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ACU Home > Major Events > News > 2002 News Archive > Benazir Bhutto

Former Pakistani prime minister speaks out for democracy, freedom

For immediate release
Nov. 12, 2002

Benazir Bhutto found herself forced into the political arena as a child when her father was imprisoned and eventually hanged for his democratic efforts in Pakistan. Building on her passion from that experience, Bhutto steered a course to become the youngest prime minister in the world and the only female prime minister in the Muslim world.

When speaking at Abilene Christian University's Center for Building Community luncheon Tuesday, Bhutto spoke of that course she steered toward democracy, equality and modernity in Pakistan, a journey that included her family members and herself being held as political prisoners at times and twice being unconstitutionally ousted from her position as prime minister.

"The gauntlet of leadership was thrown down before me. I had no choice but to pick it up," Bhutto said. "I'm often asked, 'Why would you continue a journey that is so difficult, so painful?' I do it out of a belief that my leadership has changed much and can change more. I do it because I must."

In addition, Bhutto spoke of the need for democracy, equality and human rights in Muslim nations.

"Your nation and its dreams give hope to people of all races, ethnicities and religions. America is a symbol of freedom to oppressed people across the world."

Bhutto also spoke about the need for religious understanding and the role of the Islamic faith in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"The terrorists who attacked the World Trade Centers did not fight for Islam. They fought for themselves," Bhutto said. "Criminal terrorists hijacked my religion just as they tried to hijack your planes. Those who did this violence are not clerics; they are criminals. Islam is not the religion these people preach."

Bhutto was born in Karachi in 1953. After completing her early education in Pakistan, she attended Radcliffe College and Oxford University. Along with obtaining a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, she also completed a course in International Law and Diplomacy at Oxford.

In 1988, at the age of 35, Bhutto was elected prime minister of Pakistan, becoming the youngest world leader and the first female prime minister in the Muslim world. After 20 months, a rival political party ousted her government; however, Bhutto was reelected in 1993. During her time in office, she emphasized the need to heal past wounds and to put an end to the divisions in Pakistani society - including reducing discrimination between men and women. She also launched a nationwide program of health and education reform.

Bhutto is the author of "Foreign Policy in Perspective" and her autobiography, "Daughter of Destiny." She received the Bruno Kreisky Award for Human Rights in 1988 and the Honorary Phi Beta Kappa Award from Radcliffe in 1989.

Previous speakers in the Center for Building Community lecture series have included William Bennett, Byron Nelson, James Dobson and Margaret Thatcher.

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If you are a member of the media who would like more information about this release, please contact Wendy Kilmer, university news coordinator.

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Last Update: December 17, 2007
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