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Political Prisoner Of Conscience Essay

1282 words - 6 pages

Benazir Bhutto: A Modern-Day Political Prisoner

“America’s greatest contribution to the world is its concept of democracy, its concept of freedom, freedom of action, freedom of speech, and freedom of thought.” A woman named Benazir Bhutto spoke those wise words. She, herself, was a political prisoner of conscience from an early point in her life. A political prisoner by definition involves an individual who has been imprisoned for holding or advocating dissenting political views (American Heritage Dictionary). This is similar to a political prisoner of conscience- one in which is prisoned for holding political or religious beliefs not tolerated in the state in which they live (Oxford ...view middle of the document...

Benazir Bhutto was an intelligent, progressive woman. Following in her father’s footsteps, she decided to pursue a career in politics. She sought after a higher education at Harvard University, where she graduated with honours and a Bachelor of Arts degree in comparative government. Following Harvard, Bhutto attended Oxford University to complete a course in international law and diplomacy. Her father, former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto led the Pakistan Peoples Party and was disliked by many Muslim fundamentalists. The PPP is a centre-left, social democratic political party, focused on bringing American democratic philosophies to Pakistan. A manifesto signed by the PPP identified the party’s ultimate goal as being the achievement of a “classless society” (egalitarian) which is believed to be attainably only through socialism. This sparked great hatred towards the party, as the majority of the country did not believe in socialist movements.

Due to their activism on their father’s behalf, Benazir and her family were arrested and imprisoned. For 18 months they had been rallying public opinion in support of their jailed father, working tirelessly in hopes that his death sentence would be abolished. Despite strong public protest, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was executed in 1979 and Benazir inherited the PPP. Even with citizens of Pakistan begging the government to investigate the charges on Bhutto, the government chose to ignore the people and eliminate him because he was a threat. It is in cases like these where a question of corruption arises. Is it just to hang someone when accusations do not have evidential backing? This is one of the many reasons the Bhutto family was determined to bring democratic ways to Pakistan- to present their people with the idea of a government they could vote for and have a say in. Bhutto’s death, however, is also a tragic example of how little influential power the people of Pakistan have over their government. They are already putting themselves at risk openly opposing the government but are more so discouraged when their actions result in no seen change.

Perhaps this is why Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party won local elections the following spring. When this happened, however, General Zia (current government) canceled the elections and once again sent all Bhutto family members to jail. The torture endured by Benazir during this five-year time was nothing short of horrendous. Along with her family, she was held in solitary confinement for six months in a desert prison at Sukkur. While here she was struck with the worst of the summer heat- resulting in hair loss, pealing skin, insect infestations, and sever dehydration. When she was finally relocated, Benazir had an inner ear problem that required surgery. Her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Finally, enough international pressure forced General Zia to allow Benazir and her mother to leave Pakistan under medical exile. While...

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