Related Content

Related Overviews

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1928—1979) president and later prime minister of Pakistan

Mohammad Zia ul Haq (1924—1988) president of Pakistan



See all related overviews in Oxford Reference »


More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • History
  • Contemporary History (post 1945)


Show Summary Details


Benazir Bhutto

(1953—2007) Pakistani stateswoman

Quick Reference

(b. 21 June 1953; d. 27 Dec. 2007).

Prime Minister of Pakistan 1988–90, 1993–6

Early career

Born in the Sind Province as the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir studied history and politics at Harvard and Oxford, where she became the first foreign president of the Oxford Union Society. She returned upon her father's assumption of the Presidency in 1977, and advised him briefly on foreign policy issues. When her father was deposed in July 1977, she was placed under house arrest. After spending two years in exile in Britain (1984–6), Bhutto returned to Pakistan and, with her mother, became chairwoman of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). After an unsuccessful attempt to come to power on a wave of populist support in 1987, she reformed the PPP by moving it to the right, and by bringing the party's administration firmly under her control. This enabled the PPP to emerge from the 1988 elections with a simple majority.

In power

As Prime Minister, Bhutto aimed for Pakistan to improve relations with India, return to the Commonwealth, and, without losing the support of the army, reduce involvement in Afghanistan. After a year in office she was accused of abetting corruption and failing to eradicate any of the country's domestic problems, which were compounded by the presence of some three million Afghan refugees. She was dismissed in 1990, and lost the subsequent elections. Three years later, she staged a spectacular comeback in the elections. Cleared in the courts of the corruption allegations, the main challenge of her term in office was the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, which forced her to concede the introduction of Islamic law (shariah) in one of the areas of the North‐West Frontier province. Corruption charges resurfaced, notably in connection to the role of her husband, whom she had appointed to the post of Investment Minister and who had apparently taken bribes.

She was dismissed by President Farooq Leghari in 1996, and was defeated in the following elections of 1997. While her husband was imprisoned in 1996, she left the country in 1999 and from that time was a fugitive from Pakistani justice. Tried in absentia for corruption, she was sentenced to five year's imprisonment in that year; a retrial was ordered in 2001, but Bhutto failed to attend and was sentenced (2002) to three years' imprisonment. She was granted an amnesty and returned to Pakistan to fight elections called for January 2008, but was assassinated in a suicide bombing in Rawalpindi whilst campaigning in December 2007.

Reference entries

View all reference entries »