BHUTTO BENAZIR (1953-2007)

BHUTTO, BENAZIR (1953-2007) Benazir Bhutto, twice prime minister of Pakistan, was the first child of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his second wife, Nusrat She was educated in Murree, a hill station near Islamabad, in Karachi, and at Oxford and Harvard Universities At Oxford, she was elected president of the Student Union When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became president of Pakistan, replacing General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, Benazir Bhutto returned to Rawalpindi and began assisting her father on foreign policy issues She was with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in 1972, when he signed the Simla Accord with Indira Gandhi, India’s prime minister Her first prominent role was bequeathed by her father, who, shortly before his execution on 4 April 1979, appointed her co-chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), along with his wife, Nusrat Bhutto Following Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s execution, both Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto were incarcerated for several months, either in jail or kept under surveillance by the authorities in their home Life in Pakistan was made intolerable for them, and both decided to go abroad to live out Zia’s martial law Benazir Bhuto’s finest hour in public life came on 10 April 1986, when she returned to Pakistan after months of self-imposed exile in London Notwithstanding Pakistan’s long history of governments being toppled by street agitation, the Zia-Junejo government did not seem troubled, either by the reception Benazir Bhutto received or by her insistence that the elections of 1985 could not be seen as signifying a return to democracy

On 18 December 1987, she married Asif Ali Zardari in Karachi; her wedding was attended by thousands of her followers A dramatic change occurred in Pakistan’s political situation in August 1988 Zia ul-Haq was killed in an airplane crash, and the senior leaders of the armed forces agreed to abide by the constitution and invited Ghulam Ishaq Khan, chairman of the Senate, to take over the reins of the administration as acting president; Ishaq Khan announced that general elections would be held as scheduled in November 1988; and in September the Supreme Court ruled that political parties could participate in the elections While these events were unfolding, Benazir Bhutto gave birth to her first child, a son, Balawal She quickly returned to politics, and launched a vigorous nationwide campaign Her efforts were handsomely rewarded, and the PPP emerged as the single largest group in the National Assembly, winning 92 out of 207 seats The party won a clear majority in the Sindh legislature but lost Punjab to Islami Jamhuri Itehad, a coalition of right-wing parties, in which Mian Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League was the dominant player After some hesitation, the Muhajir Qaumi Mahaz (MQM) announced its support for Bhutto and her party This cleared the way for her to become prime minister An invitation was issued to her to form a government in Islamabad, and she was sworn in on 2 December 1988 as Pakistan’s thirteenth prime minister and the first woman to occupy the position It soon became apparent, however, that to get that position, she had accepted an informal arrangement according to which all important decisions that concerned Pakistan’s security were to be taken by a “troika

” The troika was to include herself, the president, and the chief of the army staff (COAS) She also agreed to give the ministry of foreign affairs to Lieutenant General (retired) Yaqub Khan, a trusted member of the Islamabad establishment By mid-year 1990, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and General Aslam Beg had reached the conclusion that Pakistan was not safe in Benazir Bhutto’s hands, and that she had to be forced out of office She was dismissed by the president in August 1990 on charges of corruption and incompetence Asif Ali Zardari was imprisoned on numerous charges of corruption, while a number of cases were filed against BhuttoIn the elections of 1990, Bhutto and the PPP did less well, winning only 45 of the 206 seats in the National Assembly, less than half the number it had won in the 1988 elections Bhutto was elected as the leader of the opposition, a position from which she launched a vigorous campaign to dislodge the Sharif government She was helped by President Ishaq Khan, who had become progressively disillusioned with the way Mian Nawaz Sharif was running the country and managing the economy Sharif was fired, and a caretaker government was appointed under the leadership of Moeen Qureshi The elections of October 1993 went in favor of Benazir Bhutto and she was back in power as prime minister This time Benazir Bhutto found the environment in Islamabad to be more conducive

The “troika,” which included the president, the prime minister, and the chief of army staff had survived, but Bhutto was now clearly in command She managed to get Farooq Leghari, her trusted lieutenant, elected president; General Abdul Waheed Kakar, chief of the army staff, was not interested in politics This favorable environment notwithstanding, Bhutto did not govern wisely The economy performed poorly under her stewardship; Pakistan mismanaged its relations with Afghanistan; Bhutto’s inability to work with the MQM in Karachi resulted in a virtual civil war between the forces of MQM and her government’s law-and-order enforcement machinery; and there was widespread misuse of public funds by the functionaries of the government Bhutto and the PPP quickly lost popularity, and by the fall of 1995, with the economy in trouble and the people restive, there was a great deal of talk in the country of yet another intervention by the army These rumors contributed to a delay in the nomination of a new chief of the army staff In early December 1995, President Farooq Leghari chose Lieutenant General Jehangir Karamat to succeed General Kakar Karamat was the most senior serving general and was widely respected His appointment brought some stability to the government In the spring of 1996, the Supreme Court surprised Benazir Bhutto by issuing an order that questioned the basis on which her government had appointed dozens of judges to the Supreme Court and the Provincial High Courts She was ordered to regularize these appointments by first consulting the chief justices of the courts

In response, Bhutto was defiant, and the country came close to another constitutional crisis After considerable hesitation, Bhutto compromised with the court and stopped the country from moving toward yet another political abyssHowever, her accommodation was grudging, and she continued to procrastinate Her problem with the Supreme Court, the continued deterioration in the state of the economy, a sharp increase in the incidence of corruption, and a serious worsening of the law-and-order situation in the large cities of the country persuaded President Farooq Leghari, her onetime close associate, to use Article 582(b) of the constitution against her Accordingly, on 5 November 1996, President Leghari dismissed Benazir Bhutto as prime minister, dissolved the National Assembly, and appointed a caretaker administration under Meraj Khalid, a veteran PPP politician, to oversee another general election. The elections of 1997 were held on 3 February and resulted in a massive defeat of Bhutto’s PPP by Mian Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League. The administration of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which took office following the 1997 elections, pursued the cases of corruption against Bhutto and other members of her family that had been originally initiated by the caretaker administration of Meraj Khalid. In September 1997, the government of Switzerland, in response to a request by the Pakistan government, blocked a number of bank accounts held by the Bhutto family. Similar proceedings were begun in Great Britain, where the Bhutto family was reported to own a number of properties, including a large estate in Surrey. In July 1998, the Swiss and British courts authorized the authorities in their countries to provide assistance to the government of Pakistan in its pursuit of the corruption case against Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari. In April 1999, Lahore High Court accepted the government’s case against Bhutto and sentenced her to five years in prison. She was also barred from holding public office. Not willing to serve time in jail, she chose to go abroad and live in exile in Dubai.The return of the military to power in October 1999, under General Pervez Musharraf, did not improve Bhutto’s legal situation or make her more acceptable to those now in power. Her negotiations with the political authorities in Islamabad did not bring about reconciliation, since she demanded the withdrawal of all cases of corruption against her and Asif Ali Zardari, her husband, as the price for cooperation. This Musharraf was not prepared to accept. In 2002, she allowed her party to contest elections under the banner of Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP). The PPPP won 62 seats compared to 76 seats captured by the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-eAzam). Once again, there was an attempt by the military to bring PPPP into a broad coalition, and once again Bhutto demanded the same conditions for cooperation, and once again the military refused to accommodate her. In late 2004, Asif Ali Zardari was released from jail and was allowed to leave the country to join his wife in Dubai. Bhutto spent most of 2005 shuttling between Dubai and London, keeping in contact with the senior leadership of her party. However, the efforts to arrive at some kind of accommodation with the government of Pervez Musharraf did not succeed.

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