Why Benazir Bhutto was one of the greatest leaders of Pakistan
When she took her oath as the prime minister, it was an encouraging sign for the women of the country.
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It's always said that the society in the subcontinent in conservative. It's a bitter truth that we must accept, especially considering the status of women in our society. Sufi poets, like Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, had praised women's power in their poetry, and there have been women leaders in India and Pakistan, but the overall reality is that we have not been treating our women well.
In Pakistan, former dictator Zia-ul-Haq's dark era was challenged by a brave lady named Benazir Bhutto. She became the country's first female prime minister in December, 1988.
Benazir refused to surrender despite knowing that she might be killed - she came, fought and threw dictator out of his power, while male politicians tried to compromise with the dictator.
Extremist groups were emboldened during the Zia-ul-Haq era. It messed up the thoughts of the society.
So Benazir was welcomed by the common people, but the conservative class did not welcome her, which made it difficult for her to run the government.
When she took her oath as the prime minister, it was an encouraging sign for the women of Pakistan. She took a number of remarkable steps like the following:
1. Establishment of women's bank.
2. Establishment of ministry for women affairs.
3. Enhancing women's employment avenues.
4. Appointment of female judges in the judiciary.
5. Setting up of women's development departments in the provinces.
6. Setting up of police stations for women (staffed exclusively by women).
7. A human rights ministry was formed to investigate into human rights abuses, against women.
6. Five per cent quota for women in employment was fixed in all government departments.
7. Establishment of crisis centre for women in distress.
8. Formation of Muslim Women's Parliamentary Union.
9. Establishment of Women's Sports Board.
10. In 1996, Pakistan ratified the United Nations' Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
11. Restoration of women's seats in national and provincial assemblies.
Her decision to establish the women's bank was a big achievement; women got jobs, and many were allowed to get education because now their educational degrees commanded monetary value.
But she was not allowed to remove the draconian Hudood ordinances, as her efforts were discouraged in the name of Islam.
The system made it difficult for her to work, but at least, she raised hopes among women and gave them courage.