Slain Premier's Daughter Triumphs Nine Years After Her Father's Execution

By Richard M. Weintraub
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, December 2, 1988

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, DEC. 1 -- Benazir Bhutto, 35, educated at Harvard and Oxford, daughter of a hanged prime minister, child of the turbulent history of her country, will soon stand supreme in Pakistan's National Assembly, the only woman to have risen to power in a predominantly Islamic nation.

Nine years ago, as a young woman of 26, she stood at the bars of a barren cell in nearby Rawalpindi. On the other side stood her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, thin and weakened from weeks in prison. The next morning he was to die, convicted of conspiracy to murder by the martial-law regime that had stripped him of power only months before.

In her autobiography, she recalled that last visit.

"The light inside the death cell is dim. I cannot see him clearly. . . . My mother and I squeeze together at the bars of his cell door, talking to him in whispers," she wrote.

"I try to reach my father through the bars. He is so thin, almost wasted away from malaria, dysentery, starvation. But he pulls himself erect, and touches my hand.

" 'Tonight I will be free,' he says, a glow suffusing his face. 'I will be joining my mother, my father. I am going back to the land of my ancestors in Larkana to become part of its soil, its scent, its air.

There will be songs about me. I will become part of its legend.' He smiles. 'But it is hot in Larkana.'

" 'I'll build a shade,' I manage to say.

"The prison authorities move in."

Nine years later, on Nov. 22, 1988, Benazir Bhutto drove up to the departure hall at the Karachi airport. Clustered at the entrance were reporters anxious to know of her progress on forming a government after finishing on top in the Nov. 16 elections.

As Bhutto began to walk over to the reporters to chat, she was suddenly surrounded by tough security men and hustled into the airport VIP lounge. The reporters realized that the political wheel had gone full circle.

Benazir Bhutto, who had been forced away from her father's death-row cell nine years before, now was seeing her own life protected with the same detached firmness.

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