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Benazir Bhutto

Updated on October 8, 2013

Benazir Bhutto A Life Story

By Safiq ‘Ali Patel

Over 2000 days or more than 6 years have passed since the assassination of the former Prime Minister of Pakistan Mrs Benazir Bhutto. Mrs Bhutto is known to have visted and even lived in towns and cities all over England and Scotland in Great Britain during her years of expulsion and exile from her home nation of Pakistan. In 2004 Benazir Bhutto returned to the town of Dewsbury in West Yorkshire in the United Kingdom to attend a charity fund raising dinner for the Saverya Foundation, a fundraising venture backed by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi of Dewsbury, raising funds and awareness of widowed women' issues in Pakistan. Few people know of Mrs Benazir Bhutto's private and frequent visits to Dewsbury in the 1980’s. Benazir Bhutto lived and hid in this former industrial mill town Dewsbury often. People or all walks of life witnessed Mrs Bhutto's life and political activity here and I’m allowed to tell you about the woman, her passion and her persona all these years later as a tribute her courage. A woman the world eventually came to know and recognise as Pakistan’s first lady Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto while in power, and an envoy and ambassador for her beloved Pakistan even when exiled and thrown out of office.

Benazir Bhutto and her now near extinct family have a long and enduring friendship and reputation in the town Dewsbury. Established way back in the 1950’s when supporters of democracy fled Pakistan arriving in Dewsbury to take refuge from the Military activity sweeping Pakistan back then. These supporters of democracy, the legacy of the British Empire's close relationship with Pakistan eventually arrived in Savile Town, Dewsbury to escape sentences inflicted on them by military personnel who objected to their support for democracy and peace in Pakistan as promised to Pakistan by the departing British Empire in 1948. Brokered and bought alive by several negotiators there after the British departed India and created Pakistan as an independent nation rather than a province ruled by India or by colonial powers.

In the 1980’s Benazir Bhutto spent time meeting many hundreds of people in Dewsbury, and all over England. It was a time she was noted to have marked as a period without fear and harm at her door. Some of the Pakistanis she met were survivors of untold purgatory in Pakistan since it’s formation in the hours after the British Raj left the world’s largest democracy India, which Pakistan was a part of until gaining independence as the British left their imperial Jewel India and its territory behind.

Zulficar Ali Bhutto, Benazir’s father was the leader and founder of the Pakistan People's Party. Shahid Zulficar Ali Bhutto as he is remembered was a vocal supporter of educated choice and progress irrelevant of religion for all people. He opposed segregation and division speaking loud and clear of freedom and humanity for Pakistan’s militia and sectarian torn populations.

He called on all for peaceful co-operation the world over, protesting against religious extremism through the 1950’s and 1960’s. By the 1970’s Zulficar Ali Bhutto’s support for voted leadership swept him into office as Prime Minister of Pakistan. He during his life served as the prime minister of Pakistan and as it's President too. Zulficar Ali Bhutto’s support for democracy over religious or military rule was bought to a premature end when he was assassinated by hanging organised by Militarised opponents in 1979. Officially his story tells of a man who was arrested and put on trail for conspiracy to murder by General Zia. The unofficial story says Zulficar Ali Bhutto was a staunch democrat, a believer in the electorate of Pakistan and his death by hanging was an act of military strategy rather than an act of democracy or fair and free trail for charges relating to conspiracy to murder and participation in a nuclear weapons programme.

As a child of the 1970’s I read about the death sentence that had been carried out on Benazir’s father, while sitting on my brothers knee. I read this news from a hand written note posted on a sweet centre wall in Savile Town, in the absence of the news- media. I was aged only nine at the time. Only after a lot of digging and questioning of the official story that Zulficar Ali Bhutto was executed for involvement in crimes against his opponents have I come to the conclusion that Zulficar Ali Bhutto was indeed persecuted and killed. Pakistan's history is recorded as having 9 democratically elected leaders, and then there is the undeclared log of military coups when the Army of Pakistan has grabbed power by force and run the state, courts and governmental departments. Though few people want to and are allowed to openly recognise in Pakistan that among the countries many struggles is the ongoing battle between political party leaders and the Army for control of Pakistan. It is with apprehension and reluctance that I note the death of Benazir Bhutto's father as a unjust execution rather than a fair and balanced act of court approved justice.

His daughter Benazir Bhutto was quietly studying in the family home in the Sindh area of Pakistan when she was delivered the news that her father had been killed. During Benazir Bhutto’s private trips to England she disclosed that though her family faced repeated accusations of corruption, and conspiracy to murder, the real reason for the Bhutto family being so violently targeted was their support for elections and votes for poorest of Pakistan’s people many of whom continue to live below the poverty line and in conditions that are in-humane. Clean water, organised removal of sewage, clothing, food, education and employment are scarce resources in the country particularly in the rural communities where the vast majority of the nation's voting population are based. The flooding in 2010 in Pakistan showed the television watching public the plight of people who went from having few resources for daily sustenance to having none.

