Updated: Feb 28
“I dream of a world where we can commit our social resources to the development of human life and not to its destruction.”
Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007), born into an elite political family in Pakistan, was the first female prime minister of Pakistan and the first elected head of an Islamic State. She studied politics, philosophy and economics at Harvard and Oxford Universities and while in the United States, actively protested the war in Vietnam. In 1977, Bhutto’s father, founder of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was re-elected as Prime Minister, but was soon accused of conspiracy and thrown into jail. At this time, Bhutto was placed under house arrest.
Her father was eventually executed, and Benazir, exiled to Great Britain. In 1986, she returned to Pakistan where, at the urging of the PPP, soon began to campaign for political office herself. Benazir’s political agenda included ending hunger, providing reproductive health education for women, reversing gender discrimination and other policies designed to improve the lives of women. She served as Pakistan’s Prime Minister from 1988-1990 and again from 1993-1996. Each time, she was removed from office by the sitting president for unsubstantiated charges of corruption and incompetence. Once again, she was exiled.
In 1994, Benazir delivered the keynote address to the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development calling for a global partnership to improve human conditions and increase aid to help stabilize unchecked population growth in Pakistan. “I dream of a Pakistan, of an Asia, of a world where every pregnancy is planned, and every child conceived is nurtured, loved, educated and supported.” She rejected abortion as a method of population control and laid out a plan that instead included efforts to reduce infant mortality, greater education and economic independence for women and increased access to services saying, “empowerment of women is part of the battle.”
In 2007, upon returning to Pakistan amid death threats and a deadly suicide bombing, Benazir was assassinated in Rawalpindi on October 18. Following her death, widespread violence erupted. Her suspected assassin was killed in 2009 during a US led drone attack.
(Image by Oliver Mark)