Benazir and the Arab Malaise

Amara Lakhous in Reset:

The election of Benazir Bhutto in 1988 was a cultural shock to the Arab world. No Arab woman had ever run for president or prime minister. Even today, women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive a car, based on truly ridiculous customary rules. How did Benazir manage to come to power at the age of 35, while Arab Muslim women have been left behind? The successful political case of Benazir Bhutto shows that Pakistani people do not take notes from the Wahhabist Saudi model like the Afghani Taliban do, but instead follow the English or Indian path.

There is a passage in the introduction to Benazir Bhutto’s autobiography which best sums up her extraordinary public and private affairs. “Pakistan is no ordinary country. And mine has been no ordinary life”, writes Benazir. “My father and two brothers were killed. My mother, husband and I were all imprisoned. I have spent long years in exile. Despite the difficulties and sorrows, however I feel blessed that I could break the bastions of tradition by becoming Islam’s first elected woman prime minister. That election was the tipping point in the debate raging in the Muslim world on the role of women in Islam.””.