“What do I do?,” the Benazir Bhutto of the 1980’s asked as she sat in the flower wall papered living rooms of Savile Town, in Dewsbury in England. “My father was killed. I am his daughter whom opponents do not wish the world to know about. I’ve fled exile and with the cover of friends am visiting Pakistanis and appealing to British people to ask them what they believe I should do. I am appealing to British people to stand by Pakistan and I want their support for democracy rather than martial or Shariah Law in my home country”

I know not to this day, and perhaps it better that I don’t know quite who it was that managed to help Benazir come several times to Savile Town in Dewsbury in the 1980’s. In fact its not really known or understood how Benazir managed to travel all over the United Kingdom speaking of her ambitions for Pakistan. I do remember her tears and members of British and Pakistani communities becoming like Benazir's own family to her touching Benazir’s head in traditional Pakistani style as a gesture of support and sympathy for Benazir Bhutto. British and Pakistani people advised Benazir to not feel alone or mourn or miss her family or her country. Local people became family to Benazir Bhutto. Family and friends eventually said goodbye to Benazir with tears in eyes once more. She ceremoniously left like a bride leaving her family home. Years later, from the television news we learnt that Benazir got home to Pakistan safely and had come to see her most treasured dreams become real before her very eyes.

In 1989 Benazir Bhutto triumphantly returned to Pakistan, free from exile and was elected by thousands of ordinary Pakistanis as Prime Minister of Pakistan. She became a living Icon of triumph. Despite threats of violence against her Benazir had put herself forward as a candidate in the countries elections and won a massive mandate to become Prime Minister, leading a coalition government. Her success in the elections bought criticism from another fragment of Pakistan's ever increasing political participants, the nation's Islamic Scholars who ruled that Islam forbids the leadership of a woman in the political spheres.

In Dewsbury a northern former mill town Benazir has supporters and critics. Across England there are over 1 million Pakistani and British born Pakistani voters. Some people here praise Benazir Bhutto's politics while others despise her involvement in politics.

On winning her first election in Pakistan in 1989 thousands of people rallied to cry in Urdu “Pakistan Zindah Baad”. In English this means “Live again and live forever Pakistan.”It was a slogan chanted as defeat in the face of an alleged dictatorship run by Army General Zia that allegedly killed Zulficar Ali Bhutto.

As a Tribute to Benazir Bhutto, a woman I met as a young man I add “Benazir Bhutto Zindah Baad” meaning “Live for ever Benazir Bhutto and live forever Pakistan a free and democratic Pakistan”

In this locality of England we call Dewsbury, Pakistanis have lived for over 60 years. On speaking to the Pakistani community based here some are supporters of a Shariah Law state in Pakistan while some people want a military administration in Pakistan. There is passion and conviction as there is connection with all modes of government that seek to run this former province of India that has for more than 60 years been recognised by international convention as a free and democratic country and republic named Pakistan.

At different points in Pakistan's history concerns have been voiced for people and in particular the lack of economic progress and development for the masses of people in Pakistan who live below the poverty line. Nobody here wants to give their name or opinion but some bravely say only Benazir Bhutto championed for the ordinary people of her country. Mrs Benazir Bhutto was driven in and out of Government in Pakistan twice. It was during a rally for a third term in office that Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.

The few people who dare to mourn Mrs Benazir Bhutto's death openly say candidly that no politician has sought to give a voice and campaign for resources for Pakistan's most impoverished people in quite the way Benazir Bhutto had. Some people complain that Benazir's efforts as an envoy for Pakistan's poorest and most dis-enfranchised have never been recognised either. People talk vibrantly here in Dewsbury that Benazir Bhutto was the victim of long term religion based discrimination that was sectarian in origin. Benazir Bhutto was a follower of Shia Islam. Belief that caused her rejection and blame from Muslims following other sects of the Islamic faith.

A man who will not give me his name and I have learnt after many years of being stationed in this town not to press for such details said clearly.

"Benazir Bhutto deserves a tribute. She spent her life seeking water for Pakistan's thirsty, food for Pakistan's hungry, clothing for Pakistan's naked; she has worked hard to secure medical training and supplies for Pakistan's ill people and wanted deeply to lift Pakistan from the embers of racial and sectarian hatred and war. Benazir Bhutto wanted to cleanse Pakistan of its squalid conditions and create a powerful and dignified people and a country respected on the international stage. Benazir Bhutto was educated at University and wanted the right of peace, education and progress for those most beaten by the challenges of stabilising Pakistan. Reports emerge about corruption, these allegations have been pinned on virtually every candidate who has entered the fierce battle to become Prime Minister or President in Pakistan. Allegations of corruption in Pakistan will outlive Benazir Bhutto," my nameless interviewee tells me.

