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In pictures: The life and death of Benazir Bhutto

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Nadeem F. Paracha narrates in pictures the story of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated on December 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi. Daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged by military dictator General Zia ul-Haq on April 4, 1977, Benazir Bhutto was perhaps the only modern leader Pakistan has had to date.

A 1-year-old Benazir Bhutto (aka BB) with mother, Nusrat. BB was born in June 1953 in Karachi. She was the first-born child of lawyer ZA Bhutto and Nusrat Bhutto.

ZA Bhutto (aka ZAB) with Murtaza and BB in 1955. Murtaza was born in 1954.

Nusrat with Benazir, Sanam and Murtaza.

And then there were four: Benazir, Murtaza, Shahnawaz and Sanam.

Her first political meeting: A 6-year-old BB (and Murtaza) are introduced to President Ayub Khan in 1959. ZAB was inducted into Ayub’s first cabinet at the age of 30. Ayub had taken over power through a military coup in 1958.

Learning how to ride at the Jesus and Mary Convent School in 1965. BB passed her ‘O’ level exams from this school in 1968.

BB (right) with siblings and mother at their home in Karachi in 1969. ZAB had had a falling out with Ayub in 1965. In 1966 he rose to become a fiery opposition leader. In 1967 he formed his own party, the left-leaning and populist Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). A violent protest movement forced Ayub to resign in March 1969. In 1968, when ZAB was in jail for three months, he wrote a number of letters to BB. She was his favourite child.

BB at Harvard University: She joined the prestigious American university at the age of 16 in 1970.

Benazir with ZAB and Indian PM Indira Gandhi in 1972. ZAB’s PPP had come to power in December 1971. He became president and then PM. Though still at Harvard, BB accompanied her father during his visit to Shimla to negotiate the release of Pakistani POWs. BB later wrote that she learned a lot about the art of political negotiation from this visit.

Sitting on her father’s left during a press conference in 1972.

On a PIA flight in 1972: BB talking to Shahnawaz. On her left is Sanam.

Visiting her ancestral village in Larkana in 1974.

At Oxford, 1975. After bagging a degree from Harvard, BB moved to Oxford University in late 1973 to study philosophy, economics and politics. Former Pakistan cricket captain and current PM Imran Khan too was at Oxford during this period.

With mother, father and siblings holidaying in Swat in 1975.

Hosting a political show, Encounter, on PTV in 1976. Brother Murtaza (right) attended as a guest. He was at Harvard at the time.

With ZAB’s lawyer, Yahya Bakhtiar, in 1978. ZAB’s regime was toppled in a reactionary military coup in July 1977. He was arrested and charged for ordering a 1974 murder.

With ZAB in jail, Nusrat visits BB at a hospital in Karachi in 1978. BB was shifted here from jail after developing an infection in one of her ears.

BB puts on a brave face after ZAB was hanged by the Zia dictatorship in April 1979. The death sentence was announced after a controversial trial. Murtaza and Shahnawaz were in London. Nusrat and Benazir were not allowed to visit ZAB’s grave in Larkana.

Benazir arrives for a court hearing in 1980. She was often moved between house arrest and jail. In jail she was put in solitary confinement.

In 1981, Benazir formed a multiparty opposition alliance, the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD). The MRD was headed by the PPP. Seen in the picture are heads of the allied parties of the MRD.

BB leads a MRD rally in Lahore in 1981. She was arrested again.

BB under house-arrest in 1982. She was thrown back into solitary confinement in 1983 during the violent eruption of the second MRD movement. Dozens of people were killed and hundreds more were thrown in jail. The movement was crushed when Zia sent in tanks to various towns of Sindh.

BB being tried at a military court. Standing is the famous communist activist Jam Saqi.

BB talking to reporters after she was allowed to go into exile in 1984. She had been in and out of jail and house arrest between 1977 and 1984.

BB coming out of a court in Cannes, France in 1985. The same year her brother, Shahnawaz, had died of poisoning. BB accused ‘Zia’s intelligence agencies’ of using Shahnawaz’s Afghan wife to assassinate him through poison. The court dropped the charges against the wife.

Lahore, 1986. BB returned to Pakistan in 1986. A mammoth crowd greeted her in the city, shutting it for hours. In her speech she directly challenged Zia warning him that she was back to remove him.

BB uses her dupatta to avoid inhaling teargas at her rally in Karachi. After Lahore, BB held a huge rally in Karachi’s Lyari area. But the rally was mercilessly teargassed by the police.

BB is forced to sign her arrest warrants after her rally in Karachi was broken by the police.

In 1987, BB married Asif Ali Zardari. Zardari’s father had been a PPP MNA in the 1970s. One of the wedding events was held in Karachi’s working-class area, Lyari. Over 100,000 people turned up!

BB campaigning for the 1988 election. Zia died in a plane crash in August 1988, paving the way for the return of democracy in country.

BB taking oath as PM. She was 37 at the time. Her party, the PPP, won the 1988 election.

BB with US President George Bush during her visit to the US.

With philanthropists, Bilquis and Abdul Sattar Eidhi in 1991.

1993: After her government was dismissed in 1990, BB was reelected as PM in 1993.

BB meets school children in 1995.

With legendary South African leader, Nelson Mandela in 1995.

BB handing the 1996 cricket world cup trophy to the Sri Lankan captain in Lahore.

BB mourning with mother at the funeral of brother Murtaza who was killed in a controversial police raid on his convoy in 1996.

Leader of opposition (1997-99).

BB with her children in exile. After Gen. Musharraf toppled the second Nawaz Sharif/PML-N regime in 1999, he forced both Nawaz and BB into exile.

A few years later, BB and Nawaz met in London to sign a ‘charter of democracy.’ They resolved to work together against the Musharraf dictatorship and not allow the ‘establishment’ to pitch them against each another.

BB returned in 2007 to a thunderous welcome in Karachi.

But her comeback rally was attacked by suicide bombers. Dozens were killed. BB survived.

December 2007: BB campaigning in Rawalpindi. This was her last ever rally.

She was killed during a terrorist attack on her convoy shortly after the rally. She was 53.

People leave flowers and candles on the site of the attack.


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