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Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto
Former Prime Minister of Pakistan

 Who is she?
 Brief biography
 Family influences: Dynasty
 Speaking out
 Pregnancy and Politics
 Policies for women
 Dealing with criticism and conflict
 Doing it all: paying the price
 Being tough: leadership styles
 Update
 Links to other sites

Who is she?
Brief biography
Family influences: Dynasty

From the age of 9, Bhutto was groomed by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, for political office in Pakistan. He introduced her to leading politicians of the day and made sure she was well educated.

"I was a very shy girl who led an insulated life, it was only when I came to Oxford and to Harvard before that, that suddenly I saw the power of people. I didn't know such a power existed, I saw people criticising their own president, you couldn't do that in Pakistan, you'd be thrown in prison. I saw the press take on the government. I was determined to go back home and to give to my people the freedoms and the choices- the individual dignity which I saw my college mates and everyone else in the West have...That early educational influence has profoundly affected my outlook on life."

At Harvard University in the USA, aged only 16, Bhutto found herself taking part in protest marches against the Vietnam War. In 1973 when she went on to Oxford University to study, her father became Prime Minister of Pakistan. Although it seemed she had been groomed for politics, it was not her first choice of career.

"My father was the Prime Minister of Pakistan, my grandfather had been in politics too, however my own inclination was for a job other than politics. I wanted to be a diplomat, perhaps do some journalism, certainly not politics. But when my father was imprisoned, then assassinated, I had no other choice but to continue in the work that he had started because so many of his followers wanted me to do so."
Speaking out

In 1977 Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan intending to begin a career in the Foreign Service. Ten days after her return, martial law was declared - her father was arrested on a murder charge and she was placed under house arrest. Benazir Bhutto became the focus for his followers and, from jail, he continued to advise her what to say to the crowds. After he was hanged in 1979 she felt that she must follow him as leader of the Pakistan People's Party. For seven years she was either under house arrest or in exile in Britain. In 1986 she returned to Pakistan and entered an arranged marriage, the following year the first elections for eleven years were announced.

"I had fought a military dictatorship. It was a Muslim country with very strong patriarchal tendencies. There were tribal areas, there had been the war in Afghanistan with the Mullahs, so it was a very big challenge to convince those who were not with us that women in the world of today could do as well as anyone else."
Pregnancy and Politics

Benazir Bhutto has her own ideas about why that time was chosen for the elections.

"General Zia called the first democratic elections since 1977 when he learned that I was pregnant, thinking that a pregnant woman couldn't campaign, I could, I did and I won so that disproved that notion."

Despite her pregnancy, Bhutto campaigned for 15 hours a day. When her child was born prematurely, she went straight back into the election campaign and in November as leader of the PPP won the election. How did it feel?

 "... the most exciting moment in my life was when I was sworn in as Prime Minister. I remember walking down the red carpet in the presidential palace and I felt as though an invisible army of all those who had died fighting for freedom walked with me and it was a tremendous moment of vindication. I also felt a tremendous sense that Pakistan had showed the way for other Muslim countries, that a woman could be elected as chief executive."

Her first term in office was to last only twenty months. She returned to office in 1993 when Nawaz Sharif who had replaced her was removed on corruption charges.

Policies for women

She placed importance on social issues, health and discrimination against women.

She aimed to set up women's police stations, courts and women's development banks.

"I would like to be remembered for overturning a military dictatorship and heralding a world of democracy in Pakistan for bringing in changes which could not be reversed which included an independent press and the move towards free markets... but above all I want to be remembered for what I did for women. My identity comes ultimately from being a woman and I felt that my life has to make a difference to the lives of other women so in terms of population control or in terms of exposing domestic violence or in terms of permitting women easy access to credit to start business of their own, I have always done my best to allow women to succeed."
Dealing with criticism and conflict

Bhutto thought that she experienced a lot of gender discrimination as the first Muslim woman Prime Minister. She felt that, many of the Muslim religious leaders believed she had taken a man's place. This criticism based on her gender was something she found very difficult to deal with.

"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. I found that my opponents reduced themselves to verbal abuse rather than discuss issues, the very mere fact that I was a woman seemed to drive them into a frenzy. So that was the biggest challenge. I don't know how to deal with that, I can deal with political differences, but how do you deal with it when someone says I don't like you because you're a woman and you've taken a man's place."
Doing it all: paying the price

Benazir Bhutto managed to juggle a husband and children with her leadership role. She found this difficult to balance.

 "When I was growing up I thought a woman could have it all and now I find that yes a woman can have it all but she has to be prepared to pay the price. And the price means a lot of guilt about not being there for your children when they need you, a lot of tension also with your husband on work schedules. So you find you can have a husband, you can have a family, you can have a career but at the end of the time you have very little time left for yourself. That's a choice I made and it brought me a lot of satisfaction but for those who want to start out, I would say there is a price that has to be paid"

She experienced particular problems during her pregnancies when, she felt, her opponents believed that she would be particularly vulnerable

"I was brought up to believe that a woman can do anything that a man can. But there are certain things that only women can do such as carry a child and I found myself in very strange position because each time I was pregnant my political opponents somehow thought I would be paralysed and would plot particularly against me at those points. Another time my political opponents had me teargassed at a time I was carrying my youngest child. It was a pretty harrowing experience. I found that the old-fashioned notion that a woman who's expecting a child has to be bedridden was absolutely wrong, a woman can do anything if she's lucky enough not to have morning sickness."
Being tough: leadership styles

In a Muslim world, more usually governed by men, did Bhutto feel that she had to be tough or did she exploit her femininity? Bhutto felt that over the years the situation changed.

"When we first started out I think that... women had to show they were as tough as men. I certainly felt that I was a woman operating in a man's world, and so I had to prove to the men that I had all the male qualities, and so I could be quite aggressive particularly in terms of speech. But now 30 years down the line, I think we can be more comfortable with the notion that its no longer only a man's world. There are quite a few women out there and we women can start being more like women, we don't have to outdistance or outperform men we can start being confident about ourselves."
Update

In 1996 Bhutto's husband was jailed for corruption and accused of murdering her brother. Bhutto was removed from government on corruption charges. She has denied all corruption charges and argues that the investigations are politically motivated. In 1999 a military coup removed Sharif as Prime Minister - look at Bhutto's response at the time from BBC News.

Bhutto's appeal is before the Supreme Court in Pakistan but so far no date has been set for its hearing. It if fails, she faces being banned from office and having her assets seized. Her husband is still in jail in Karachi. Bhutto fears if she returns to Pakistan, she will not be allowed out.

Links to other sites

The Politics of Benazir Bhutto, politician and icon

Biography of Benazir Bhutto

Encyclopedia.com - Results for Bhutto, Benazir


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