Political Career

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  • Upon her return to Pakistan in 1977, she (along with her family) was placed under house arrest following the removal of her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as prime minister and the emergence of General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq to power.
  • She inherited the leadership of her father’s political party, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and spent the next two years organizing rallies to force General Haq to drop murder charges against her father.
  • Against local pleas and international pressure, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged on April 1979. Soon after she was arrested and taken to Larkana Central Jail. In 1981, she was imprisoned in Sindh Province.
  • Succumbing to immense international pressure, she (along with her family) was allowed to travel abroad in 1984 for medical aid. Following her recovery, she resumed her political pursuits, becoming a leader in exile for the PPP, and raising awareness of the state of political prisoners and human rights violations under the Zia regime.
  • In 1986, she returned to Pakistan after two years of self-exile upon the lifting of martial law, and launched a nationwide campaign for open elections.
  • In 1988, a mysterious aviation accident caused the death of General Haq, leaving a vacuum in Pakistan politics and the need for elections.
  • In the 1988 elections, the PPP led by Bhutto emerged as the victor, winning the largest number of seats in the National Assembly. She was designated to the prime ministerial position on December 2, 1988, thus becoming the first woman prime minister of a Muslim state.
  • Unfortunately, during her first term as prime minister she could not do much to combat the problems of poverty, corruption and crime. Moreover, her aim to shift Pakistan’s semi-presidential system to a parliamentary system were also unsuccessful, as most of the proposed laws were vetoed by conservative President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.Benzair 1
  • In 1990, following the failure to curb corruption and unemployment, as well as an economic downfall, President Khan ousted her as prime minister using the Eighth Amendment with alleged charges of corruption, nepotism and despotism.
  • In the 1990 elections that occurred at the aftermath of her expulsion, her party failed to register a victory and opposition leader Nawaz Shariff succeeded the chair. She accepted her defeat and took over the role of the Leader of Opposition.
  • Following the resignation of Nawaz Sharif and President Khan in 1993, elections were held and the PPP emerged victorious. Bhutto was elected for a second term as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. She appointed Farooq Leghari as the President.
  • During election campaign she promised support toward agriculture, pledged a partnership between government and business, and campaigned strongly for the female vote. However, once in power, she was not able to implement any of her agendas and failed miserably.
  • She was neither able to contain racial tension that was at its peak in Karachi nor corruption scandals, both of which only worsened the economic condition of the country. Furthermore, women’s issues were not dealt with since no reforms were made and instead already controversial laws were exercised more harshly.
  • She had promised denationalization programs and liberalization of the economy during her second term but none of the same ever occurred. As such, inflation and unemployment increased causing a decline in the living standard of the people.
  • With the ever-increasing corruption, as well as the death of her younger brother, the credibility of her government declined. It faced harsh criticism and became hugely unpopular amongst the public, resulting in the dismissal of her government in 1996.
  • In 1997, she moved to Dubai along with her children to escape the corruption charges by the Nawaz Sharif government. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari was held in captivity and imprisoned.
  • From 1996 until 1999 while in exile, she became the Leader of the Opposition within the parliament. In 1999, Pakistan’s involvement in the Kargil War brought about international shame for the country and hindered Shari’s public image. Bhutto capitalized on the situation and gathered support for herself.
  • She aimed to bring her PPP back in action, and was in support of the coup d’état of Pakistan’s armed forces. With General Pervez Musharraf’s ascension to power, her demand for the corruption charges being dropped were denied. As a result, she remained in exile in London and Dubai.
  • In 2002, when Pervez Musharraf amended the Pakistani constitution, banning prime ministers from serving more than two terms, her chance to hold office ever again was disrupted. Furthermore, prohibition for a court-convicted individual from holding party office made it impossible for her to compete in the elections.
  • In 2007, she returned to Pakistan after serving eight years of self-imposed exile. All charges against her were pardoned by Musharraf and a power-sharing deal between Bhutto and Musharraf’s military regime came into force.
  • Upon her return, she participated in the preparation for 2008 parliamentary elections. However, her time was cut short due to her assassination in December 2007.