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Benazir to share peace ideas

To be elected PM of a country as volatile as Pakistan is a difficult task. To do so as a woman from the minority Sindhi community is doubly so.

india Updated: Dec 12, 2003 13:26 IST

To be elected prime minister of a country as volatile as Pakistan is a difficult task. To do so as a woman from the minority Sindhi community is doubly so. Benazir Bhutto ruled Pakistan for nearly nine years as the first woman to head the government of an Islamic state.



It has not been a smooth road for her.

She has spent seven years either in jail or in exile for political reasons. Her worst run-ins have been with Pakistan's all-powerful military leaders. One of them, Zia-ul-Haq, hanged her father. The military helped stage a constitutional coup against her in 1996. General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's present dictator, holds her husband in jail and keeps Bhutto in de facto exile.

Ironically, as she has said, politics was the last thing on her mind when she was young. "I was a very shy girl who led an insulated life." After being educated at Harvard and Oxford Universities, she says she "wanted to be a diplomat, perhaps do some journalism."

Her father's death changed all this. And she hasn't looked back since. Bhutto says: "The most exciting moment in my life was when I was sworn in as prime minister…I also felt a tremendous sense that Pakistan had showed the way for other Muslim countries, that a woman could be elected as chief executive."

Though her husband languishes in a jail in Pakistan, Bhutto remains an outspoken critic of Musharraf. She calls the Kargil war "the biggest blunder committed in the history of Pakistan."

Bhutto has repeatedly warned India of the dangers of trying to come to peace with a military dictator.

"Ever since Musharraf usurped power, Pakistan and India came close to a war three times," she said in London in August.

On December 13, at the invitation of Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative, Bhutto will speak at "The Peace Dividend" conference.

With her first-hand knowledge of Pakistan's labyrinthine political system and Musharraf himself, Bhutto is expected to give an unusually insightful judgment on the prospect of peace between India and Pakistan in today's context.

First Published: Dec 11, 2003 20:23 IST