, has some interesting things to say about the Ayub years. First of all, he argues, Ayub’s rule made far more people rich than his family and friends. Tax incentives and land reforms created a new middle class of small businessmen, entrepreneurs, and middle-sized farmers. The ones who suffered were big industrialists, unskilled urban workers, and the landed aristocracy. The aristocracy was Bhutto’s traditional constituency. The new middle class would turn against him, as did the industrialists when Bhutto nationalized their assets. This left him with the support of landowners and the urban poor, whose interests were by no means always identical.
Burki also mentions the fact that in 1962 Bhutto wrote a long memorandum to Ayub outlining his idea for a one-party state in which the roles of the judiciary and the legislative branches of government were to be completely subservient to the all-powerful central authority. China and the Soviet Union were to be the models. When Ayub demurred, Bhutto called him timid and soft.
Z.A. Bhutto talked a lot about democracy, to be sure, but his instincts were those of the man of iron. The only hint of this in Benazir’s account is a reading list he thoughtfully prepared for his daughter, when he was detained by Ayub in 1968 for inciting riots. His recommended reading included anything about Napoleon Bonaparte, “the most complete man in history.” This is not surprising, since Napoleon has long been a subcontinental hero. But the rest of the list included Bismarck, Lenin, Ataturk, Mao Zedong, and, looking a little lost in this group of iron men, Abraham Lincoln. What they all had in common was their fatherhood of nations. That was how Bhutto saw himself.
Benazir was at Radcliffe, reading Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics, protesting against the Vietnam War, and imbibing Western concepts of law and politics from Professor John Womack, when her father ran his highly successful campaign in 1970 as a populist man of the left. The urban workers, many of them dislocated, bewildered, and left behind by Ayub’s high-speed economic development, loved Bhutto’s message of deliverance from bourgeois greed. Bhutto won the elections in West Pakistan, while Sheik Mujib ur-Rahman, banking on the Bengali middle class disaffected with Punjabi domination, won in East Pakistan, not yet Bangladesh. Differences between the two were never resolved, something Benazir blames entirely on Mujib, who “showed an obstinacy the logic of which to this day defies me.” The Pakistani army quelled Bengali unrest with extraordinary cruelty. India intervened. Pakistan split in half. Bhutto, Benazir informs us, did his utmost to stop the tragedy and avert the generals from their slaughter. (Benazir compares the massacre of tens of thousands of Bengalis to My Lai—this is the Radcliffe Benazir speaking; and to General Zia’s suppression of his opponents in the province of Sindh—thus the Larkana Benazir; both comparisons are absurd.)
Again, this is not the way other people saw the same events. Tariq Ali, a leftwing writer in London, who helped Benazir with her speeches for the Oxford Union, clearly no friend of the generals, blames Bhutto 3 for unleashing “a hysterical campaign” of denouncing Mujib’s position, for whipping up “an atmosphere of frenzied chauvinsim in the Punjab,” and for “colluding with the generals” in crushing the Bengalis. “Thank God! Pakistan has been saved,” he quotes Bhutto as saying after the butchery was done.
And so the stage was set for the Bhutto years, that mythical Golden Age which our heroine set out to revive through trials and tribulations. Yahya Khan, the general in power during the crisis in East Pakistan, lost so much face that he had to appoint Bhutto as chief martial law administrator and president. A new constitution was promulgated in 1973: “The people of Pakistan enjoyed the first constitution in Pakistan’s history to introduce fundamental human rights and ensure their protection…. The first representative government of Pakistan finally had the legal framework within which to govern: the sanctioned authority that Professor Womack had brought home to me so clearly in his seminar.”
So speaks the Radcliffe Benazir. The Larkana Benazir finds more inspirational words to describe the heady excitement of hearing masses of people shout, “Jeay Bhutto!, Long live Bhutto!” Here is a sample from The Way Out:
Jeay Bhutto. It’s a lovely word. It’s warm and wonderful. It lifts the heart. It elevates the spirit…. It means so much to us it drives us on. It makes us reach for the stars and the moon.
In 1972, we climbed the highest mountains and built the biggest bridges because of our leadership. We had a brilliant leader, a popular leader, a strong leader, a man who for his principles and his motherland would fight and fight and fight.
Bhutto did not read Napoleon for nothing. Like Sukarno in Indonesia, a man he resembled in many ways, he had a personalized view of nation building: the strong leader, the great man, who would fight and fight and fight, the erector of stadiums and phallic monuments, the chief cock of the country—only this kind of steely superhero could father a great nation. Those who opposed him were obstacles to progress: greedy merchants, selfish tribal chieftains, evil generals, reactionary politicos, uppity bureaucrats, obstinate judges, and so forth. And so, to build the great nation and foster progress, the power of such selfish reactionaries had to be curbed. Burki quotes from one of Bhutto’s speeches made a year before his downfall:
In 1970, I promised you democracy. In 1973, I gave you democracy…. You and I have trusted each other, worked together. We understand each other. But there are people in this country that don’t approve of our association. These people have attempted to put obstacles in our way; to stop us from building a new Pakistan. They can do this because we have allowed them to do so. Should we continue to permit them this freedom? Mustn’t we change the rules of the game so that our progress towards a new and dynamic Pakistan is not continuously thwarted?
In fact, according to Burki, as well as many others, the rules had already been changed long before Bhutto made that speech in 1976. The tragedy of Bhutto is that he set in motion the very forces that brought him down. He curbed the bureaucracy by withdrawing constitutional guarantees from civil servants and concentrating more power in his own hands. Civil servants he considered hostile were jailed or dismissed. More serious, as far as his own ultimate fate was concerned, was his tampering with the constitution to limit the power of the law courts. They were denied jurisdiction over government decisions taken under the Defense of Pakistan Rule, an emergency measure enforced during the crisis over Bangladesh, and retained by Bhutto for political purposes. The government appropriated the power to dissolve political parties by adopting the so-called Suppression of Terrorist Activities (Special Courts) Ordinance. The main opposition party in Baluchistan, the National Awami Party, was banned under this rule and many of its members were jailed. (Soon after her own election as prime minister, Benazir ran into trouble in Baluchistan herself; her followers allowed the Baluchistan provincial assembly to be dissolved.)
Four months after Bhutto promised freedom of the press, three periodicals were banned and their editors and publishers arrested. According to Tariq Ali, “The bulk of the media at all events was kept firmly under government control, serving the Bhutto régime as loyally as it had done its predecessors.”
Most damaging of all were his maladroit dealings with the army. The first thing he did upon attaining power was to put the commanders in chief of the army and air force under house arrest. Protective custody, he called it. (General Zia used the same term when he had Bhutto arrested in 1977.) Then he appointed General Tikka Khan, known as the “Butcher of Dacca” for his zeal in crushing the Bengalis, as his chief of staff. Bhutto chose him for his loyalty, which turned out to be correct. (Tikka Khan is still close to Benazir.) In the case of General Zia, whom he appointed as chief of staff some years later, he was wrong.
Benazir describes Zia variously as a stage villain and an ignorant, unscrupulous, unintelligent, tin-pot dictator. This is as it should be in a myth. In fact, however, he was a rather intelligent and effective dictator and, though he looked like a villain, he had a softspoken charm. Like General Suharto, who has ruled Indonesia since the demise of Sukarno, Zia was a “smiling general,” with all the steel but none of the flamboyance of the Napoleonic populist he replaced. He was certainly not a democrat. He set himself up to be a Muslim leader who would turn Pakistan into a real Muslim state, based on Muslim law—adultery, consumption of alcohol, gambling would result in cut limbs, whippings, or death by stoning. Some of these punishments took place but, in fact, he never went as far as the mullahs wanted. Aside from Pakistan’s crippling national debt, perhaps Zia’s worst legacy sprang from the source of his greatest political strength: the guns, drugs, and general corruption of Pakistan society wrought by the Afghan war.
In hindsight one must conclude that Bhutto asked for trouble. He should never have called out the army to control the turbulent opposition after he was accused of rigging the 1977 elections. Once out of the barracks, and faced with a country running out of control, the generals did what came naturally to them: they took over.
Bhutto was arrested and in confinement read one of his books about Napoleon. Certainly he and his family were cruelly treated by Zia. He was sentenced to hang for murder in a farcical trial and spent his last years in filthy jails, his only comforts his favorite cologne and the odd Havana cigar. At that point Benazir strode to the center stage. Bhutto, in his fetid cell, grabbed his daughter’s hand and said: “My daughter, should anything happen to me, promise me, you will continue my mission.”
I have dwelled at some length on the rule of the father, because the daughter took his mission seriously; it is as Bhutto’s daughter that she challenged her political opponents; in every campaign poster showing her face it was the image of the father that loomed behind her, like a guardian god. What she felt as she walked away from the prison is summed up in The Way Out:
If the people of Pakistan ever saw their leader kept in such a disgusting and disrespectful manner their blood would boil and from Khyber to Karachi a fierce fire would rage which no guns could wipe out.
Benazir slipped into her new role with great aplomb. The way it is described suggests the mystical transfusion of a spirit, or sacred flame. Such is often the nature of dynastic politics in Asia. The same process was described by Cory Aquino, who, kneeling in prayer, felt the flutter of her husband’s spirit entering her soul, enabling her to carry on the struggle. It is impossible to pinpoint the precise moment when the visitation took place in Benazir’s case. Was it the jail scene evoked above? Or did it happen earlier perhaps, the first time Zia’s thugs entered the family house in Karachi (the famous 70 Clifton) and lolled about on the Begum’s Louis XV chairs? This is how she tells it in Daughter of the East:
Once again I watch my father being driven away, not knowing where he is being taken, not knowing if I will ever see him again. I waver for a moment, half of my heart breaking, the other half turning to ice. “Pinkie,” I hear a voice call. I turn to see my brother Shah Nawaz lined up with the staff in the courtyard. “Usko choro! Leave him!” I shout at the soldiers holding him. I am frightened myself at the new tone of my voice. But the soldiers step away.
The new tone of voice; perhaps that was it. It seems, from her own telling of the story, as though her entire life was a kind of dress rehearsal for the main act, the crusade to avenge her father, to return the Bhutto family to power. This is as true for the Larkana Benazir as for the Radcliffe one. The day she left for America, her father spoke of her debt to the people of Pakistan, “a debt you can repay with God’s blessing by using your education to better their lives.”
There is nothing wrong with this sentiment; in fact, it is a noble one. But it is important to know just how Benazir sees the nature of her political power, or, indeed, not just her own power, but political power in general. The Radcliffe Benazir realizes that politics must be divested of mythology to be lawful and subject to reason. Does the Larkana Benazir know this? Or, to make things even more complicated, are the Radcliffe Benazir’s political ideals perhaps part of the Larkana Benazir’s myth? This particular confusion is encouraged by the Western taste for exotic morality tales, casting her as the fairy queen. Are her politics, and by extension the politics of Pakistan, to be a matter of compromise, regular elections, and the same rules applying to all? Or will it remain a contest between Good and Evil, between great leaders and reactionary, obscurantist, wicked, uneducated thugs? Will the same rules apply to those who are born to lead as to those deemed beyond the pale? Her political opponents have given her little cause to feel conciliatory. Even as she toned down her fiery rhetoric during the elections, her rivals, a combination of big businessmen, Muslim fundamentalists, and former protégés of General Zia, mostly from Punjab, often used highly provocative language about her, hinting at Western decadence and Communist connections. Although her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) did well all over Pakistan in the national elections, it did less well in the provincial elections. One of her rivals for the prime ministership, Mian Nawaz Sharif, a former Zia man, still controls Punjab, the richest and largest province in Pakistan. Another strong opponent, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, once a close associate of Miss Bhutto’s father, was elected to the National Assembly. An opposition party, the MQM, controls Karachi and Hyderabad, the two biggest cities in Sindh.
It will be interesting to see how she deals with her opposition. Will she be accountable as a leader, or will she carry out her mission with the arrogance of a dynastic ruler or the messianic zeal of those who think they represent that mythical concept: the will of the people? So far, she has done well; she has compromised, played by the rules, kept her cool. But these are still important questions because it was precisely that zeal, that Napoleonic hubris which destroyed her father.
