Former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto to speak at Fairfield University's Quick Center


Image: Benazir BhuttoBenazir Bhutto, the first woman prime minister of an Islamic country, will speak at Fairfield University on Monday, Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m., just days before the people of her home country Pakistan elect a leader.

Ms. Bhutto will deliver the annual Jacoby-Lunin Humanitarian Lecture, funded by the Frank Jacoby Foundation in Bridgeport. Her lecture, which is presented in affiliation with the university's Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies, kicks off the university's Open VISIONS Forum series of lectures. The forum is an outreach of Fairfield's University College, formerly the School of Continuing Education.

Ms. Bhutto had said she would like to return to Pakistan to contest general elections on Oct. 10. But Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the country's military ruler and a political rival to Ms. Bhutto, has threatened to have her arrested on corruption charges if she reenters Pakistan.

Ms. Bhutto has endured imprisonment before. She suffered nearly six years in prison or detention for her opposition to the military regime of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, who executed her father, founder of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), in 1979. Striving to bring democracy to her nation, Ms. Bhutto was first elected to serve as prime minister in 1988 as head of that party. In two terms as prime minister, Ms. Bhutto, who was educated at Radcliffe and Oxford, is credited with releasing political prisoners and taking steps to restore essential human rights. During her terms, Ms. Bhutto emphasized economic growth, privatization and decreased government subsidies. She is also recognized for her ability to maneuver politically in a nation with some who believe that a woman should not be a prime minister at all.

But charges of corruption have dogged Ms. Bhutto, whose husband, Asif Ali Zardari has been jailed in Pakistan since 1996 and awaits trial on several corruption charges. Ms. Bhutto was convicted in absentia in July for refusing to answer charges that she took kickbacks in exchange for a government contract. Ms. Bhutto has said that corruption charges against her have been fabricated by political rivals.

Image: Benazir BhuttoMs. Bhutto has condemned the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, noting that they do not serve Islam. "At this time of crisis, the American people must remember that those who use violence and terror in the name of Islam are hypocrites. Their goal is to establish theocracies of ignorance that they can control and manipulate for their own political ends," Ms. Bhutto said in a newspaper editorial. "They oppose western values. They also oppose Islamic principles."

Later in July of this year, Ms. Bhutto was unanimously reelected to head the PPP, but Musharraf has taken steps to prevent her from becoming prime minister again. The military ruler has enacted laws precluding those who've served two terms or who have a criminal record, from participating.

The Pakistan People's Party meanwhile, has created a new sub-group, the PPP Parliamentarians, headed by a long-time supporter of Ms. Bhutto. According to a party spokesperson, Ms. Bhutto would guide the new party, but not hold any elected seats.

Tickets for Ms. Bhutto's lecture are $18, with discounts available for seniors and non-Fairfield University students. To become a patron, call (203) 254-4000, ext. 2688. For tickets and information, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396 or visit the website, www.quickcenter.com.

Photos by Jean Santopatre

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 10, 2002

Vol. 35, No. 31