Looking back at the life of Benazir Bhutto she was compelled into politics by the expectations of dynasty, and the formidable reputation of Benazir Bhutto's father Zulficar Ali Bhutto. Mrs Bhutto tried hard to maintain his established links with the United Nations, she tried hard to continue with reforms to abolish poverty and reduce instability in Pakistan, each time building on her fathers strongest political legacies.

Benazir Bhutto was not without her opponents or critics for long. For Pakistanis choosing between religion and nation, between democracy or military is a daily requirement loaded with conspiracy and brutish pressure, nation and religion are a subject of conversation and a point of regular persecution. But it in a world that frowns upon war, regime, dictatorship and poverty Pakistanis and people who have no connection with Pakistan agree that without Benazir Bhutto Pakistan's neediest people would now be facing extinction.

We know that Benazir Bhutto visited Birmingham and Glasgow, we know of her visits to Bradford and Leeds, to Rochdale, Oldham and London, all towns and cities in the United Kingdom. She worked for her charitable pursuit for ordinary people of her home nation Pakistan. Gradually over years a picture emerges of a woman who gave her life to her country. British Pakistanis all over England and Scotland talk of a woman who was a talented and forceful speaker, a woman who was admired by some and demonised by others. Yes, a consistent strand is evident as I follow the trail of Benazir Bhutto's life. She was sometimes portrayed as a villain, a power and money hungry monster, but the average commentator does not speak or tell of a dangerous or selfish woman. Instead, the ordinary classes of Pakistanis, and the ordinary and average Brit talk of a sharp and quick thinking woman whose obsession was not money or power rather a woman who wanted money and power to destroy hunger, famine, poor education, and human devastation in all regions and provinces of her home country.

Benazir Bhutto was a woman politician who stood for humane ideals, whose plight as an orphan and female on a male dominated political stage gave her empathy with the masses of people in her country who endure frequent conditions akin to famine struck Africa, baring the effects of baron land where nothing grows due to infertile soils, empty stomachs resulting from failed harvests, floods, earthquakes, terrorist disruption, disease and health related epidemics. These humane ideals are the very ideals that masses of people protest for and seek to benefit from.

These are the aims, objectives and ideals that make Benazir Bhutto worthy of remembering and worthy of a tribute at approaching 1200 days after her passing away from this world. Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on 27 December 2007 while leaving a political rally that was part of Benazir Bhutto's campaign to seek a third term in office as a democratically elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. Her observers say Benazir Bhutto knew the risk of assassination was high and even inevitable. But Benazir Bhutto was willing to risk her life to chip away at poverty in Pakistan one more time. She was willing to tolerate brutality again to stand shoulder to shoulder with and take part with democracy. Hers is a story of which many chapters and much detail so far remain untold.

Rest in peace Benazir Bhutto Prime Minister of Pakistan 1988 to 1990 and Prime Minister of Pakistan 1993 to 1996.

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    • safiq ali patel profile image

      safiq ali patel 3 years ago from United States Of America

      Benazir Bhutto worked for all of Pakistan. Not just for Sindh.

    • profile image

      pakistanhandicraf 5 years ago

      She has a very good personality , She has work a lot for Sindh, But I have always regret that She and her children get educated from oxford but they have never give her best effort to education for the people of Pakistan and for Sindh People. Still the education system is very poor.

      But they only out great effort on shrines , tombs, and spiritual related things to give a martyred look to her party always.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      South Asia has given some wonderful women leaders to the world politics. Indira in India, Benezir in Pakistan, Bhandarnaike in Sri Lanka and Khalida Zia in Bangladesh.

      You have written succinct but very informative bio.

      My suggestions to you:

      Break the text into couple of subheadings.

      Add some photos, you can get free images at wikimedia commons.

    • safiq ali patel profile image

      safiq ali patel 5 years ago from United States Of America

      Next Thursday 27th December 2012 will mark 5 years since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Thank you Sherry Hewins for reading and commenting on this hub. I'm sure people all over the world see Benazir Bhutto as one of History's greatest souls. Someone who captured the attention of people all over the world. And yes I fully agree with you Benazir's Bhutto's death was a tragedy. A terrible day.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      I remember when Benazir Bhutto was killed, that was a terrible tragedy on a personal level and for the country.

    • safiq ali patel profile image

      safiq ali patel 5 years ago from United States Of America

      Mash 99 thank you for reading the hub on Benezir Bhutto and for you comments here too. Benezir Bhutto's greatest passion in life was the people of Pakistan. Inshallah if I get the chance to write more about Benazir Bhutto I will focus that work on Benezir Bhutto's struggle for Pakistan and it's people. Thank you very much for your feedback here. Deeply appreciated. Meherbani aap ki. From Safiq Ali Patel.