Her book, admittedly written with a campaign in mind against the man she rightly holds responsible for her family’s grief, is not entirely reassuring, because it is so full of myth, and because the heroes are above the rules which are applied to the villains. The treatment of her two brothers, for example. While Benazir and her mother were taken from jail to jail to stop them from agitating against the Zia regime, her brothers, Mir Murtaza and Shah Nawaz, were in Kabul organizing a group called AI-Zulfikar to carry on the struggle by violent means. There was the hijacking of a passenger plane, there were bomb attacks, and Mir promised to “turn Pakistan up and down.” Zia tried to link mother and daughter Bhutto to these violent acts, but never produced any evidence. Indeed, both women suffered greatly on account of the two brothers. Benazir was locked up in solitary cells where she received criminally inadequate treatment for an ear disease that could have killed her.
Nonetheless, Benazir writes about them with reverence. Shah, a spoiled and handsome playboy—Swiss school, frequent attendance at Regine’s in Paris, flat in Monte Carlo—“was so generous you never knew what he would do…. He had empathized with the poor since childhood. He had built a straw hut in the garden at 70 Clifton and slept in it for weeks, wanting to feel the deprivations of the poor.”
Shah was interested in intelligence work: “Just remember you have a little brother who can help you if you give him a high post in intelligence.” It was not to be. During a family holiday in Cannes he died of poisoning. His Afghan wife, who sounds an even worse brat than her late husband, was recently found by a French court to have been criminally negligent in letting Shah die. The marriage, by all accounts, including Benazir’s, was not a happy one. The exact cause of his death is still mysterious, except to the Bhuttos, who are all convinced that he was murdered by Zia’s agents. Or, as Benazir suggests, “had the CIA killed him as a friendly gesture towards their favorite dictator?” But whatever the cause of his death, it is clear that Shah was playing dangerous and nasty games.
Which makes Benazir’s sentimental description of his funeral sound nauseating: “I wanted to take him past the lands where he had hunted with Papa and Mir, past our fields and ponds, past the people he had tried to defend in his own way. The people, too, deserved the chance to honor this brave son of Pakistan. The Martyr’s son has been martyred.” Note the “in his own way.” Zia ruled Pakistan in his own way too. But he was evil; he was not a Bhutto. The Larkana Benazir has taken control. But there is more to come:
In every generation, Shiite Muslims believe, there is a Karbala, a reenactment of the tragedy that befell the family of the Prophet Mohammed PBUH [Peace Be Upon Him], after his death in 640 AD. Many in Pakistan have come to believe that the victimisation of the Bhutto family and our supporters was the Karbala of our generation.
Many in Pakistan probably do believe it, but, more significantly, so does Benazir, or at least everything points to that conclusion. Power still has magic in Pakistan; people want to be near it, touch it, feel it. When Benazir was paraded through Pakistan, from morning until late at night, perched on top of a truck, lit by a spotlight, proud, aloof, every inch the aristocratic leader, people fought each other to touch the vehicle. Many treat her like a divine ruler. It is to be hoped that she knows better. Honor has been served; she has restored power to her family. But her cause is to restore democracy. That cause would be ill-served by perpetuating the dynastic myths of Larkana.
1 Benazir Bhutto, The Way Out: Interviews, Impressions, Statements and Messages (Karachi: Mahmood Publications, 1988). ↩
2 Shahid Javed Burki, Pakistan Under Bhutto, 1971–1977 (Macmillan, 1980). ↩
3 Tariq Ali, Can Pakistan Survive: The Death of a State (Penguin, 1983).
The Bhutto Millions
Diamond necklace exposed Bhutto’s money-laundering
Details emerged yesterday of how a £117,000 diamond necklace led to the former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband being convicted of money laundering by a Swiss court last week.
The pair were given suspended jail sentences of six months each and ordered to repay about £8m to the Pakistani government.
Although Ms Bhutto continues to deny the charges and says she intends to appeal, the Swiss investigating magistrate found that during her second term as prime minister she enriched herself or her husband with kickbacks from a government contract with two Swiss companies.
"There is no doubt that the behaviour of Benazir Bhutto and her husband is criminally reprehensible in Pakistan," the magistrate, Daniel Devaud wrote in his sentencing order after the five-year investigation.
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, says that in 1995 the two companies, SGS and Cotecna, took up a contract for customs inspection of goods being imported into Pakistan.
The judge cited letters showing that 6% of the amount paid by the Pakistani government under the inspection contract would be paid as commission to companies registered in the British Virgin Islands.
One of these, Bomer Finances Inc, received $8.2m and another, Nassam Overseas Inc, received $3.8m, the judge found.
The beneficial owner of Bomer Finance is Ms Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, but in reality she shares the assets with him and has the power of disposition, the judge said.
The beneficial owner of Nassam Overseas is Nasir Hussain, who at the time was Ms Bhutto's brother-in-law, he added.
Evidence of Ms Bhutto's role in Bomer Finance emerged from a visit to London during which she bought a diamond necklace at a Knightsbridge jeweller's.
The £117,000 bill was paid partly in cash and partly with money from Bomer Finance's account.
It was the only withdrawal made from the company's account before its assets were frozen at the request of the Pakistani authorities.
The necklace was later found in a Swiss bank vault, and was also seized.
Under the judge's ruling it must now be handed over to the Pakistani state.
Zardari is currently in jail in Pakistan, where he is serving a seven-year sentence for corruption.
He has also been implicated in 14 other pending criminal cases.
Ms Bhutto lives in exile, mainly in Britain and Dubai.
Jeremy Carver, a lawyer who represented the Pakistani government five years ago in relation to Ms Bhutto, said yesterday that there were "at least half a dozen international cases at various stages in various pipelines, either in Pakistan, Switzerland or the United States".
Ms Bhutto's Rockwood estate at Brooke in Surrey, valued at £3.5m, is currently being sold by the Pakistani government.
She is believed to own four other properties in London.
The New York Times’ 1998 special report
A decade after she led this impoverished nation from military rule to democracy, Benazir Bhutto is at the heart of a widening corruption inquiry that Pakistani investigators say has traced more than $100 million to foreign bank accounts and properties controlled by Ms. Bhutto's family.
Starting from a cache of Bhutto family documents bought for $1 million from a shadowy intermediary, the investigators have detailed a pattern of secret payments by foreign companies that sought favors during Ms. Bhutto's two terms as Prime Minister.
The documents leave uncertain the degree of involvement by Ms. Bhutto, a Harvard graduate whose rise to power in 1988 made her the first woman to lead a Muslim country. But they trace the pervasive role of her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who turned his marriage to Ms. Bhutto into a source of virtually unchallengeable power.
In 1995, a leading French military contractor, Dassault Aviation, agreed to pay Mr. Zardari and a Pakistani partner $200 million for a $4 billion jet fighter deal that fell apart only when Ms. Bhutto's Government was dismissed. In another deal, a leading Swiss company hired to curb customs fraud in Pakistan paid millions of dollars between 1994 and 1996 to offshore companies controlled by Mr. Zardari and Ms. Bhutto's widowed mother, Nusrat.
In the largest single payment investigators have discovered, a gold bullion dealer in the Middle East was shown to have deposited at least $10 million into an account controlled by Mr. Zardari after the Bhutto Government gave him a monopoly on gold imports that sustained Pakistan's jewelry industry. The money was deposited into a Citibank account in the United Arab Emirate of Dubai, one of several Citibank accounts for companies owned by Mr. Zardari.
Together, the documents provided an extraordinarily detailed look at high-level corruption in Pakistan, a nation so poor that perhaps 70 percent of its 130 million people are illiterate, and millions have no proper shelter, no schools, no hospitals, not even safe drinking water. During Ms. Bhutto's five years in power, the economy became so enfeebled that she spent much of her time negotiating new foreign loans to stave off default on $62 billion in public debt.
A worldwide search for properties secretly bought by the Bhutto family is still in its early stages. But the inquiry has already found that Mr. Zardari went on a shopping spree in the mid-1990's, purchasing among other things a $4 million, 355-acre estate south of London. In 1994 and 1995, he used a Swiss bank account and an American Express card to buy jewelry worth $660,000 -- including $246,000 at Cartier Inc. and Bulgari Corp. in Beverly Hills, Calif., in barely a month.
In separate interviews in Karachi, Ms. Bhutto, 44, and Mr. Zardari, 42, declined to address specific questions about the Pakistani inquiry, which they dismissed as a political vendetta by Ms. Bhutto's successor as Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. In Karachi Central Prison, where he has been held for 14 months on charges of murdering Ms. Bhutto's brother, Mr. Zardari described the corruption allegations as part of a meaningless game. But he offered no challenge to the authenticity of the documents tracing some of his most lucrative deals.
Ms. Bhutto originally kindled wild enthusiasms in Pakistan with her populist politics, then suffered a heavy loss of support as the corruption allegations gained credence. In an interview at her fortresslike home set back from Karachi's Arabian Sea beachfront, she was by turns tearful and defiant. Most of those documents are fabricated, she said, and the stories that have been spun around them are absolutely wrong.
But she refused to discuss any of the specific deals outlined in the documents, and did not explain how her husband had paid for his property and jewelry. Lamenting what she described as the irreparable damage done to my standing in the world by the corruption inquiry, she said her family had inherited wealth, although not on the scale implied by tales of huge bank deposits and luxury properties overseas.
I mean, what is poor and what is rich? Ms. Bhutto asked. If you mean, am I rich by European standards, do I have a billion dollars, or even a hundred million dollars, even half that, no, I do not. But if you mean that I'm ordinary rich, yes, my father had three children studying at Harvard as undergraduates at the same time. But this wealth never meant anything to my brothers or me.
Privileged Learning, Populist Platitudes
Ms. Bhutto, a student at Harvard and Oxford for six years in the 1970's, has always presented herself as a tribune of the dispossessed. In a Harvard commencement speech in 1989, she said that avaricious politicans had looted developing countries and left them without the means to tackle their social problems. Since she was ousted as Prime Minister during her second term, on Nov. 5, 1996, on charges that included gross corruption, she has been the leader of Pakistan's main opposition group, the Pakistan People's Party.
Some details of the allegations against Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Zardari appeared in European and American newspapers last fall, after Pakistani investigators began releasing some of the Bhutto family documents. But a much fuller picture emerged when several thick binders full of documents were made available to The New York Times over a period of several days in October. The Times's own investigation, lasting three months, extended from Pakistan to the Middle East, Europe and the United States, and included interviews with many of the central figures named by the Pakistani investigators.
Officials leading the inquiry in Pakistan say that the $100 million they have identified so far is only a small part of a windfall from corrupt activities. They maintain that an inquiry begun in Islamabad just after Ms. Bhutto's dismissal in 1996 found evidence that her family and associates generated more than $1.5 billion in illicit profits through kickbacks in virtually every sphere of government activity -- from rice deals, to the sell-off of state land, even rake-offs from state welfare schemes.
The Pakistani officials say their key break came last summer, when an informer offered to sell documents that appeared to have been taken from the Geneva office of Jens Schlegelmilch, whom Ms. Bhutto described as the family's attorney in Europe for more than 20 years, and as a close personal friend. Pakistani investigators have confirmed that the original asking price for the documents was $10 million. Eventually the seller traveled to London and concluded the deal for $1 million in cash.
The identity of the seller remains a mystery. Mr. Schlegelmilch, 55, developed his relationship with the Bhutto family through links between his Iranian-born wife and Ms. Bhutto's mother, who was also born in Iran. In a series of telephone interviews, he declined to say anything about Mr. Zardari and Ms. Bhutto, other than that he had not sold the documents. It wouldn't be worth selling out for $1 million, he said.
The documents included: statements for several accounts in Switzerland, including the Citibank accounts in Dubai and Geneva; letters from executives promising payoffs, with details of the percentage payments to be made; memorandums detailing meetings at which these commissions and remunerations were agreed on, and certificates incorporating the offshore companies used as fronts in the deals, many registered in the British Virgin Islands.
The documents also revealed the crucial role played by Western institutions. Apart from the companies that made payoffs, and the network of banks that handled the money -- which included Barclay's Bank and Union Bank of Switzerland as well as Citibank -- the arrangements made by the Bhutto family for their wealth relied on Western property companies, Western lawyers and a network of Western friends.
As striking as some of the payoff deals was the clinical way in which top Western executives concluded them. The documents showed painstaking negotiations over the payoffs, followed by secret contracts. In one case, involving Dassault, the contract specified elaborate arrangements intended to hide the proposed payoff for the fighter plane deal, and to prevent it from triggering French corruption laws.
Because Pakistan's efforts to uncover the deals have been handled in recent months by close aides of Prime Minister Sharif, who has alternated with Ms. Bhutto at the head of four civilian Governments in Pakistan since the end of military rule 10 years ago, the investigation has been deeply politicized. Last week, the Sharif aides forwarded 12 corruption cases cases against Ms. Bhutto, Mr. Zardari and Nusrat Bhutto, 68, to the country's accountability commission, headed by a retired judge, who has the power to approve formal indictments.
