Benazir Bhutto – A brave leader against the wind


This sketch I made on the cover of an education paper about India and Pakistan I wrote and illustrated for my students in 2003 when I was a teacher. I had chosen to depict Indira Ghandi and Benazir Bhutto on the cover to represent the female strength in an otherwise very male- dominated area and power structure. I’m a man myself, heterosexual, confident in myself, but have no problems admiring and encouraging intelligent, competent women and at the same time trying to balance a fairness between the sexes.

One amazing woman in Pakistan was Benazir Bhutto. She was born on June 21st 1953 in Karachi as daughter of Zulfikar Ali and Begun Nusrat Bhutto. On her mother’s side they had Kurdic background. Her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was Prime Minister during the 1970’s and working for national progress. He was however overthrown in a military coûp d’état by General Zia ul-Haq who proclaimed a state of emergency, promised new elections in three months time, but then changed the decision. Later he accused Benazir’s father of a murder conspiracy and had him hanged on April 4th 1979. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had been leader of the Pakistani People’s Party, the PPP, and now Benazir had to prepare for a life in politics. She was educated e.g. at a University in Oxford, Great Britain and then came back to Pakistan, the Land of the Pure. Zia ul-Haq had made all political activity illegal. In 1985 Benazir’s brother Shahnawaz died under mysterious circumstances in France, which affected the young woman enormously. She was also married to Asif Ali Zardan with whom she had a good marriage.

In 1988 Zia ul-Haq died in a plane crash and Benazir Bhutto and the PPP came to power. As Prime Minister Benazir became the first female leader in a Muslim state, but she failed to live up to the expectancies in the empoverished and troubled country. I wish to pinpoint though that every country and culture has its ups and downs, and social problems can occur everywhere as can periods of prosperity and success. This has nothing to do with culture or religion, but is a global phenomenon. Every culture and country though has every right to feel a sense of pride and dignity as well as we individuals need to do. Benazir had lost the elections in 1990 succeeded by Newaz Sharif. He worked for industrialization and an Islamic ruled Pakistan.

In 1993 Benazir Bhutto and the PPP came to power a second time, but the Mullahs and conservative forces didn’t like seeing a woman as their leader. A rebellious uprising occured in 1995 in Karachi and Benazir sent in troups to quench the uprising. She then was accused of corruption and embezzlement and had to flee the country. The year after her second brother Mir Murtaza was murdered. Pervez Musharraf came to power in 1996 and three years later the fights along the Kashmir border intensified. At the turn of the new millennium Musharraf felt that he had to abandon his good relations with the Taleban and in 2001 Usama bin Laden was said to have escaped to Pakistan. Pervez Musharraf started to imprison Islamic fighters, which made certain groups in Pakistan furious. At the same time tensions grew anew with India about the struggle for the Kashmir Province. Both countries assembled their armies along the border and war was not far away. To make it even more complex. Groups in Kashmir wanted the Province to become a state in it’s own right. During this time Benazir Bhutto lived in the United Kingdom and then in the United Arab Emirates, Al-Imaratu al-‘Arabiyatu al-Mutahidda.

In the autumn of 2007 Benazir Bhutto had struck a deal with Pervez Musharraf of a partition of power and she came back to Pakistan on October 18th 2007. During the triumph cortège in Karachi she was the subject of a bomb attack. 140 people died, but she survived – for now. In November that year she planned for big protests against the régime, and was for this put in house arrest on November 9th, but released the following day. On December 27th she attended a political meeting at Rawalpindi. When she left, her vehicle was attacked. First she was shot and then a suicide bomber killed himself and her. The next day, December 28th 2007, Benazir Bhutto was buried in the family Mausoleum. About 100 000 mourning people followed her to her grave to pay their respects. Benazir Bhutto became 54 years old. This was the end of a life of a fabulous woman – of power struggles, fighting against misogynic forces, intrigues, death threats and at the same time attempts to create a better Pakistan. For me as an outsider it’s tragic to see people fighting to cut each other’s throats, attacking, molesting, and slandering each other, and where prestige and blockations become more important than trying to find peaceful solutions, trying to meet each other, listen in and accepting each other in a more fair way. Pakistan in this case, The Land of the Pure, could thrive given the time and efforts. When it comes to misogyn attitudes. From my experience…Women love us men more if we allow them to be strong, well educated, fabulous women. Why not try to do some efforts in that direction?

Anders Moberg, December 11th 2012.


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