Pakistan is the sixth largest country in the world with a population of 180 million, many of who are illiterate and living under $2 a day. This South Asian nation has an arsenal of 90 nuclear warheads, stockpiled as a defense against India's nuclear weapons. The two countries have been at loggerheads since the Indian subcontinent was partitioned in 1947. Pakistan is 97% Muslim, and many see this country as a seedbed for terrorism. That is why the United States has consistently poured millions of dollars into Pakistan despite the military coups which have deposed democratic leaders.
In this enlightening and well-done documentary, director Duane Baughman delivers an engaging profile of Benazir Bhutto, the first female prime minister of a Muslim country who was assassinated at the age of 54 while speaking at a rally on December 27, 2007. Through photograph, video clips, and interviews with friends, family, and associates; we see her growing up in a well-educated and famous family. Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, served as Pakistan's first democratically elected president and then as prime minister; he founded the Pakistan Peoples Party whose slogan was "Food, Clothes, Shelter."
Benazir went to college at Harvard and then attended Oxford. Having seen the rise of feminism in the West, she came back her homeland where women still wore a burka and a veil. "You can see the world through that black veil and it's not a clear world. It's a grayish, muted world," she says. Recognizing Benazir's leadership abilities and her passion for democracy, her father gave his blessing and moral support to enter the political arena. Her move into the male-dominated world of politics never sat well with the military leaders who found it difficult to salute to a woman. At age 35, she was elected prime minister, defeating her father's nemesis, General Zia. Her first term lasted less than two years, but she returned as prime minister in 1993 and served until 1996.
Benazir's family, often described as the Kennedys of Pakistan, endured a series of incredible deaths. Her father was framed for murder and then executed by a military regime which desperately wanted to get rid of him; her youngest brother was poisoned while living in exile in France; and her oldest brother was shot and killed in a battle with police in Karachi. Benazir was imprisoned and even kept in solitary confinement before she was allowed to leave the country in 1984. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, spent 11 years in prison away from her, their son and two daughters, although he was never convicted of any crime.
Despite being haunted by death, prison, and the danger of assassination, Benazir returned to Pakistan in 2007 to run for prime minister again as an alternative to Pervez Musharraf, a former general of the Pakistan Army who had led a coup and appointed himself president. He appears in this documentary along with Condoleeza Rice, the former U. S. Secretary of State; Tariq Ali, a South Asian historian; Victoria Schofield, Benazir's closest friend at Oxford; Dr. Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed religious scholar; and other experts. Of special note is the use of recently discovered audiotapes on which Benazir tells her own story.
Bhutto is a powerful and edifying documentary with its depiction of the evolution of Benazir's leadership abilities and her astonishing courage in the face of challenges from all sides. She proclaimed that "military rule is the cause of anarchic situation [in Pakistan], not the solution." Of her personal struggles with the military, she said, "Democracy is the best revenge." Clearly, the cause of freedom and democracy lost one of its greatest advocates with her assassination.
Of additional interest — and concern — for Americans is the film's chronicle of American influence in Pakistan through ongoing support of the military and anyone claiming to be "anti-terrorist." Despite these efforts, years of political turmoil have enabled radical Islamacist groups, including the Taliban, to increase their appeal and grip on the nation's youth. And this is a country where 50% of the population is under 18.
Special features on the DVD include bonus interviews; biographies; and the original theatrical trailer.