Apart from bolstering Mr. Sharif's power by exposing Ms. Bhutto, Mr. Sharif's aides hope to protect him against the possibility that she will one day return to office and turn the tables on him. Mr. Sharif, who is 48, battled for years during Ms. Bhutto's tenure to stay out of jail on a range of corruption charges, including allegations that he took millions of dollars in unsecured loans from state-owned banks for his family's steel empire, then defaulted.
Landowning Class Accustomed to Rule
The Bhuttos are among a few hundred so-called feudal families, mostly large landowners, that have dominated politics and business in Pakistan since its creation in 1947.
Ms. Bhutto's father was an Oxford-educated landowner who became Pakistan's Prime Minister in the 1970's, only to be ousted and jailed in 1977 when his military chief, Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, mounted a coup. Mr. Bhutto was hanged two years later, after he refused General Zia's offer of clemency for a murder conviction that many Pakistanis regarded as politically tainted.
Benazir Bhutto, the eldest of four children, spent the next decade under house arrest, in jail or in self-imposed exile, campaigning against General Zia's military regime.
In 1987 she married Mr. Zardari, little known then for anything but a passion for polo. It was an arranged union, with Ms. Bhutto's mother picking the groom. Many Pakistanis were startled by the social and financial differences. By the Bhuttos' standards, Mr. Zardari's family was of modest means, with limited holdings and a rundown movie theater in Karachi. Mr. Zardari's only experience of higher education was a stint at a commercial college in London.
In part the match was intended to protect Ms. Bhutto's political career by countering conservative Muslims' grumbling about her unmarried status. Barely eight months later, in 1988, General Zia was killed in a mysterious plane crash, which opened the way for Ms. Bhutto to win a narrow election victory.
Years later, many Pakistanis still speak of the mesmeric effect she had at that moment, as the daughter who had avenged her father and the politician who had restored democracy. But euphoria faded fast. Within months, newspapers were headlining allegations of dubious deals. In the bazaars, traders soon dubbed Mr. Zardari Mr. 10 Percent.
Twenty months after she took office, Ms. Bhutto was dismissed by Pakistan's President on grounds of corruption and misrule. But the Sharif Government that succeeded Ms. Bhutto was unable to secure any convictions against her or her husband before Mr. Sharif, in turn, was ousted from office, also for corruption and misrule.
Mostly, Pakistanis gave Ms. Bhutto the benefit of the doubt after her first term, saying she might not have known what Mr. Zardari was doing. She was further aided by public suspicion of Mr. Sharif's motives. A taciturn man who got his start in politics as a protege of General Zia, Mr. Sharif has left little doubt of his chagrin at having been overshadowed by Ms. Bhutto.
Part of his discomfort stemmed from her success in fostering a favorable image for herself in the United States, as a staunch foe of Muslim fundamentalism, a relentless campaigner for the rights of the poor and -- a point she stressed in her Harvard speech in 1989 -- an opponent of leaders who use their power for personal gain, then leave the cupboard bare.
When she took office as Prime Minister again, after a victory in 1993, Ms. Bhutto struck many of her friends as a changed person, obsessed with her dismissal in 1990, high-handed to the point of arrogance, and contemptuous of the liberal principles she had placed at the center of her politics in the 1980's. She no longer made the distinction between the Bhuttos and Pakistan, said Hussain Haqqani, Ms. Bhutto's former press secretary. In her mind, she was Pakistan, so she could do as she pleased.
Ms. Bhutto's twin posts, as Prime Minister and Finance Minister, gave her virtually free rein. Mr. Zardari became her alter ego, riding roughshod over the bureaucracy although he had no formal economic powers until Ms. Bhutto appointed him Investment Minister, reporting only to herself, in July 1996. They maintained an imperial lifestyle in the new Prime Minister's residence in Islamabad, a $50 million mansion set on 110 acres on an Islamabad hilltop.
Within weeks of moving in, Mr. Zardari ordered 11.5 acres of protected woodland on an adjoining hilltop to be bulldozed for a polo field, an exercise track, stabling for 40 polo ponies, quarters for grooms and a parking lot for spectators. When a senior Government official, Mohammed Mehdi, objected to paying for the project with $1.3 million diverted from a budget for parks and other public amenities, Mr. Zardari categorically told me that he does not appreciate his orders to be examined and questioned by any authority, according to an affidavit filed with the Pakistani investigators by Mr. Mehdi. A few months later, with the work in progress, Mr. Zardari had Mr. Mehdi dismissed.
The investigators say that Mr. Zardari and associates he brought into the Government, some of them old school friends, began reviewing state programs for opportunities to make money. It was these broader activities, the investigators assert, more than the relatively small number of foreign deals revealed in the documents taken from the Swiss lawyer, that netted the largest sums for the Bhutto family.
Among the transactions Mr. Zardari exploited, according to these officials: defense contracts; power plant projects; the privatization of state-owned industries; the awarding of broadcast licenses; the granting of an export monopoly for the country's huge rice harvest; the purchase of planes for Pakistan International Airlines; the assignment of textile export quotas; the granting of oil and gas permits; authorizations to build sugar mills, and the sale of government lands.
The officials have said that Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Zardari took pains to avoid creating a documentary record of their role in hundreds of deals. How this was done was explained by Najam Sethi, a former Bhutto loyalist who became the editor of Pakistan's most popular political weekly, Friday Times, then was drafted to help oversee a corruption inquiry undertaken by the caretaker Government that ruled for three months after Ms. Bhutto's dismissal in 1996.
Mr. Sethi said Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Zardari adopted a system under which they assigned favors by writing orders on yellow Post-It notes and attaching them to official files. After the deals were completed, Mr. Sethi said, the notes were removed, destroying all trace of involvement.
When Mr. Sharif won a landslide election victory earlier this year, the corruption inquiry appeared, again, to fizzle. But a few days before the election, the caretakers hired Jules Kroll Associates, a New York investigative agency, to look for evidence of corruption abroad. The Kroll investigators put out feelers in Europe; Mr. Sharif's aides said it was one of these that produced the offer to sell the Bhutto family documents, and that they took over from Kroll Associates and completed the deal.
Flight and Crash Of a Dassault Deal
Potentially the most lucrative deal uncovered by the documents involved the effort by Dassault Aviation, the French military contractor, to sell Pakistan 32 Mirage 2000-5 fighter planes. These were to replace two squadrons of American-made F-16's whose purchase was blocked when the Bush Administration determined in 1990 that Pakistan was covertly developing nuclear weapons.
In April 1995, Dassault found itself in arm's-length negotiations with Mr. Zardari and Amer Lodhi, a Paris-based lawyer and banker who had lived for years in the United States, working among other things as an executive of the now-defunct Bank of Commerce and Credit International. Mr. Lodhi's sister, Maleeha, a former Pakistan newspaper editor, became Ms. Bhutto's Ambassador to the United States in 1994.
Mr. Schlegelmilch, the Geneva lawyer, wrote a memo for his files describing his talks at Dassault's headquarters on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. According to the memo, the company's executives offered a remuneration of 5 percent to Marleton Business S.A., an offshore company controlled by Mr. Zardari. The memo indicated that in addition to Dassault, the payoff would be made by two companies involved in the manufacture of the Mirages: Snecma, an engine manufacturer, and Thomson-CSF, a maker of aviation electronics.
The documents offered intriguing insights into the anxieties that the deal aroused. In a letter faxed to Geneva, the Dassault executives -- Jean-Claude Carrayrou, Dassault's director of legal affairs, and Pierre Chouzenoux, the international sales manager -- wrote that for reasons of confidentiality, there would be only one copy of the contract guaranteeing the payoff. It would be kept at Dassault's Paris office, available to Mr. Schlegelmilch only during working hours.
The deal reached with Mr. Schlegelmilch reflected concerns about French corruption laws, which forbid bribery of French officials but permit payoffs to foreign officials, and even make the payoffs tax-deductible in France. The Swiss and the French have resisted American pressures to sign a worldwide treaty that would hold all businesses to the ethical standards of American law, which sets criminal penalties for bribing foreign officials.
It is agreed that no part of the above-mentioned remuneration will be transferred to a French citizen, or to any company directly or indirectly controlled by French individuals or companies, or to any beneficiary of a resident or nonresident bank account in France, one of the Dassault documents reads.
Negotiations on the Mirage contract were within weeks of completion when Ms. Bhutto was dismissed by another Pakistani President in 1996. They have bogged down since, partly because Pakistan has run out of money to buy the planes, and partly because the Pakistan Army, still politically powerful a decade after the end of military rule, waited until Ms. Bhutto was removed to weigh in against the purchase.
A Dassault spokesman, Jean-Pierre Robillard, said Mr. Carrayrou, the legal affairs director, had retired. Two weeks after he was sent a summary of the documents, Mr. Robillard said that the company had decided to make no comment.
Scams at Both Ends Of Customs System
One deal that appears to have made a handsome profit for Mr. Zardari involved Pakistan's effort to increase its customs revenues. Since fewer than one in every 100 Pakistanis pays income tax, customs revenues represent the state's largest revenue source. But for decades the system has been corrupted, with businesses underinvoicing imports, or paying bribes, to escape duties.
In the 1980's Pakistan came under pressure from the International Monetary Fund to increase government revenues and to cut a runaway budget deficit. During Ms. Bhutto's first term, Pakistan entrusted preshipment verification of all major imports to two Swiss companies with blue-ribbon reputations, Societe Generale de Surveillance S.A. and a subsidiary, Cotecna Inspection S.A. But the documents suggest that this stab at improving Pakistan's fiscal soundness was quickly turned to generating profits for the Bhutto family's accounts.
In 1994, executives of the two Swiss companies wrote promising to pay commissions totaling 9 percent to three offshore companies controlled by Mr. Zardari and Nusrat Bhutto. A Cotecna letter in June 1994 was direct: Should we receive, within six months of today, a contract for inspection and price verification of goods imported into Pakistan, it read, we will pay you 6 percent of the total amount invoiced and paid to the Government of Pakistan for such a contract and during the whole duration of that contract and its renewal.
Similar letters, dated March and June 1994, were sent by Societe Generale de Surveillance promising consultancy fees of 6 percent and 3 percent to two other offshore companies controlled by the Bhutto family. According to Pakistani investigators, the two Swiss companies inspected more than $15.4 billion in imports into Pakistan from January 1995 to March 1997, making more than $131 million. The investigators estimated that the Bhutto family companies made $11.8 million from the deals, at least a third of which showed up in banking documents taken from the Swiss lawyer.
For Societe Generale de Surveillance, with 35,000 employees and more than $2 billion a year in earnings, the relationship with the Bhutto family has been painful. In addition to doing customs inspections, the company awards certificates of technical quality. In effect, its business is integrity.
In an interview in Geneva, Elisabeth Salina Amorini, president of Societe Generale, said the Pakistan contracts had been the subject of an internal company inquiry. But Ms. Salina Amorini, a 42-year-old lawyer, said the company had reorganized its government contracts division under a new executive and had sold Cotecna, acquired in 1994, back to the family that had previously owned it. The internal inquiry, she told reporters in Geneva last month, had shown a number of inadequacies which enabled certain irregularities to take place.
Ms. Salina Amorini said in the interview that a study of Societe Generale's dealings with Pakistan had uncovered a $650 million shortfall in customs revenues that the Bhutto Government was supposed to have collected over a 21-month period in 1995 and 1996. She said the company had reported the shortfall to Washington-based officials of the monetary fund and the World Bank, which monitor customs revenues to check Pakistan's compliance with conditions set for emergency loans. The conditions are meant to help the country avoid default on its foreign debt.
Officials at the two financial institutions are investigating the Swiss company's report to determine whether the customs system was corrupted at both ends -- from commissions paid to Bhutto family companies on the preshipment inspection contracts and, later, in illicit payments by Pakistani importers seeking to avoid the customs duties that the Swiss companies had determined they owed.
The Gold Connection
Granting a License, Reaping a Profit
Pakistan's Arabian Sea coast, stretching from Karachi to the border with Iran, has long been a gold smugglers' haven. Until the beginning of Ms. Bhutto's second term, the trade, running into hundreds of millions of dollars a year, was unregulated, with slivers of gold called biscuits, and larger weights in bullion, carried on planes and boats that travel between the Persian Gulf and the largely unguarded Pakistani coast.
Shortly after Ms. Bhutto returned as Prime Minister in 1993, a Pakistani bullion trader in Dubai, Abdul Razzak Yaqub, proposed a deal: in return for a license to import gold, Mr. Razzak would help the Government regularize the trade.
