Benazir Bhutto’s legacy | By Haya Fatima Sehgal


Benazir Bhutto’s legacy

WHEN speaking of women leaders who created a paradigm shift culturally in Pakistan, one must respectfully mention the former (late) Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Perhaps we did not appreciate enough the changes she brought with just her presence, being a woman in the political arena in a place such as Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto shattered the glass ceilings that were imposed upon women, redefining narratives in terms of women empowerment.

Thus, reviving almost smothered feminist efforts to promote gender equality in roles in governance.

With the biases that are sometimes inflicted on political figures, one might be unable to comprehend how important this was for the country and the nation’s women.

As the twice elected Prime Minister of an Islamic Republic and a Pakistani woman, Benazir Bhutto broke the mold completely.

Here, I remain apolitical and neutral. When I write about the late former Prime Minister, I write in terms of cultural perspectives and social change that impacted Pakistan; all efforts to highlight dynamic women who made history. We can agree or disagree with political ideologies, agendas or policies on another day.

Pakistanis (witness her achievements what she achieved) within the country but a few would understand how she changed perspectives completely about the Islamic Republic to an outside world.

An impact that created a new chapter not just in terms of national politics, but also global outlook.

Women in politics is not a new concept in Paakistan. Historically, Fatima Jinnah, the mother of the nation, rallied with other founding members to help create Pakistan.

She then also participated as a candidate in the Presidential elections of 1965 — even though she lost.

There have been several other women notable figures even till the 1970s trying to raise the status of women and raise issues of gender equality roles through feminist endeavours, but the fact remains that there was a marked decline of women in key positions of governance or policy making roles after this time period.

There was also decline in progressive educational endeavours in the country with the launch of radicalized beliefs.

It seemed women were also slowly being erased from establishing their identity, omitting their basic rights and freedom of speech.

I believe Benazir Bhutto brought an important aspect back for the women; that women could bear through trials of adversity and fight back in the face of opposition. And most importantly, win.

The nation’s lens would scrutinize her politically and each has their own opinions. However, those who knew her personally or worked closely with her have only complimented her as being, “Highly intelligent, brave and good to those around her.”

I would view her persona as how she impacted the world in terms of the legacy which she left behind.

It is a legacy in terms of women empowerment which earlier had not crossed favourably into the cultural barriers.

Women till had now been confined into specific roles demarked for them. Now, a new dimension was added; her presence in politics empowered women differently.

—The writer, based in Islamabad, is known for her articles on cultural impact.

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