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If you like Benazir Bhutto's story, you might also like:
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Khaled Hosseini,
Hamid Karzai,
Coretta Scott King,
Greg Mortenson,
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Benazir Bhutto can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Benazir Bhutto in the Achievement Curriculum section:
What is a Leader
The Democratic Process
Global Conflicts

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Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto
Profile of Benazir Bhutto Biography of Benazir Bhutto Interview with Benazir Bhutto Benazir Bhutto Photo Gallery

Benazir Bhutto Interview (page: 2 / 5)

Former Prime Minister of Pakistan

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  Benazir Bhutto

Were you a good student?

Benazir Bhutto: I was a good student. My father put a great emphasis on education, and I found that he would always be so pleased when I did well. But it was terrible for my siblings because they were always being compared by the teachers to me and they would revolt against it, because I'd have a neat handwriting. It's awful now, but right then it was neat, and I'd get my work done and finish everything. I was very studious. I was very, very studious. I had a love for learning. The others didn't like to sit down and do their homework, but I loved doing it.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

You were the oldest?

Benazir Bhutto: I was the eldest, and I had a great sense of responsibility. When my parents would leave the house they'd tell me, "Take care of the other kids." I'd be only three and my youngest sister would be one but I still remember, "Take care of the kids."

I remember once we came to England. I think I was about four, and my younger sister was two. They used to have these gas pipes, and I was always a very curious child and they told me, "Don't touch those pipes." And I went and touched them and opened it up and my parents came back just in time because I nearly poisoned the whole household. So I learned not to be too curious after that.

Were there other influences or inspirations in your early life?

Benazir Bhutto: When I was a very young child I remember I was always against violence. It was an era when people used to go shooting and hunting. I remember once coming out on the veranda in our home in the countryside -- and my father was teaching my brother to shoot a parrot and... I remember seeing the parrot fall down dead and bleed, and I remember being appalled by it. And I remember the parrot fluttering and I can't bear to see blood to this day or killing. I'm very much against war and conflict and the taking of life, and I think that seeing that little bird -- green and beautiful and living and chirping in the tree, and then falling down dead -- did have a profound effect. It sounds silly to say that I should feel so strongly about a bird, but I remember my father telling me when he was facing the death sentence that "I remember the little girl who cried so much because a bird died, how she must feel." So for me, human life is very, very sacred.

There's another thing I remember.

This man had come to our home. He was a fisherman and he used to fish from the sea nearby and he used to sell us the fish. And he fell very ill, so my mother took him -- he was again shoeless and backless -- and my mother took him inside the house and said, you know, "What do you want, or whatever, to make you feel better?" And I remember he wanted a Coca-Cola. Now everybody drinks Coke, but in those days it was difficult to get a Coke, and that was his wish. And he was very sick and my mother wanted to send him to the doctor, and I remember he didn't want to go to the doctor. He was clinging to the car, and I always felt, after that, that perhaps people need to have their dignity and to die in peace rather than to be taken to strange clinics. So I feel a great empathy now when there is a rediscovering of the way -- of how people should be allowed to pass away. I've had many traumatic deaths in my life, and perhaps that has given me more sensitivity to the need to take leave amongst one's loved ones to begin the journey to the next world -- because I believe there is a next world -- than to let it just end in a clinical room.

Benazir Bhutto Interview Photo
Benazir Bhutto Interview Photo

Was there a moment of self revelation or self-discovery when you knew what you wanted to do with your life, that you were going to be different just as your father had been different?

Benazir Bhutto: It was not sudden. It came gradually. There were two moments, let us say, when it happened.

One of the moments was when my father died and I had my -- before he died, I had my last meeting with him, in the death cell, and he said that, "You have suffered so much." I had been in prison myself, and he said, "You are so young. You just finished your university. You came back. You had your whole life and look at the terror under which we have lived." So he said, "I set you free. Why don't you go and live in London or Paris or Switzerland or Washington, and you are well taken care of, and have some happiness because you have seen too much suffering." I reached out through the prison bars, and I remember grasping his hands and saying, "No, papa, I will continue the struggle that you began for democracy."

[ Key to Success ] Courage

So that was one of the points where I decided that I didn't want out. I'd stay, but I still didn't think I'd ever be prime minister.

I thought my mother would be the prime minister, and that I'd work for her to be the prime minister, and that's what I did. But my mother got sick and actually she had lung cancer, but we didn't know she was getting Alzheimer's. So she started behaving differently and we thought it's because she's had this serious illness, and she's reflecting on how to lead her life. And suddenly I found that since mommy was away and the whole party was about to collapse unless I was there, so I started looking after the party at that stage. When I went back, I remember people were shouting, "Prime Minister Benazir!" And suddenly it struck me that "looking after" means -- with mommy ill -- "looking after" means that I will be the prime minister. So it was in that sort of moment when I realized the responsibility that I had taken over could lead me all the way to an office that could govern the destiny of more than 100 million Muslims in Pakistan.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

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This page last revised on Nov 02, 2010 15:29 EDT
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