Benazir Shaheed: A leader who proved 30 years ago that female nonacceptance is not an existential conundrum of Muslim countries

On second December 1988, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s pinky became the first female head of state of an Islamic government. During her campaign, she was criticised due to her gender by opposition parties. Ahadith (Sayings of Holy Prophet Muhammad SAW) were used as campaign banners in central and northern areas of Punjab resulting in a loss of a lot of her candidates but she gained an overall countrywide majority.

When she became the Prime Minister, her excellent foreign policy resulted in a paradigm shift in terms of how Pakistan and Islam was viewed by the west. As Pakistan was considered a leading Islamic country, several female politicians across the globe viewed Benazir as an inspiration. As a Harvard and Oxford Alumna, she was well educated and aware of the importance of bringing parliamentary supremacy and the exploitation of citizens of Pakistan which was not liked by the conservative military establishment that ruled over people and controlled them like puppets. She upheld the respect for rule of law and citizens’ rights. Above all, her labour friendly economic policy was a key area where words can’t do justice to the praise she deserves.

“Her efforts in attaining parliamentary supremacy were not liked by the pugs of the conservative military establishment elite”.

She was removed from her premiership twice and was later sent on a decade-long exile. She stayed in the limelight of Pakistani politics during her exile too and upon her comeback, she was welcomed with two terrorist attacks in Karsaz Karachi costing 180 lives of her political workers. Two months later, on December 27 of 2007, she was shot dead while returning from a campaign rally in Rawalpindi while waving to her supporters.

Benazir’s death didn’t stop her political rhetoric of social justice and rights. Her party won the 2008 elections. She has set an example for the world that a Muslim female can govern an Islamic country. Last year’s elections in United States proved that a glass ceiling for women politicians still exists in America. People of United States have chosen a womanizer, a hate propagandist and a celebrity over a seasoned female politician. This proves that Islam and Pakistan have been far ahead in the game of accepting female leadership. I hope that America would change its approach and give female politicians a chance to become leaders of the free world.

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