    • Mash 99 profile image

      Muhammad Mashhood Qasmi 5 years ago

      Dear Patel, Her anniversary is just around on December 27. I hope you will high-lite more on her struggle for the people of Pakistan.

    • safiq ali patel profile image

      safiq ali patel 5 years ago from United States Of America

      Justsilvie thank you for your comment. And I fully agree with you. Benezir Bhutto may be dead but her spirit and her message to the world live on.

    • profile image

      Justsilvie 5 years ago

      This is a wonderful tribute to Benazir Bhutto!

      We always seem to lose those who could change the world for the better through violence. I wonder if those who took their lives realized they would speak just as loud from the grave and some even louder than alive and that they now have given them the ability to reach even more people with their thoughts and direction.

    • safiq ali patel profile image

      safiq ali patel 5 years ago from United States Of America

      Tom Koecke thank you very much for taking the time to read this hub on Benezir Bhutto and for adding a comment. . Your words are a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman. I completely agree her work for Pakistan and the world and her death make her a martyr and saint. I too remember my fascination when Benazir Bhutto came out of exile to fight the elections in 2007. I thought it would be the start of a era of prosperity and peace for Pakistan.

      Sadly it did not work out that way. Benazir Bhutto lost her life in her battle to return to government. Never the less Benazir Bhutto will go down in the History books as Pakistan's greatest democrat and it's best envoy and ambassador. Very few people come close to enriching and enlightening the human race in the way Benazir Bhutto did. I miss her every day. Thank you again for reading the hub and posting a heartwarming tribute.

    • Tom Koecke profile image

      Tom Koecke 5 years ago from Tacoma, Washington

      I remember the intrigue I had when Ms. Bhutto came out of exile to run for Prime Minister, and the tremendous sense of loss I felt when I learned of her assassination.

      In another venue I wrote "Benazir Bhutto had the vision to see a more beautiful world full of people who would be at liberty to be true to themselves. Her assassins may have quieted her voice, but they are incapable of quieting her spirit unless we of flesh allow them to do so out of our own fears for our relatively worthless lives."

      She resides with the other great martyrs, like Socrates, Jesus Christ, and Dr. King, who sought to have humanity rise above its natures into principled existence.

      Bless her, and bless you for bringing this shining example of high principle to light for us.

    • safiq ali patel profile image

      safiq ali patel 5 years ago from United States Of America

      Hello Mash 99. Thank you for reading and commenting on this hub. There is little doubt Benezir Bhutto was a spectacular personality who cared for the issues and the problems of the masses of people in Pakistan. Your tribute to her is filled with just the honor, recognition and respect the late Benazir Bhutto deserves. Thank you kindly for taking the time to read this hub and to comment on it. Warm regards to you from safiq.

    • Mash 99 profile image

      Muhammad Mashhood Qasmi 5 years ago

      She was a brave fighter with a vision of progressive Pakistan. She always struggled for equality and justice just according to true spirit of Islam. She was borne with silver spoon in her mouth but faced a lot of hardship, perhaps many people even can't imagine, during her struggle for the rights of people belonging from all walks of life. She was above the short sighted believes many used in the name of religion.

    • safiq ali patel profile image

      safiq ali patel 5 years ago from United States Of America

      maximus thank your for you comments here. I value what you have said about Benezir Bhutto in your comments here. Should I publish more about Benezir Bhutto I will let you know.

    • profile image

      Maximus 5 years ago

      A very brave person that faced so many hardships in life that few can endure and rise above all to lead a nation. God bless her. Hope you will write more on those exceptional people around her in UK

    • safiq ali patel profile image

      safiq ali patel 6 years ago from United States Of America

      Thank you Lady E for your feedback. Benezir sacrificed her life in the end. She is iconic and legendary. And so very beautiful too. Regards from admin on safiq's page. Safiq's away but will be back soon. xx

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 6 years ago from London, UK

      Beautiful Tribute. She was a woman of Courage and sacrificed a lot for her people.

    • safiq ali patel profile image

      safiq ali patel 7 years ago from United States Of America

      The above tribute to Mrs Benazir Bhutto was originally published in the Dewsbury Reporter Newspaper in 2008. Less than a year after the brutal killing of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

      Mrs Benazir Bhutto was exiled and expelled from Pakistan, sometimes for years at a time. She spent those exiled years living in many different places. Sometimes the very fashionable hills and mountains of Switzerland, and sometimes hiding in the lesser known hills of Savile Town, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire in the United Kingdom.

      The above article is based on the memories of people who met Benazir Bhutto during those years when she was banned from residing or visiting her home country of Pakistan.