Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto

The former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, spoke at Middle Tennessee State University on November 6, 2002. I was definitely moved by her lecture. She spoke so openly and eloquently about her experiences. I’ve never heard of the former prime minister before that night, but I found her lecture very inspirational. Her words and emotions behind them are enough to stay with me for years!

Benazir Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, formed the Pakistan People’s Party in 1967. He became the prime minister in 1971. In the meantime, Benazir was studying at OxfordUniversity. In 1979 General Zia ul-Haq had Zulfikar Ali Bhutto executed. Benazir Bhutto lived in until martial law was lifted in 1986. She returned to to run for Prime Minister in 1988. She won the title, but in 1990 the government dismissed her on charges of abusing her power and corruption. Benazir Bhutto was elected again as Prime Minister in 1993, but she was dismissed three years later for corruption. Since then, Bhutto has been living in exile. She has been banned from running for Prime Minister again. None of the charges have been substantial.

Benazir Bhutto was the first female Prime Minister of a modern Islamic nation. During her run in office, she has brought gender issues to the forefront. She established the first bank for women in , which gave women access to credit. She has also launched a nationwide program of health and education reform. Ms. Bhutto lifted the ban on student unions and trade unions.

Ms. Bhutto spoke out about the September 11th attacks. She expressed her condolences to the American people. Not only has terrorism struck Americans, but also Muslims. The Al Qaeda has struck terrorism everywhere. She says that their actions contradict Islamic law, which is what they claim to represent. The Islamic law is about civility and peace. In these harsh times, the Muslim people search for freedom. Therefore, the terrorism and fanaticism will be defeated by human nature. The former Prime Minister made a point of supporting efforts to fight the Taliban and ‘s current military government’s backing of the . Bhutto said that the majority of Pakistanis understand why the is taking action against the Taliban.

Bhutto argued that promoting democracy in is Southern Asia’s best defense against violence in the name of religion. She emphasized the roots of the trouble: clashing forces that aim to control Southern Asia. Democracy and modernization stand on one side while religious fanaticism and theocracy loom on the other. Bhutto explored the mistakes that had led to the Taliban’s ascendancy. She said that she had warned the government in 1989 about the dangers of religious fanaticism in . She acknowledged that she had been Prime Minister when the Taliban first arose. But at that time, their message had been one of peace and reconciliation.

Many charges await Ms. Bhutto and her family if she were to return. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, still sits in a Pakistani jail after eight years. Bhutto herself was imprisoned several times, both before and after her election as Prime Minister. Before her election, Bhutto led an opposition from her jail cell! Benazir Bhutto lives in exile with her three children.

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