In January 1994, weeks after Ms. Bhutto began her second term, Mr. Schlegelmilch established a British Virgin Island company known as Capricorn Trading, S.A., with Mr. Zardari as its principal owner. Nine months later, on Oct. 5, 1994, an account was opened at the Dubai offices of Citibank in the name of Capricorn Trading. The same day, a Citibank deposit slip for the account shows a deposit of $5 million by Mr. Razzak's company, ARY Traders. Two weeks later, another Citibank deposit slip showed that ARY had paid a further $5 million.
In November 1994, Pakistan's Commerce Ministry wrote to Mr. Razzak informing him that he had been granted a license that made him, for at least the next two years, Pakistan's sole authorized gold importer. In an interview in his office in Dubai, Mr. Razzak acknowedged that he had used the license to import more than $500 million in gold into Pakistan, and that he had traveled to Islamabad several times to meet with Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Zardari. But he denied that there had been any secret deal. I have not paid a single cent to Zardari, he said.
Mr. Razzak offered an unusual explanation for the Citibank documents that showed his company paying the $10 million to Mr. Zardari, suggesting that someone in Pakistan who wished to destroy his reputation had contrived to have his company wrongly identified as the depositor of the money. Somebody in the bank has cooperated with my enemies to make false documents, he said.
Erasing the Proofs Of Secret Power
The Pakistani investigation of Ms. Bhutto's two terms in office has tied a range of overseas properties to her husband and other family members. Among these are Rockwood, a 355-acre estate south of London, and a $2.5 million country manor in Normandy. The listed owners of the manor, which is known as the House of the White Queen, are Hakim and Zarrin Zardari.
Other properties that Pakistani investigators have linked to members of the Bhutto family include a string of luxury apartments in London. Pakistan has asked the United States Justice Department to investigate still more bank accounts and properties, including a country club and a polo ranch in Palm Beach County, Florida, said to be worth about $4 million, that were bought by associates of Mr. Zardari in the mid-1990's.
The Pakistani request to Washington, made in December, also sought help in checking allegations that some of Mr. Zardari's wealth may have come from Pakistani drug traffickers paying for protection. In the past decade, Pakistan and its neighbor Afghanistan have become the world's largest source of heroin, shipping 250 tons of it every year to Europe and the United States.
The purchase of overseas properties by well-connected members of the elite in a developing country is hardly a new phenomenon. But the disclosures about Ms. Bhutto's family have underscored a trend that international financial officials have long found troubling: the willingness of the monetary fund and the World Bank to prop up economies like Pakistan's that have been bled dry by corruption.
A former high-ranking official of the World Bank in Islamabad who requested anonymity acknowledged that both institutions were all too willing to make additional loans on the vague promise that corruption would be reined in. We made a mantra out of the phrase 'good governance,' the official said, as though we intended to try and stamp the corruption out. But the truth is that we turned a blind eye.
In the years Ms. Bhutto was in office, Pakistan received billions of dollars in new loans, mostly to enable it to pay interest on its debt. By 1996, interest on the accumulated public debt, including $32 billion in foreign loans, was absorbing nearly 70 percent of state revenues. With Pakistan's defense costs absorbing the remaining 30 percent, scarcely anything was left for the social programs that Ms. Bhutto had promised.
While the Times inquiry confirmed some of the allegations made by the Pakistani investigators, other matters remained unresolved. For example, none of the documents for the foreign bank accounts or offshore companies uncovered thus far bear Ms. Bhutto's name, nor do any of the letters promising payoffs make any mention of her.
The only document that refers to Ms. Bhutto is a handwritten ledger for an account at the Union Bank of Switzerland in Geneva. In Mr. Schlegelmilch's handwriting, the ledger contains the notation 50% AAZ 50 % BB. This account showed deposits of $1.8 million for one 90-day period in 1994 and received at least $860,000 in payments by the two Swiss customs-inspection companies.
Some of Ms. Bhutto's friends say she cannot fairly be held accountable for her husband's questionable deals, since she was too busy as Prime Minister to know of them. Others say Ms. Bhutto, having lost her father and both of her brothers in tragic circumstances, became overdependent emotionally on Mr. Zardari.
Her younger brother, Shahnawaz, died of poisoning in Cannes, France, in 1985 after a dispute that Murtaza Bhutto, her older brother, linked to arguments over family assets stashed in Switzerland. Murtaza Bhutto was killed in September 1986 after a long-running power struggle with his sister and her husband. Mr. Zardari has been charged with masterminding the second murder, but he and Ms. Bhutto say he was framed.
Officials say Mr. Zardari made no attempt to disguise his activities from his wife, holding meetings on some of his deals in the Prime Minister's residence, and invoking his wife's authority when ordering officials to override regulations meant to prevent graft in the assignment of contracts.
Furthermore, several senior officials in Ms. Bhutto's Governments said they had met with repeated rebuffs when they tried to warn her about Mr. Zardari. One senior minister said that when he had raised the issue, She said, 'How dare you talk to me like that?' and stalked out.
Nor has Ms. Bhutto made any effort to distance herself from Mr. Zardari. In the Karachi interview, she said her husband's deals had been made only for Pakistan's benefit. He's a very generous person, she said. His weakness, and his strength, is that he's always trying to help people.
The tax returns filed by Ms. Bhutto and her husband in her years in office give no hint of the wealth uncovered by the Pakistani inquiry. Ms. Bhutto, Mr. Zardari and Nusrat Bhutto declared assets totaling $1.2 million in 1996 and never told authorities of any foreign accounts or properties, as required by law. Mr. Zardari declared no net assets at all in 1990, the year Ms. Bhutto's first term ended, and only $402,000 in 1996.
The family's income tax declarations were similarly modest. The highest income Ms. Bhutto declared was $42,200 in 1996, with $5,110 in tax. In two of her years as Prime Minister, 1993 and 1994, she paid no income tax at all. Mr. Zardari's highest declared income was $13,100, also in 1996, when interest on bank deposits he controlled in Switzerland exceeded that much every week.
Pakistan's inquiry is in its early phases, but it has already prompted international action. Swiss officials have frozen 17 bank accounts belonging to the Bhutto family, and authorities in Britain and France are searching for other accounts and properties.
Ms. Bhutto described the investigation as a persecution. At one point she attacked the Clinton Administration, saying it had ignored her plight while deploring the treatment of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader and Nobel laureate.
This is the most horrendous human rights record, what is happening to me, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Ms. Bhutto said. It is shocking to see that the Clinton Administration talks so much about Burma, when this is happening to a woman who leads the opposition here. Tears welling in her eyes, she added, The Bhuttos have suffered so much for Pakistan.
Correction: January 10, 1998, Saturday An article yesterday about corruption in Pakistan misstated the year that the brother of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed. It was 1996, not 1986. Because of an editing error, the article also referred incompletely to Hakim and Zarrin Zardari, the owners of a manor house in Normandy. They are the parents of Mrs. Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who is the focus of a corruption inquiry. Correction: January 23, 1998, Friday An article on Jan. 9 about the financial dealings of the family of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan referred incorrectly to the holder of a 1990 contract to provide preshipment verification of major imports for the Pakistani Government. The contract signed by Ms. Bhutto's Government was with Cotecna, a Swiss concern, which later became an affiliate of Societe Generale de Surveillance, another Swiss company; S.G.S. was not the holder of the 1990 contract.
1988-2012: Dawn summarises the history of the case
Contrary to the views of many in Pakistan, June 19, 2012 was one of the bleakest days for democracy in the country. An elected prime minister was disqualified by the highest bench of the judiciary on charges of contempt of court. The case made history as it remains the only case in Pakistan which resulted in the termination and disqualification of an elected representative of the parliament.
The contempt of court case was initiated against Yousuf Raza Gilani when he refused to correspond with the Swiss authorities to reopen money laundering case against President Asif Ali Zardari
The history of the case can be traced back to the first term of Benazir Bhutto. It all began when the constitutional order was amended which empowered the president and restricted the prime minister’s powers. Ghulam Ishaq Khan was elected as the president of the country in 1988 and appointed Benazir Bhutto as the prime minister of Pakistan. However, the power struggle between them was evident from the beginning which came to an end when Khan in August 1990 dissolved the national assembly and dismissed Bhutto on charges pertaining to corruption as well as failure to maintain law and order.
Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was elected as the prime minister on November 1, 1990. However, in 1993, Khan again exercised his power through the eighth amendment of the Constitution and dismissed Sharif. The Supreme Court intervened and reinstated Sharif which eventually forced Khan to resign but Sharif’s term ended in the same year.
In 1993 Bhutto was re-elected as the prime minister of the country. Bhutto’s second tenure marked many controversial events including the assassination of Mir Murtaza Bhutto which sabotaged her political career significantly. The then president, Farooq Laghari, dismissed her government after three years over charges of corruption and mismanagement.
Asif Ali Zardari, although never convicted, was in prison from 1997 to 2004 on charges pertaining to money laundering, corruption and murder.
Sharif was re-elected as the prime minister of Pakistan and initiated the case in Switzerland in 1998 which accused Benazir and Asif Zardari to have embezzled $60 million in kickbacks in Swiss bank accounts. In August 2003, both, Benazir and Zardari were found guilty of the scam. However the penalties that summed up to a fine of $100‚000‚ and the order that they return some $2 million to the Government of Pakistan‚ were suspended on appeal.
In 2007, Benazir and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) allegedly negotiated a deal with Pervez Musharraf who issued an amnesty law under which the corruption cases were considered closed. However, in 2009, soon after his reinstatement, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry who was suspended by Musharraf in 2007, ordered to reopen the Swiss case. However, Daniel Zappelli‚ Switzerland’s prosecutor-general said that head of the state cannot be prosecuted as he enjoys immunity and if Pakistani authorities decide to lift the immunity then he should be tried in his own country.
In the latter half of 2010, Saif-ur-Rehman, who served as the interior minister during Sharif’s second term, revealed the fact that Sharif coerced the judgement on Swiss case against Bhutto and Zardari. The proceedings of the Swiss case were expedited on Sharif’s demands and the penalty was also influenced by him.
The proceedings and the verdict, as revealed by Saif-ur-Rehman, cast doubt on the authenticity and transparency of the same.
In 2011, the Supreme Court ordered Gilani to send a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen the graft case against the head of the state. However, Gilani did not comply with court’s orders because he was of the view that Zardari enjoys immunity being the head of state. The Supreme Court charged the former prime minister with contempt of court and declared him convicted of the same on April 26, 2012. Gilani was formally disqualified on June 19, 2012.
Biographer claims (but Imran denies) Khan’s romance with Benazir
A new biography of Imran Khan has claimed the former international cricketer and Benazir Bhutto, the assassinated former Prime Minister of Pakistan, were romantically involved while they were both students at Oxford University.
Author claims Benazir Bhutto and Imran Khan were an item at Oxford University Photo: AFP
The respected author, Christopher Sandford, has claimed that Bhutto became infatuated with Khan and the pair enjoyed a "close" and possibly "sexual" relationship.
He also alleges that Khan's mother tried, unsuccessfully, to organise an arranged marriage between the pair.
Until now, it had always been believed that Khan and Bhutto had always been at loggerheads both politically and personally. Khan openly criticised the former prime minister just days before her death.
However, Sandford, who interviewed both Khan and his ex-wife Jemima for the book, claims a source told him that Bhutto was 21 and in her second year of reading politics at Lady Margaret Hall when she became close to Khan in 1975.
The source told Sandford she had been "visibly impressed" by Khan and may even have been the first to call him the "Lion of Lahore".
"In any event, it seems fairly clear that, for at least a month or two, the couple were close. There was a lot of giggling and blushing whenever they appeared together in public," Sandford told the Daily Mail.
He added: "It also seems fair to say that the relationship was "sexual", in the sense that it could only have existed between a man and a woman. The reason some supposed it went further was because, to quote one Oxford friend: 'Imran slept with everyone.'"
However, Khan strongly denies that he ever had a sexual relationship with Bhutto.
He agrees he was interviewed for the book, but has not yet read it.
He told the Daily Mail: "Yes, I was interviewed, but I know nothing about the rest of what has been written. So it is not official.
"It is absolute nonsense about any sexual relationship or my mother and an arranged marriage. We were friends – that's all."
Benazir loved suits, skirts, saris, gowns and jeans. Seeing Benazir in a skirt reminded me of her times at Oxford, Surrey, Dubai and all those times when we spent together, says Stephen Bubb, CEO of ACEVO recalling his times with Benazir Bhutto during the 70s adding that her death took a part of him forever .
