Pakistan Prime Minister. She was the first woman elected to lead a post-colonial Muslim country. Born the oldest child of former Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, her mother was Begum Nusrat Bhutto, a Pakistani of Iranian-Kurdish decent. She was raised in the Shia Muslim faith of her parents. Benazir was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and attended schools at the Rawalpindi Presentation Convent and the Jesus and Mary Convent at Murree. From 1969 to 1973, she attended Radcliffe College at Harvard University, where she graduated cum laude with a BA Degree in Comparative Government. She would later state that her four years at Harvard were the happiest of her life, and formed her belief in democracy as the best form of government. From 1973 to 1977, she studied philosophy and politics at Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford, England, and was elected President of the Oxford Union, becoming the first Asian woman to hold this office. She completed her studies and returned to Pakistan in 1977, when her father, then Prime Minister, was overthrown in a military coup. He was later sentenced to death in 1979, and her family was placed under house arrest by the military government. She was allowed to go into exile in 1984, and moved back to England, where she soon became head of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the same political party that her father had led, and began a pro-democracy opposition to the military junta. In November 1988, she was swept to power in the first free election in Pakistan since the coup nine years earlier, becoming Prime Minister. Her initial political efforts were aimed at national reform and modernization to include transforming the government to a more liberal secular rule, which some conservative clerics believed were leading Pakistan to Westernization with a governmental role similar to that of the United States. In 1990, she was removed from office after just 20 months, by order of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on grounds of alleged corruption, but was never tried. When new elections were again allowed in 1993, she was again elected Prime Minister and her PPP party again captured the Parliament. Returned to office, she renewed her reform efforts. She promised to eliminate discriminatory legal laws against women, but conservative and religious opposition blocked all attempts to reform those laws. Three years later, President Farooq Leghari dismissed her, again claiming corruption. Many political watchdog groups consider her two dismissals as having come from powerful opposition elite party members rather than from any wrongdoing. In 2003, she was charged with money laundering large sums of money through Swiss banks, using the money to purchase two multi-million dollar homes in England and France; she was found guilty by a Pakistani court. She appealed the verdict (at the time of her death, the appeal was still pending). Although in exile in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, she continued to lead the PPP to victory in the 2002 General Election, and her influence was greatly felt in Parliament. In 2007, defying the requests of General Pervez Musharraf, then President of Pakistan, not to return before the next election in January 2008, she decided to return from exile, fueling rumors that she intended to run again for Prime Minister. After her arrival at Karachi on September 28, she attended a political rally of the PPP party, during which two bombs were exploded, killing an estimated 136 people and injuring 450 more. On November 24, she filed her nomination papers for the upcoming January 2008 Parliamentary elections. She was killed while leaving a PPP campaign rally on December 27, when a gunman fired at her and a suicide bomber detonated explosives. At least 20 persons were killed, included Bhutto. In accordance with Muslim tradition, Bhutto's husband refused to permit an autopsy or any post-mortem exam. Identification of Bhutto's assassins remain unknown, since no one has claimed responsibility and several opposition groups are believed to have benefited from her death. Bhutto's death was almost universally condemned by the international community and most world governments.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson