Talking about a woman who was once in a position of high power, living within dominant world views which dictate that her womanly presence be shunned from the public’s eye, is something not unfamiliar in history. Even now we see value put toward the opposite sex’s accomplishments, shunning women from the often well-deserved spotlight.
However the way historians may want to record the life of Benazir Bhutto — if it be an emphasis on her claimed corruption or on the mysterious details of her death — let it not be forgotten that Bhutto was a woman who once held strong influence over a people of many perspectives.
My interest in Bhutto was peeked when I picked up a book from the dollar store about her life. The unauthorized mini biography of Bhutto’s accomplishments and her role as the Prime Minister of Pakistan was written by Mary Englar for the Signature Lives: Modern World Series. The Series is primarily aimed for the children/juvenile audience and is published by Compass Point Books (Capstone). The book was published in 2006, about a year before her assassination. Written in the present tense, there are parts that hauntingly foreshadow her death. Bhutto’s own quoted words express her fear of politics and her understanding of the high cost of being a woman in politics.
And it is these words of hers that have made me want to include her alongside HeForShe’s post — women’s equality and empowerment is important for all positive progress, and it is important that younger generations know this too.
"Though she had grown up in a political family, as the daughter of Pakistan's first democratically elected leader, she recalled, 'When I was a child, there were many attempts on my father's life. Politics Scared me.' She knew that in Pakistan, political beliefs might lead to death."
The Signature Lives Series are books with a focus on change in history and with humanity. These books are written with the understanding that individuals need to recognize the importance of politics and international relations. Mary Englar, a freelance writer and a teacher of English and creative writing, has authored different books on culture and history, with the intended audience for younger people. The book is a good introduction to children/juvenile non-fiction and reads as easily, and as interestingly, as a picture book. With the fad on picture books and coloring books for all ages, I would highly extend this book for the adult audience too.
The Politics of Benazir Bhutto
For Benazir Bhutto, a growing interest in politics began when her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, started the “Pakistan People’s Party” (PPP) in 1967, a political response to the peace treaty signed by the then president of Pakistan, Ayub Khan, in September of that year. Turmoil erupted and riots spread the streets over the signed peace treaty. Bhutto’s father resigned from his position in the president’s government to start the PPP.
Bhutto began to take notice of her father’s politics when she was 14 years old — she began to form her own political interests. Her father was a strong advocate for woman’s equality and often broke with traditional beliefs. Englar says that Bhutto’s father encouraged his children — both daughters and sons — to get a good education.
At the age of 16, she traveled over seas to attend Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she studied comparative government. After graduating from Radcliffe, she went to Oxford and studied politics, philosophy, economics, and international law and diplomacy.
In August of 1973, her father became Prime Minister of Pakistan — a few years after East Pakistan was allowed independence by the United Nations, a country now know as Bangladesh. Her father was later arrested when General Zia ul-Haq of the Pakistani army took over the government. Shortly after, he was released only to be arrested again and convicted of attempted murder. He was charged in March of 1978. During this time, Bhutto and her mother were in house arrest and were granted a few moments with her father while he was jailed. The morning of April 4th, Zulfikar, Bhutto’s father, was hanged.
Benazir Bhutto and the PPP
Before Bhutto was sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan in December 1, 1988, she had already dealt with much loss due to her family’s strong political ties. The death of her father and then her brother, Shah Nawaz, all occurred before she became the first Prime Minister of Pakistan. Her first time as Prime Minister was short lived. Bhutto was dismissed by the president with the claim that her party did not bring law and order to the country. Nawaz Sahrif, leader of the strongest party in the National assembly, accused Bhutto and her government of corruption.
October 1993 was the second time Bhutto became Prime Minister. Despite her efforts to establish bipartisan democracy, she was plagued with problems, one of them being from her own family. Her brother Mir Murtaza (with the aid of their mother) ran under a different party name that claimed to be closer aligned with their father’s original wishes (her brother Mir later was killed in September 1996); and, once again, former president Nawaz Sharif accused her and her husband of corruption — a claim she could not recover her political reputation from.
The book ends on a somewhat happy note; Englar says that Bhutto will “always speak out against violence, injustice, and abuses of human rights.”
The book ends in 2006, a year before Bhutto’s assassination. In 2007, she planned on running, once again, in Pakistan’s 2008 elections. She was self-exiled living in Dubai and in London while her court cases for corruption remained pending. She was addressing a crowd of PPP supporters in the city of Rawalpindi when attempts at her life were made and carried out. How she was killed remains a topic of speculation.
A Children’s/Juvenile’s Approach to Non-Fiction
The Signature Lives: Modern World Series takes history and historical events and makes them accessible to a younger audience. While most of the information in Mary Englar’s book about Benazir Bhutto’s life can be viewed as superficial knowledge, much of the information gathered encourages the right amount for curiosity and further research. Englar does a fine job at creating a timeline of events that tells a good narrative about Bhutto’s early life and the time she was twice Prime Minister. For those who are interested in approaching non-fiction books, but are hesitant to buy something of great historical length, I recommend picking up books aimed for the children/juvenile audience. There is no shame in reading these types of books written for younger people — they are simplified for easy understanding and often have wonderful pictures that supplement their words. Also, they are written in a style that will make you feel comfortable approaching a research project of your own, to garner more, in-depth information.
¡PSST! ©2016 The Black Lion Journal