By Stephen Bubb
At a dinner party this fall I had been told by colleagues that the ICFJ had sponsored a project for intercultural cultural harmony under the auspices of the UN. I am not very fond of the UN but when my assistant Marie Alison mentioned that Benazir Bhutto had been covered in that project I couldnt help but have a look.
Since that dreadful winter day in Dec 2007, when she was assassinated, I had secluded and resigned a part of myself which was ever in touch with Benazir. The ICFJ article broke that seclusion and brought back a flood of memories.
Suddenly I was back under the cherry tree in Oxford locking lips with Benazir. She seemed to travel through sands of time, bringing back emotions that I thought were buried for ever.
Seeing Benazir in a skirt reminded me of her times at Oxford, Surrey, Dubai and all those times when we traveled to various Mediterranean resorts.
On meeting Benazir Bhutto, for first time in the fall of 1973, we had a fight over a debating issue. The second time even a worse fight, the third time we fell for each other perhaps finding no alternative. We were a good team for a while, before I moved on to other subjects and she opted for political science and foreign relations as her majors. But beyond the debating society we stayed on together. We had a very close knit circle of friends.
She called me Bubbly and I called her Pinky.
Benazir was the most exotic girl on campus with her wild ways and penchant for lively discussions late into the night. She would cheer any one no matter what the mood and how down cast one would be. We used to think of her as the delectable and glamorous jewel of Lady Margaret Hall.
When I lost the LC chair for the first time Pinky came to my college dorm with friends and champagne. She lifted my spirits and all the gloom of the day vanished during that night.
We would listen to Gainsbourgs J e taime moi non plus while sipping on glasses of R&B. Both were a favorite of Pinky and mine. Benazir would take me on trips to Stratford for watching plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company in her yellow sports car. She lived fast and drove fast. She would brighten the dance floor at the central oxford club, our favorite hang out spot.
She had developed a liking for roman sandals and short skirts by the time she came to Oxford from Harvard. There she was in hot pants sitting across me at the editors office and I was just thinking that this is really one attractive girl. Afterwards I found that she had the intellect and intelligence to match her beauty.
Once we celebrated national-dress day and every student appeared in their respective national dress. Benazir wore a sari (oriental suit) and looked like an angel had descended on earth.
At Oxford she would arrange the best parties and took pains to make sure everyone was involved or at least felt involved.
We would romp around campus canvassing for the society elections. Our friendship blossomed with time. Next summer the blokes played a prank and asked the losing team on the council if we would live up to our claims of an egalitarian society free of religious and cultural restraints. It was June and Benazirs birthday was around the corner. She played their bluff and appeared at the party in her birthday suit. Everyone was stunned by her bold move and it shut up the dissenting chaps.
Six months later Benazir was elected President of the Oxford Union. The first ever by any Asian at that time.
Pinky was Pinky and she dressed her mood. The 70s was a casual era, we were more concerned about being hip than fashionable. I remember seeing Benazir Bhutto attending classes mostly in Jeans. During the winter she would opt for the most expensive dresses. In summer she would opt for stylish suits to go with the family outing on the Brighton beach.
One time Ms. Asfahani Bhutto, the mom of Benazir, visited and Pinky decided to have a picnic at Brighton. We went to Harrods and she purchased swimming costumes for herself, her mom and brother Mr. Murtaza.
I still remember our last summer of 1976 when we went to Cap dAgde. There was an anxious tone in the air; it felt like we were gathering for the last time. Perhaps it was the graduation season, or it was because Pinky said she was returning back home or perhaps it was some kind of prenomination. The amorous French air dulled our anxieties. Little did we know that life for Pinky, would change for ever after her return to Pakistan.
In the summer of 1977 her father was illegally deposed. I had met Mr. Bhutto when he had come to visit. He was a very charismatic person and would brighten up the room with his candor. Afterwards for the very few and rare occasions when I saw Benazir happy, the humor and wit of Mr. Bhutto reflected in her.
The mid seventies was a golden time for us.
We didnt have a care in the world.
Benazir returned to Pakistan.
I kissed her good bye.
She told me:
Bubbly I’ll be back next summer and we’ll go to Cap d’Agde again.
I felt a sting in my heart, but I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would see Pinkie again after eight long years, instead of the next summer.
History then witnessed an elected representative and popular leader judicially murdered by a brutal military dictator. Pinky, against wise counsel decided to stay back and resist the military junta. She was first put under house arrest and then sent to a notorious army jail. I couldnt even go and help her in Pakistan.
I lost contact with her.
The regime had placed travel restrictions on Benazirs acquaintances in UK. I felt so guilty for not stopping her when I could have. I didnt try to stop her earlier. I knew I couldnt have stopped her even if I wanted to.
After her confinement of three years, I saw her photo in the newspaper which reported on Benazirs illness. We were all horrified to see Pinky reduced to a shadow of her former self. She was almost a skeleton. We couldnt believe the military regime would be so brutal. Her brothers had already gone into exile and had started a resistance organization Al-Zulfiqar which unfortunately turned militant afterwards.
In 1984, under international pressure, Benazir was released although reluctantly by the military junta. She traveled to Switzerland and then to UK where she had to under go medical treatment for all the physical and mental suffering afflicted upon her by a cruel regime. I didnt have the heart to see her the first week but managed to go and finally see her in the following week.
I went with Vijay Selvaratnam, our close mutual friend. She cried on seeing Benazir. I had to struggle in keeping a straight face. Benazir saw me, smiled and said Oh Bubbly, I missed you, she made some jovial comment and I could only say Hi. Her spirit was as strong as before perhaps even stronger. The junta had failed to break her will.
Reporters asked her if she had gone into exile. Benazir said that she was born in Pakistan and would die in Pakistan.Tragically this statement would become true 23 years later.
She quickly became active in organizing political opposition to the military rule and this is where her true competencies as a maverick agitator were revealed. Pinky was back in action only this time instead of protesting against University authorities, the opposition was real and a frightingly murderous military dictatorship.
Benazir changed after her return to UK. She had developed an iron determination. Whenever she smiled one could see the wounded emotions behind it. She felt anger at the regime and the judiciary which had conspired together in falsely convicting her father. She felt let down by the people who had allowed a popular leader to be hanged. Her focus was razor sharp and all her activities were now centered around exposing the military regimes ugly face to the world. I tried to bring her back to normalcy, and we arranged a get together party in the fall of 1985 at a Rolling Stones concert.
Captain Eddington used to be our mentor in those days and suggested that we give Pinky a gift on her birthday that summer. Benazir was very fond of rolling stone and the Chippendales boys. So we bought her tickets to the Chippendales show. She was slowly coming back to her original self and I was happy to see her enjoying her life again. We would visit the French Cannes spending hours hand in hand straddling the beach.
Benazir had become increasingly silent and then tragedy after tragedy struck. The military junta in Pakistan had used the Afghan war to befriend the US government. Her US contacts who had initially promised support for her struggle had become mild spectators as the dictatorship in Pakistan gave US a chance to avenge the Vietnam war from USSR.
It was such an irony. Pinky had told me that during her stay in USA she was part of the anti-war protests while the Vietnam war was raging. And now the very friends she had trusted left her in the lurch. Unfortunately that was not the last time the Americans would betray her. By early 1986 she had decided to return back to Pakistan. I asked Pinky to rethink, but she had decided that her destiny was back home and it was now her time to find it.
This time I really tried to stop her, but she was very stubborn and had her eyes fixed upon returning back to Pakistan.
We kissed goodbye again, one year later I heard she was getting engaged and subsequently married to a person selected by her mother. I was shell shocked. It was so unlike Pinky. I never believed it until I saw it on BBC.
Another year passed and she was the Prime Minister of a country 150 Million strong. It seemed she had achieved her dream and conquered her destiny.
I met her again in 1989 when she visited UK on an official trip as head of state. I was so proud of her. We were sitting at the Banquet Hall. She had returned after meeting Margaret Thatcher and was now talking about her trip to the US.
Benazir had become accustomed to wearing formal dress suits as part of her official status.She seemed so royal and different than her days in UK. She would tag along her husband every now and then, and because of him (current president of Pakistan) we would have to keep our distance and discretely call her Prime Minister.
Politics kept us apart, but only physically.
We would talk once in a while over the phone, however, those conversations were rare and far in between. Due to the internal politics in Pakistan, phones at the Prime Minister house were being bugged at that time.
The early 90s was a tumultuous time and Benazir would either be leader of the house or leader of the opposition.
Like her Oxford days she played a leading role in both capacities.
By 1997 under an increasingly hostile establishment she was again betrayed by a person who was opted as President by her. She told me that her own President had colluded to bring down her Government. Pinky had had enough of this and in view of threats she and her children faced, decided for self exile in 1998.
A blessing in disguise was that now we were able to meet after a long time.
We met again in 1998, and I felt a repeat of her struggle in the 80s. This time she had the additional burden of fighting for a person who had been brought into her life as a husband.
While sunbathing on the deck of the carnival cruise liner Jubilee, Benazir once told me, how she wished that life back in Pakistan could be filled again with sunshine and joy. She always seemed to be thinking of her country and believed that her life and destiny were entwined with that of her mother land.
Benazir was now shuttling between UK, USA and UAE trying to mobilize her party and keeping it intact.While holding the highest executive post in her country, a persona had developed around and about her.
In a country with fundamentalist streaks and religious dogma still strong, Benazir would be seen addressing political rallies with her chador (long dress and covering like a burka).
Politics of religion and conservatism combined to portray her as daughter of the east. It was a patronizing and condescending title which annoyed me when she didnt take exception to it. In UK I used to meet her at Surrey where she would arrange parties for a circle of people close to her. After one such party I jokingly asked Benazir how she felt being daughter of the east. Wearing a short white dress she replied with a smirk that she was above titles and accolades. I knew better to argue with her.
Benazir loved her suits, skirts, saris, gowns and jeans.
Now that she was in the west, paradoxically she found it liberating, like old times at Oxford. Benazir was hardly recognized when she accompanied me to the theater or opera wearing party dresses and gowns. Happy times seemed to have lurked back in her life.
Once, Benazir took me to watch the performance of Ursula Martinez, one of her favorite artists. At the gala dinner that followed, I introduced her as my dance partner. No one recognized Benazir and people kept complimenting her looks. We laughed so much afterwards and she reminded me of the giggling girl back in Oxford.
By 2006 her plans to return and end her exile had gained momentum.Before she left for her country again we went to Loch Shiel.Benazir and I strolled the Scottish water front while I kept asking her to stall her plans of return but she was adamant. Our brief argument yielded to silence and we never spoke a word during that long walk. It was as if we knew that the time had finally come.
I remember she smiled, told me to cheer up and lose the long face, gave me a kiss and said, Bubbly you know I always come back.
How I wish that was true.
Benazir was a world citizen not confined to a single ethos. She embodied a true facade of being multi- cultural, tolerant and a laissez-faire liberalism.
Thank you, Hijabskirt for reminding the world about this.
To live in the hearts we leave behind is to never die.
After Benazir our planet is a much poorer place now.
Benazir Bhutto: I still have in my office a photo of her and me on top of the Christ Church boathouse. It makes a good party game to ask visitors who they think the two sweet youths are. People rarely guess. I was a student at Christ Church, Oxford, from 1972, studying PPE. I dabbled in politics and gained a reputation as a "Bollinger Bolshevik". (I saw this as a compliment.) It was through the political networks that I met Benazir.
Dynamic, personable, with great charisma and a huge sense of humour, she had a wide circle of friends. She became a very successful president of the Oxford Union, dealing with errant behaviour with a mix of patrician sternness and humour.
There was also a certain Anthony Blair at St John's. I can't say I had him marked out as a man of destiny. But Benazir was clearly going to take her place on the world stage. I had the strong sense her father, then Prime Minister of Pakistan, had marked her out to take a leading role in her country and that she was preparing for that role.
Once, she decided I needed cheering up and arrived at Christ Church in her red MG. We were off to Stratford-upon-Avon for lunch and a dose of Shakespeare, a typical example of her generosity. While Benazir kept out of the party political activity, it was clear her politics were on the progressive left. And she was no fan of political posturing. She helped me organise a fundraising event to support the families of political prisoners held on Robben Island by the South African apartheid regime. She was as outraged at their brutal treatment as I was.
She was fiercely protective of her father's reputation, inviting me out to meet him, although student penury prevented me. A year later, he was hanged. But I did meet her family. One summer, a High Commission car rolled up in the Kent countryside – Benazir and her sister thought they would pop in for tea. Mother was honoured, the neighbours deeply impressed.
