- Domestic Affairs
Benazir Bhutto was prime minister at a time of great racial tension in Pakistan. Her approval poll rose by 38% after she appeared and said in a private television interview after the elections: “We are unhappy with the manner in which tampered electoral lists were provided in a majority of constituencies; our voters were turned away.” The Conservatives attracted voters from MMA whose support had collapsed. The Friday Times noted “Both of them (Nawaz and Benazir) have done so badly in the past, it will be very difficult for them to do worse now. If Bhutto’s government fails, everyone knows there will be no new elections. The army will take over”.
The racial violence in Karachi reached at peak and became a problem for Benazir Bhutto to counter. Operation Blue Fox, was launched to wipe the MQM from country’s political spectrum. The results of this operation remain inconclusive even today’s environment. Though the operation was halted in 1995, but amid violence continued and, Shahid Javed Burki, a professor of economics, noted that “Karachi problem was not so much an ethnic problem as it was an economic question.” Bhutto, through her Internal Security Minister Naseerullah Babar, intensified the internal security operations and steps, gradually putting down the opposition’s political rallies, while she did not completely abandon the reconciliation policy.
In December 1993, news began to surface in the Swat valley when Sufi Muhammad, a religious cleric, began to mobilise the local militia calling for overthrow of the “un-Islamic rule of [Iron] Lady”. Benazir Bhutto responded quickly and ordered the Pakistan Army to crack down the militia, leading to the movement’s being crushed by the Army and the cleric was apprehended before he could escape.
However, corruption grew during her government, and her government became increasingly unpopular amid corruption scandals which became public. One of the most internationally and nationally reported scandals was the Agosta Submarine scandal. Benazir Bhutto’s spouse Asif Ali Zardari was linked with former Admiral Mansurul Haq who allegedly made side deals with French officials and Asif Ali Zardari while acquiring the submarine technology. It was one of the consequences that her government was dismissed and Asif Ali Zardari along with Mansurul Haq were arrested and a trial was set in place. Both Zardari and Haq were detained due to corruption cases and Benazir Bhutto flew to Dubai from Pakistan in 1998.
· Women’s Issues
During her election campaigns, she had promised to repeal controversial laws (such as Hudood and Zina ordinances) that curtail the rights of women in Pakistan. Bhutto was pro-life and spoke forcefully against abortion, most notably at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, where she accused the West of “seeking to impose adultery, abortion, intercourse education and other such matters on individuals, societies and religions which have their own social ethos.” However, Bhutto was not supported by the leading women organisations, who argued that after being elected twice, none of the reforms were made, instead controversial laws were exercised more toughly. Therefore, in 1997 elections, Bhutto failed to secure any support from women’s organisations and minorities also gave Bhutto the cold-shoulder when she approached them. It was not until 2006 that the Zina ordinance was finally repealed by a Presidential Ordinance issued by Pervez Musharraf in July 2006. Bhutto was an active and founding member of the Council of Women World Leaders, a network of current and former prime ministers and presidents.