It has been a personal tragedy for Benazir that she has had to cope with family deaths in the glare of international publicity and with outrageous suggestions of skulduggery and family feuding. A weaker character might have buckled. Not Benazir. Behind the charm lies a steely determination. The years of exile and the allegations have left their mark. Did she make the wisest marriage? Who knows, but my guess is the criticism makes her still more determined. She wants to serve the people of Pakistan in the way her father did. She has much to offer and it's vital that countries like the UK support her in her quest to take Pakistan back on the democratic path.
She is a clear voice of moderation, who believes a democratic future for Pakistan will lead to economic and social regeneration. As a Muslim leader and a woman, she can demonstrate that the strength and power of an Islamic state is fully consistent with progress for her people and friendship with the West. The tragedy that befell her triumphant returning cavalcade will merely increase her will to succeed. I am wishing her well. We should all do so.
Stephen Bubb is head of Acevo, the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations
Marriage with Zardari
Why Benazir married Zardari
LONDON, July 30— Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistani opposition leader, said today that she had agreed to an arranged marriage to a wealthy businessman selected by her mother and introduced to Miss Bhutto only five days ago.
Miss Bhutto's fiancé is Asif Zardari, a building contractor and prominent polo player in Pakistan. Like Miss Bhutto, he is 34 years old, and like her, he is a scion of a wealthy landowning family from the southern province of Sind.
Miss Bhutto said she agreed to the marriage, negotiated by her mother and other relatives over the last year, as a matter of religious obligation and family duty.
Miss Bhutto, who studied at Oxford and Harvard before becoming leader of the Pakistan People's Party, said she expected her acquaintances in the West to be shocked that she had not chosen to have a love marriage. Bhutto Expects Controversy
I don't think anyone in the West could understand it, she said in a telephone interview from her sister's home in London. My own thought was that my friends, both at Harvard and at Oxford, would be quite surprised that I had gone into an arranged marriage.
But, she added: The circumstances are very peculiar, and so I had to take a decision that is going to be controversial in the West. Perhaps if I had not been in the position that I am now, I would not have taken this decision.
On this point, Miss Bhutto gave a candid, and at times almost regretful, assessment of the political, religious and social pressures that influenced her decision. She noted that it would have been difficult for her to meet a suitable man on her own without causing gossip that would have aided her political opponent, President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq.
I must confess that if it hadn't been for my own peculiar position, where I have to consider the political ramifications of every step I take, then perhaps this would not have been an arranged marriage, but, in the circumstances, it seemed the only course, she said. Opinions Are Mixed
In a Moslem society, it's not done for women and men to meet each other, so it's very difficult to get to know each other, and, my being the leader of the largest opposition party in Pakistan, it would have been a lot of rumor to the grist and bad for the image if I had chosen another course.
There were mixed opinions today on what impact the marriage would have on Miss Bhutto's campaign to unseat Mr. Zia, who has promised elections in 1990. Her press secretary, Baseer Riaz, said the traditional marriage would shield her from the criticism of Islamic fundamentalists, who have attempted to portray her as an advocate of modern, Westernized ideas about the role of women.
But some experts in Pakistani politics said the alliance with a feudal family like the Zardaris could alienate young left-leaning members of the Pakistani People's Party.
In her message to party supporters, Miss Bhutto stressed what Mr. Riaz called the sisterly image that has been one of the big drawing cards since her triumphant emergence as a political leader in April 1986 after years of house arrest and exile. I am your sister and will always be your sister, she said in a prepared statement sent to Pakistan on Wednesday. Zardaris Initiated Talks
The Bhutto and Zardari families were assembling in London today and were awaiting the arrival of the prospective groom's father, Hakim Ali Zardari. He was a supporter of Miss Bhutto's father, the late President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was overthrown by President Zia in a military coup in 1977 and hanged two years later.
The elder Zardari is now province leader of the Awami National Party, an anti-Government alliance seeking to link Pathan and Baluch tribesmen. The Zardaris were originally from Baluchistan, a neighboring province of Sind.
By all accounts, the Zardari family initiated the negotiations about a year ago by contacting Miss Bhutto's aunt. The discussions became serious in February in talks between Miss Bhutto's mother, Begum Nusrat Bhutto, and Mr. Zardari's stepmother.
The two older women were present when the couple met here for the first time five days ago.
Miss Bhutto noted that in a strictly arranged marriage of the traditional sort, she would not have been offered the chance to meet and approve the prospective groom. This was not the case, she said. I did meet him, and because I felt he's nice and had a sense of humor and he seemed to be a tolerant person in that he could handle having a wife who had an independent career of her own, I thought it was wise to accept the proposal.
She said her family had made it clear that her continuing in politics was a non-negotiable condition for the match. 'No Interest in Politics'
Mr. Zardari, a bespectacled man with a handlebar mustache, has been described as a man of few words. I have no interest in politics, he told a London newspaper, The Independent. He studied at the London School of Economics and runs a construction business in Karachi. He keeps a string of polo ponies for his team, called the Zardari Four, at his country estate at Nawabshah in central Sind.
Because of Pakistani custom, the betrothed couple will have little time together before their wedding. Mrs. Bhutto had wanted the wedding ceremony performed right away, but Miss Bhutto said she insisted on postponement out of respect for people killed and injured in a series of car bombings in Karachi earlier this month. She said the wedding will take place in the winter time, either this year or next.
She added that she hoped love would develop between her and Mr. Zardari as she did not believe in divorce. Miss Bhutto responded in a businesslike tone on the subject of whether she might have taken a different approach at an earlier stage in her life.
My brothers and my sister had love marriages, so I'm the only one in the family not to have one, she said. But I think life is too short for regrets.
The marriage that shook the political scenario
On July 29, 1987, a few members of the Bhutto family and some of their friends assembled at the London apartment of Sanam Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto’s sister. Despite the unfortunate events the family had braved, Begun Nusrat Bhutto appeared calm and composed. Among the guests were Hakim Ali Zardari, father of Asif Zardari, and his wife. A photographer was in attendance too.
After some time, Benazir Bhutto broke the silence. “This is Asif Zardari, my fiancé.”
The next day, a picture of the ceremony and an accompanying news item appeared in the media. Since she grew up in a liberal environment, her friends wondered why her marriage had been arranged. Many columnists conjectured that perhaps Benazir would retire from politics altogether after the wedding.
Much to the surprise of many, Benazir accepts an arranged marriage proposal. While some expected her to be sidelined thereafter, the marriage strengthened her hand in politics
As per the press release issued from London by the PPP, Benazir said: “Conscious of my religious obligations and duty to my family, I am pleased to proceed with the marriage proposal accepted by my mother, Nusrat Bhutto. The impending marriage will not in any way affect my political commitment to my country, my people or the trail blazed by Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for a free, federal democratic and egalitarian Pakistan.
“I stand as one with my countrymen in repudiating tyranny and its terrible heritage. The people of Pakistan deserve a better, more secure future and I shall be with them in seeking it. ... In view of the carnage caused by the car bombs and the sectarian killings the ceremonies are being postponed. We cannot celebrate when our people suffer. Your suffering is our suffering. Our bond is beyond the vindictive grips of the tyrants. I shall be returning to Karachi shortly.”
On Feb 17, 1987, a huge marriage ceremony was organised in Karachi that bound the two influential families of the country into a relationship. Benazir Bhutto had married Asif Ali Zardari, son of Hakim Ali Zradari, a businessman and landowner. It was an arranged marriage, something stunning for Oxford and Harvard graduate Benazir but she had her reasons for that. According to her, she was introduced to Asif Ali Zardari only five days before agreeing to the proposal.
Whether Zardari’s family knew or not, there were many proposals for Benazir Bhutto while she was still a student at Oxford in 1986. And yet, Hakim Ali Zardari, an old companion of Z.A. Bhutto and a cinema owner in Karachi, proceeded with the proposal.
“His (Asif’s) only apparent vice, if it could be called that, was a passion for polo,” Benazir told Shyam Bhatia, an Indian journalist and long-time friend in her biographical work Goodbye Shahzadi.
It all began in London almost a year before the marriage. On July 29, 1987, Begum Nusrat Bhutto received a formal proposal by Zardari for Benazir Bhutto led by Zardari’s stepmother, Begum Zarin. Asif Ali was studying at the London School of Economics and intended to take up a housing business after completing his studies.
While in London, he occasionally visited Begum Nusrat Bhutto during Benazir’s exile days; during these visits, Asif earned Begum Bhutto’s confidence.
Reconciling herself with choosing an arranged marriage, especially in a society where she had studied and developed her sense of life, was a difficult task. Talking to American newspaper the Los Angeles Times before her wedding, she said: “I don’t really expect people in the West to understand. Every mother wants her daughter married and I felt obligations to my family and my religion.”
Begum Bhutto clearly told the Zardari family that since Benazir was in politics, she would continue doing so and no hurdles should ever be created for her. Once the proposal was accepted, there was no hassle for the ceremony. She asked her mother not to arrange dowry. When the probable date for marriage was fixed, Benazir asked to postpone it because of violence in Karachi. The date was then fixed to Dec 17, 1987.
Before the main occasion, Benazir published a brochure explaining the cultural customs and traditions like Mehendi, Mayoon and finally Rukhsati. Some Western journalists, who had become Benazir’s friends, came to Karachi to witness the marriage ceremony.
Benazir wanted to make it a historic event. That is why she refused to make it an occasion of a few people gathered in a five-star hotel. Kikri Ground in the heart of Karachi’s PPP stronghold of Lyari was selected. There were no formal invitations while members from both families as well as party supporters attended the occasion in their numbers.
Benazir was clad in a white silk tunic with gold embroidery and Asif wore a traditional Baloch turban and cream-colour traditional trousers. The Nikah ceremony took place amidst a huge crowd; it could easily be mistaken for a huge public meeting. Asif’s gift for Benazir was a heart-shaped ring, studded with diamonds and sapphires.
Beyond public scenes, both families held a number of private celebrations, but the change in the political life of the couple was immense. Asif quickly developed a taste for politics. After the 1988 elections, he played a crucial role in defeating Nawaz Sharif when he wanted to force a vote of no-confidence against Benazir.
Shyam Bhatia recalls his frank conversation with Benazir Bhutto before her wedding about an interested paramour. “There was, of course, no dearth of other Pakistani men who saw her as a great prize and would queue up for her hand. One was the son of a senior party functionary, but he was believed to have a drinking problem. Another party loyalist was also turned down by her because he came across as an opportunist, although he did win favour in a different way some years later when he was brought into the cabinet.”
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 13th, 2015
2007: The marriage is over
Has Asif Zardari become too much of a liability—personal and political—for Benazir Bhutto to continue her marriage with him?
The End Of The Affair
"The marriage is over. Both have decided to move on... there has even been a distribution of assets." A prominent Pakistani close to both Benazir and Zardari
"Had Benazir married someone else, PPP would be different. Bhutto was anything but corrupt. Asif put a blot on the record." A PML(Q) politician linked to intelligence agencies
When the generals in Pakistan were mulling the option of releasing Asif Zardari from prison, a close confidant of President Pervez Musharraf weighed in with this quip about ex-premier Benazir Bhutto's husband, "Mr President, it's about time we release him. He'll prove more damaging to the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) outside jail than inside." Accordingly, Zardari was released in November 2004 to rapturous receptions, prompting many swooning admirers to see in his long years of separation from Benazir—and their imminent coming together—a dramatic real-life parallel to Veer-Zara, the Bollywood film then immensely popular in Pakistan. The inveterate romantic here even began to describe the two as Pakistan's Veer-Zara.
A little over two years from that heady, emotional November, as we settle into 2007, a chill seems to have seeped into the romantic saga that the Benazir-Zardari matrimony has always been for this country. The fizz has gone out of the love story, Benazir and Zardari don't live together, their marriage is an empty shell, a partnership of pretences, a form they must maintain because Pakistan, like much of South Asia, can't accept a woman politician divorced from her husband. You could say it's a separation that's still dressed as marriage, you could say Musharraf's confidant, in a way, has been proved prescient.
For months now, the souring of the Benazir-Zardari saga has been the staple of whispers in PPP circles. The buzz attained credibility in November last year when Pakistan's English daily Observer led its front page with the bruising header: 'Benazir desperately trying to save her marriage'. The PPP didn't issue any denials. Last year too, in a money-laundering case filed by the earlier Nawaz Sharif government, Benazir told a Swiss court that she wasn't associated with offshore companies being investigated for their links to Zardari. The statement was perceived as an attempt on her part to distance herself from her husband.
A prominent Pakistani close to both Zardari and Benazir, who too now lives abroad, told Outlook, "The marriage is over. Both have decided to get on with life and live in countries of their own choosing. There has even been a distribution of assets; that's why her statement last year to the Swiss court." But this doesn't mean Benazir will legally formalise the split—and it isn't only because of the political factor. As a lady friend of Benazir's told Outlook, "Benazir is too conservative to go in for a divorce. Once, till late in the night, she kept advising me against seeking divorce."
There are, however, incontrovertible signs of their marriage being on the rocks if not totally kaput. For one, Benazir lives in Dubai, Zardari in a New York apartment with his dogs. His friends there invite sneers from the extremely class-conscious Pakistanis. As a former foreign secretary told this correspondent, "We were having dinner at this posh restaurant and in walked Asif with a group of men who would never be seen in polite company." Influential expat Pakistanis say Benazir did not stay with her husband when she visited the Big Apple last September, choosing instead to reside with a friend there. The PPP explained it saying she needed a larger space for party work.
Cold vibes between the Zardaris and the Bhuttos aren't a fact of recent vintage. When Asif was undergoing a heart operation in Dubai in 2005, his parents flew down to the desert emirate to see him. Instead of staying in the plush villa of their daughter-in-law, they were booked in a hotel. A Pakistani who was there then narrates, "I think it was in June 2005. Dubai then witnessed its biggest power blackout. I was staying in the same hotel as Asif's father, Hakim. I asked him why he wasn't staying with Benazir, he kept silent. Hakim's wife (Asif's stepmother) clearly said that they did not want to stay there."
So, why did the Benazir-Zardari marriage turn so sour? One way of answering the question is to look at the marital fate of other women prime ministers (or presidents) and summarise, perhaps simplistically: marriages of powerful women leaders are doomed to fail. From Sirimavo Bandaranaike to Golda Meir to Indira Gandhi in the earlier generation, and now Benazir Bhutto, Tansu Ciller and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo—their marital going has been stormy; the discord most often arising from a husband reluctant to live in the shadow of his wife. Most often, cracks developed in relationships because of the husband's insatiable appetite for power and pelf—definitely true of Benazir-Zardari's life together.
What's also true, though, is that both Benazir and Zardari were a terrible mismatch in a Pakistani society that is extremely class-conscious, and chauvinistic. To the manor born, cosmopolitan, Oxford-educated, princess of Pakistan's "only political dynasty", many found it intriguing why Benazir chose to marry Zardari at all. Theories abound. One, she didn't have a boyfriend, never even went out with boys—a fact testified to by Hussain Haqqani's failed efforts to dig up dirt on her university days in the months before the 1988 elections. (Haqqani later joined her government). It was considered impractical, perhaps inconceivable, for a single woman to jump into politics. A husband had to be found.
Simultaneously, Pakistan was also witnessing cataclysmic changes: Zia was in power; he had hanged Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, even thrown Benazir in the dungeon for months; subsequently, in 1984, her brother Shahnawaz died under mysterious circumstances abroad; the other brother—Mir Murtaza—nursed ambitions about usurping the Bhutto legacy. Worse, mother Nusrat, in the eastern tradition of anointing males as heirs, was more supportive of Murtaza than Benazir. "Benazir needed a friend and a man by her side. Asif needed power, authority and wealth. She also wanted a Sindhi as then she could play her father's Sindhi card," says an old PPP member.
It was Zardari's stepmother who played matchmaker, says the PPP source, getting the two to meet each other. Back then, the Zardaris' most important asset was the Bambino cinema theatre in Karachi. Though younger to her by two years, Zardari swept Benazir off her feet. No other man had been so close to her. There were quiet moments in London's Hyde Park: she said she was attracted to his sense of humour; impressed by his 'chivalry' (he saved her from a bee which attacked her). Says the PPP member, "There were flowers and presents. Asif at his best was macho whom she could not resist. Had I been Benazir, I too would have said 'yes'."
Perhaps the Bhutto gameplan was different from what it eventually turned out to be. Zia-ul-Haq died in a plane crash in 1987, elections were called in 1988, and Benazir spectacularly rode to power. About this twist in the script Nusrat was to comment after Benazir was ousted from power the second time (1996), "How did we know that Zia would die so soon? We thought that by the time her turn to (govern) would come, they would have had a couple of kids and he would have settled down."
Zardari did settle down in the prime ministerial house—but not as a quiet husband willing to stay in the background. He became the 10 per cent man, allegedly cutting deals, amassing property abroad and stashing funds in Swiss banks (though nothing has been proved against him even after he spent eight years in jail). When Benazir was in Opposition, then prime minister Nawaz Sharif claimed a prohibitively expensive diamond necklace belonging to Benazir had been unearthed from a Swiss bank locker. Photographs of the necklace were flashed in newspapers. Sitting in the chambers of the Leader of Opposition, surrounded by visitors, she passed a note to this correspondent on the necklace controversy: "Do you think I would have such horrible taste?" People now say she didn't know about the necklace because Zardari never told her about it.
Says a PML(Q) politician closely linked to intelligence agencies, "If Benazir had married someone else, the story of the PPP would've been entirely different. You could blame Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for everything but corruption. Zardari managed to blot that record of the PPP."
Another irritant in the relationship could be the murder of Benazir's brother Murtaza. Then living in exile, Murtaza was persuaded to return to Pakistan and develop a stake in Pakistan politics. Among those who sponsored the move was mother Nusrat. Benazir was opposed to the idea, fearing the establishment didn't want a Bhutto man to be alive, that the time wasn't appropriate for his return. Nevertheless, Murtaza returned. Soon differences between Murtaza and Zardari surfaced. The last occasion he met his sister in the prime minister's house there was a terrible row between Murtaza and Zardari. Murtaza accused Zardari of destroying his father's legacy.
Thereafter, in 1996, a posse of policemen pumped bullets into Murtaza's vehicle. People still remember the heart-rending scenes of Prime Minister Benazir rushing barefoot across hospital floors in Karachi to be with her dying brother. No one knows who killed him. But a PPP member points out, "Don't forget, there's a legal suit pending (filed soon after Benazir was ousted for the second time) against Zardari for his alleged involvement in the murder of his brother-in-law."
There are also stories about Zardari two-timing her. Former president Farooq Leghari, a founder-member of the PPP, apparently once stooped low enough to even record Zardari's steamy extra-marital encounters on tape. There have been eyewitness accounts of some truly ugly encounters between the couple. The PPP, of course, attributes it to propaganda by the government.
There is, however, an irony to their soured relationship: it's Asif who spent three years in prison bearing the brunt of the Sharif government's vindictiveness, thanks to promptings from Leghari; he languished behind bars for another five years until Musharraf freed him in 2004. On his release, he became a symbol of PPP resistance, his example often invoked to boost the morale of party workers. A PPP worker sums it up thus, "While in jail, his impact on the PPP was very positive as workers said, 'Asif nay dilayarna jail katee hai (he braved it all).' But he has had a very negative impact on Benazir while she was in government."
Does the relationship still have a future? It's unlikely the two will divorce each other—for the sake of their children, and political expediency. For the time being, it'll be status quo. As a PPP member points out, "Zardari can't fly down to Dubai because he expressed his inability to appear in the Swiss court as his doctors have prohibited him from taking long flights. A flight to Dubai means he must depose before the Swiss court. Would he want to do that?" Should Zardari go to Dubai at a later date, or come down to Pakistan when Benazir returns, he can at best hope to get a few PPP tickets for his followers. "There will be no impact on the PPP if he stays in New York," a party leader adds sarcastically.
Bina Shah on BB's Legacy
KARACHI, Pakistan — Seven years have passed since Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s former prime minister, was assassinated in Rawalpindi, on Dec. 27, 2007. Her legacy and significance in world history continue to hold a special place in the hearts of the millions of Pakistanis who mourn her death as much as they mourn the death of the dream of what Pakistan might have been had she lived to rule the country just one more time.
As with that of many political icons, Ms. Bhutto’s sudden death left a void in both leadership and inspiration; no politician in Pakistan has been able to fill it. She also left behind a checkered past, with allegations of corruption that still linger, unproved in court for lack of evidence. The two governments she led were dismissed on corruption charges, and she was accused of amassing a large personal fortune for her own family while doing far too little to alleviate the burdens of Pakistan’s poor.
In her own life, she carved out a brilliant academic career at Harvard and Oxford, and political achievements of undeniable import as the daughter of an assassinated prime minister battling to restore democracy in Pakistan; later, she became the first woman elected to lead a Muslim country. She inhabited a marriage that puzzled people as much as it fascinated them — to a controversial man who ruled Pakistan in her name for years after her death. She raised a son and two daughters, who now strive, with mixed results, to serve the Pakistani people she claimed to have lived for.
Yet Ms. Bhutto left behind more than success or scandal. In her wake are the millions of Pakistani girls and women who look at her life, her determination, her perseverance in the face of all odds. They appropriate even the smallest part of these elements of her life and add it to the blueprint they envision for their own. And they thrill to the idea, still radical in Pakistan 40 years after Ms. Bhutto began her political career, that gender doesn’t have to stop them from achieving their dreams.
One of the more literal examples of Ms. Bhutto’s legacy that helps Pakistani women is the Benazir Income Support Program, which distributes cash, without conditions, to low-income families throughout Pakistan. These poorest of the poor, 5.5 million families in 2013, receive 1,200 Pakistani rupees — about $12 — twice monthly, most of which is spent on food. Ms. Bhutto worked on the vision, concept and design of the program with a renowned Pakistani economist, Dr. Kaiser Bengali. After her death, the initiative was enacted by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, but named after Ms. Bhutto by her widower, President Asif Ali Zardari, as a tribute to her.
The program isn’t without flaws; critics have said that it is meant to influence voters at election time, that political influence skews which families are eligible to be recipients, and the fact that most of the assistance is nonconditional renders it ineffective (a subprogram gives families more cash if they enroll their children in primary school).
But there is also a revolutionary side to the scheme: The cash is transferred into the bank account of a woman in the family, not a man. Placing spending power directly into the hands of poor Pakistani women empowers them on many levels: They become decision makers within the family, and their respect and value increase in the community. To obtain the cash, they are required to get national identity cards and bank accounts; as a result, they achieve a level of citizenship and fiscal identity denied to previous generations, when the births and deaths of women were rarely registered in official records.
While mothers are being helped by the program, their daughters are going to school in even greater numbers than before, thanks to the many awareness campaigns and education drives underway in Pakistan. Many of these girls regard Benazir Bhutto as an inspiration for their own educational paths. Malala Yousafzai, Pakistan’s most famous schoolgirl, cites Ms. Bhutto as her personal idol, and wore Ms. Bhutto’s white shawl when she addressed the United Nations in 2013.
Young women attend classes at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, which Ms. Bhutto established in her father’s name, in Karachi, Islamabad, Hyderabad and Larkana. There, they study law, media, computer engineering and more. Ms. Bhutto’s university-educated daughters, Asifa and Bakhtawar, today publicly encourage Pakistani girls to go to school so that they, too, may one day serve the nation as educated, empowered women.
The daughter of a privileged landowning family, Ms. Bhutto nevertheless fought against the conservative social mores of her environment, in which rich girls could go to school but grown women were expected to run a house and raise a family, no matter how educated they were. She herself returned to Pakistan after her studies, and entered politics, heading the Pakistan Peoples Party in its now-celebrated struggle in the 1980s against the dictator Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq.
She endured house arrest and exile throughout her political career, overcame the powerful mullahs’ objections to a woman’s ruling an Islamic nation, and won admirers all over the world for her political skills and compassion. Even after her death, she serves as the ultimate mentor to Pakistani girls and women who want to set the course of their lives for themselves, instead of having it dictated to them.
What might have happened in Pakistan had Ms. Bhutto been elected for a third term will remain an unanswerable question. Her personal and political legacy is full of contradictions and complexities that will continue to be examined by earnest historians, mined by rapacious politicians, venerated by her supporters and picked apart by her detractors.
Yet she emboldened the heart of every girl and woman in Pakistan who was ever told that being a woman precluded her from a lifetime of accomplishment, service and worth. This was her greatest legacy.
Bina Shah is the author of several books of fiction, including, most recently, “A Season for Martyrs.”
Martyr: Ravez Junejo's detailed hagiography
In her autobiography, Mohtarma [the respected] Benazir Bhutto Shaheed writes of the time when she was allowed to travel to England in 1984 for medical treatment by the most brutal dictator in Pakistan’s history, General Zia ul Haq. When she entered Heathrow Airport, a large crowd of supporters and foreign journalists welcomed her. One of them asked whether she was in England for political exile. Her response was as representative of her love for the country as it was prophetic of her own destiny.
“I was born in Pakistan and I’m going to die in Pakistan. I will never leave my country. I will stay by your side until my last breath. The Bhuttos keep their promises1.”
When Mohtarma Shaheed ended a decade of exile and returned to Pakistan in October 2007, she had started whirlwind tours of many cities in the four provinces of Pakistan. Every city that she went to in Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Punjab, she was welcomed by thousands of jiyalas chanting that timeless slogan that had become the war cry of the soldiers of democracy in Pakistan, “Jeay Bhutto (Long Live Bhutto)!” In every city she witnessed the love and loyalty of her supporters to not only her party but to the memory of her martyred father. In every city, she spoke of her aim of restoring true democracy in Pakistan and solicited the support of the people towards achieving that aim. Well aware of the threats to her life, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto fearlessly charged on through the hinterlands of Pakistan…until finally she reached the cantonment city of Rawalpindi for her public rally at Liaqat Bagh.
THE DARK NIGHT OF DECEMBER 27
In the days leading up to the PPP rally, the whole city was dressed up in banners and billboards welcoming Mohtarma to the city. PPP supporters from all over the Punjab province were gathering in Rawalpindi for what was bound to be a historic political event. On the day of the rally, Liaqat Bagh, the garden named after Pakistan’s first Prime Minister and assassinated political leader Liaqat Ali Khan, was choke full of jiyalas, raising the slogans of “Jeay Bhutto!” and “Zinda hay Bhutto Zinda hay!”.
Her speech that day was like the roar of a lioness. Each word leapt off her tongue and seared itself in to the hearts and minds of those present in Liaqat Bagh. People listened in rapt attention as Mohtarma recounted her father’s and her own efforts at strengthening the armed forces of Pakistan. Once again, she taunted the dictator’s regime and it’s allied parties for their unpopularity and exhorted the masses present to reject them on Election Day and support democracy by voting for the Pakistan People’s Party. The resounding applause and adulation she received from the grounds of Liaqat Bagh probably made her confident that victory was hers. Alas, we shall never know what she felt now.
As she finally left the stage and settled into her Toyota Land Cruiser, she was told of the attack on former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s political rally in Lahore who had recently allied himself with the PPP. Although she asked an aide to call him so she could condole with him over the killing of a few of his workers in the attack, Providence had another act for her to fulfil. Some individuals chanting the party slogans and carrying party flags massed in front of her SUV. Not wanting to turn them back rueful, she laboured to stand out of the open top hatch of her SUV and waved to the excited supporters in response to their slogans.
As all eyes remained transfixed at the vision of contentment and humility on Mohtarma’s face, none watched a devilish cretin slithering through the crowds like a snake towards the SUV and Mohtarma. No one saw him lift his hand and shoot at Mohtarma before a bomb went off and killed scores of her supporters and maimed others. What followed was a mesh of consternation and confusion, as anger over the brutal attack mingled with concern for Mohtarma’s life. The sense of invincibility that surrounded Mohtarma like an aura was such that no one dared think the unthinkable even when signs started pointing towards the latter dark eventuality. That night, the sky fell on the people of Pakistan the very moment that PPP leader Dr Baber Awan made the tearful announcement of the martyrdom of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed.
What followed was an expression of public anger that verged on rebellion against not only the dictatorial regime, but the entire state. Armed and angry supporters of the Mohtarma Shaheed trooped out of their cities and villages to wreak havoc on the symbols of the state. Police stations were attacked and burnt. Entire train buggies and engines were demolished. Rail tracks connecting the province of Sindh to the rest of Pakistan were uprooted as if to sever this link between the two. Billboards boasting of the “achievements” of the regime were burned. Banners of the dictator’s allied parties were burned and their party offices were attacked. Vehicles were burned on the streets and highways of Pakistan, not in the hundreds but in the thousands. In every city, village, town of Pakistan, angry demonstrators burnt tyres and chanted slogans against the dictator and his regime.
This violent mood would subside during only two events, the heart-rending burial of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed and the press conference by her widower Mr Asif Ali Zardari and their 19 year old son, Bilawal. That press conference, which took place on December 30, was awaited by every individual within and outside Pakistan since it held significant importance for the immediate stability of the country. The PPP had lost it’s only leader. There was no visible candidate among the party’s senior leadership fit enough to hold the PPP together till even the forthcoming elections. More importantly, a viable and strong leader was required to quell the uprising of the masses that had begun on December 27. In such a foreboding environment, a press conference was held by Mohtarma Shaheed’s loved ones to settle these and many other issues.
The PPP leadership gave it’s supporters hope by vesting the chairpersonship of the party in the hands of Mohtarma Shaheed’s young and capable son, Bilawal, who also took on his maternal surname, along with his two sisters, to become Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Mr. Asif Zardari was elected the Co-Chairperson of the party by the Central Executive Committee (CEC). In his very first speech, the Chairperson thanked the CEC before calling on the people of Pakistan to end the violence and direct their anger towards the aim for which Mohtarma Shaheed sacrificed herself, the restoration of democracy in Pakistan. His statement became a battle cry for the entire democratic opposition within Pakistan. “My mother always said, Democracy is the best revenge!”
A ‘BENAZIR’ [peerless, unequalled] LIFE
Intelligence. Charm. Eloquence. Wit.
Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed encapsulated all of these ethereal qualities in her personality. Apart from these human abilities, she also possessed superhuman traits like her endurance in the face of extreme tribulations, bravery in the face of brutal enemies and an always forgiving heart that never brooked intolerance or hatred for any soul save the most dastardly. Inspired by her legendary father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Shaheed, she also retained in her soul an unrequited love for her country and her people. It was this love that kept her spirits high as she single-handedly battled against the forces of intolerance not only in the 80’s but afterwards when the whole world had become it’s victim.
If one were to look at the life of Mohtarma Shaheed, the contradiction between what life she could have had and what she actually went through is extremely intriguing. She was born the daughter of a leading land lord of Sindh and political leader of Pakistan. She enjoyed every luxury and privilege that a child born in royalty receives. Her parents lavished her with love and care.
She received formal education from some of the most premier educational institutions of Pakistan such as the Convent of Jesus and Mary and Karachi Grammer School. After completing her A-levels, she was sent by her father, now the leading opposition politician in Pakistan, to study at the prestigious Radcliffe College in the USA where she did her graduation. She followed that up with a four year stint at Oxford University where she studied some post-graduate courses and was elected the President of the Oxford Union debating club, the first Asian woman to have this honour.
In Pakistan, her family homes in Karachi and Larkana were located in posh areas and were extremely luxurious. Her ancestral lands gave her access to significant wealth and a prosperous, comfortable life. Her servants numbered in the dozens and she never had to labour after herself in any way.
Yet, she chose the trials and tribulations of political activism in the darkest dictatorship to ever assail this country. Her persecution and mental torture at the hands of the Zia dictatorship are chronicled not only in her auto-biography but also in the reports of many international human rights organisations such as Amnesty International. After her father was removed in a military coup, she was kept in house arrest in total isolation from her family. She was denied medical care at times when she suffered from extreme physical pain and mental agony. She always had a choice to end it all. The agents of the dictatorship had wanted to get rid of her by sending her out of the country. But she persisted in staying in Pakistan and fighting along with her supporters in the righteous struggle for democracy. Her reversal of fortunes was succinctly summed up by Begum Nusrat Bhutto at a public rally in 1977.
“My daughter is used to wearing jewellery. Now she will be proud to wear the chains of imprisonment.”
As a political prisoner, she was shuttled for fours years from one dirty jail cell to another. She was insulted by lowly law enforcement personnel and almost slapped by an Army captain. These people wouldn’t have dared to even look her in the eyes when her father was the Prime Minister. How could the daughter of a former Prime Minister be kept in dark, dirty, rat-infested jail cells by men who proudly titled themselves “Mard-e-Momin” (Righteous Men)? How could a young lady be tortured like that by honourable men? More importantly, how could a young girl, who always lived a comfortable lifestyle, even survive through such hardships with her physical and mental capabilities intact?
It is due to the exemplary strength and character of Mohtarma Shaheed that she could do so. She had an iron will and determination bequethed to her as part of her family legacy and forged in the furnace of a brutal dictatorship. Her unconditional belief in democracy and the rights of the people made her realise the importance of her resilience in the face of stark adversity. Her steadfastness during these times of struggle gave the rest of the nation great hope.
There were people in Pakistan who saw democracy as a threat to their power. They felt that the people of Pakistan were simple-minded, too ignorant, and too stupid to be able to understand democracy. But the leadership of the PPP always proved them wrong. It proved them wrong in 1967 when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Shaheed created the party and involved the poor and downtrodden masses in the struggle for this great objective. It proved them wrong in 1970 when Mr. Bhutto Shaheed became the most popular politician in West Pakistan electorally and Pakistan’s first elected Prime Minister in 1973. Then, years later, Mohtarma Shaheed proved them wrong as she led the toiling masses of Pakistan in protesting and attacking the Zia dictatorship.
Sworn in as Pakistan’s youngest and Muslim World’s first female Prime Minister.
Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s struggle didn’t just end with the ending of the Zia dictatorship. After she was elected the youngest ever Prime Minister of Pakistan and the first female head of a Muslim country, Mohtarma had to safeguard that democracy against an establishment that not only prevented her from alleviating the suffering of the people but also spread rumours about her personality, her past and her financial honesty. When the rumours didn’t work in rousing the people against her, her first term was illegally and unjustifiably ended by Presidential edict in 1990. Mohtarma’s renewed struggle saw the establishment suffer another defeat in 1993 when she was re-elected as the Prime Minister of Pakistan for the second time. Again, the anti-people establishment used ethnic ploys and rumour mills to discredit Mohtarma Shaheed. In the end, the suspicious assassination of her only surviving brother, Mir Murtaza Bhutto, strengthened the anti-democracy forces which once again had her removed through the President. When she was told of the threats to her life similar to that faced by her martyred brother, she decided to leave Pakistan for Dubai along with her three children. Her decision was that of a mother of extremely young children. If something were to happen to her and her husband who was indefinitely incarcerated on trumped up and politically motivated charges, who would look after their orphaned children? It was with these concerns in mind that she made the tough decision of leaving her country and going into exile.
Her struggle for the people of Pakistan continued in exile. As she played the role of a single parent to her children, she continued to lead the PPP in it’s actions against PMLN’s Nawaz Sharif-led elected dictatorship of that time. Then, when Mr Sharif was himself removed from power by another military dictator, Mohtarma extended to him an offer of friendship and reconciliation in the larger interest of restoring and strengthening democracy in Pakistan. Her collaboration with Mr Sharif started from the constitution of the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) and culminated in the signing of the Charter of Democracy in 2005. It was only her far-sighted political acumen and sagacity that achieved such political successes from a relationship that was known in Pakistan for it’s cutthroat rivalry.
Her return on October 18 was historic not only because of the millions who gathered to welcome her in Karachi but due to that crowd being the largest political procession in the history of Pakistan. It is the evil character of the anti-democratic forces that made itself apparent that night when two bomb blasts killed more than 150 supporters of the PPP as the caravan was slowly making its way through the raging sea of humanity massed before it on Shahrah-e-Faisal Road. Amid strewn limbs and wails of pain, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was safely moved out of the area and transported to Bilawal House. The next day, she decried the carnage that the city of Karachi had witnessed and called for action against the perpetrators of that heinious terrorist attack. In retrospect, the October 18 bombing was the very first assasination attempt on the life of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed. Regretfully, it wasn’t the last.
Grief over the victims of the terrorist attack gave way to real world concerns as the political campaign was restarted. Mohtarma visited the far corners of the country to take to the people her message of tolerance, peace and democracy. Her trips to some of the most lawless areas in Pakistan were completely devoid of any other bloody incident. All those people who had resorted to criminal activities out of hopelessness and desperation saw the early rays of a new dawn in her words.
Any other individual in such a situation might have done what Mohtarma Shaheed’s enemies said she would do. They said that Mohtarma would end her public rallies. They said she would stop meeting the ordinary people of Pakistan who came to see her in the big cities from far-off villages at great expense. But Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed proved all of them wrong! She resumed her political activities and held rallies where thousands of people came to see and hear her. She continued her struggle for the restoration of democracy…until her untimely martyrdom on December 27, 2007.