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Words Both Hopeful and Fateful

As Benazir Bhutto ’73 returned to Harvard in 1989 to give the Commencement address and receive an honorary degree, Peter W. Galbraith ’73, K ’78, recalled his attempt, on a Senate Foreign Relations Committee visit to Pakistan in 1981, to visit his classmate Bhutto in prison. Galbraith was not allowed to see her, and it would be another two and a half years before she would be freed. But Galbraith wrote of Bhutto’s extraordinary life after her time as a political prisoner:

In the space of twelve months, beginning in December 1987, she got married, designed and built a house, wrote and published a book, conducted a national election campaign, gave birth to a son, and took her first salaried job as leader of a strategically important country of one hundred million.

Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was Pakistan’s president from 1971 to 1973 (assuming the office during his daughter’s junior year at Radcliffe). He was hanged in 1979. “I always knew Benazir would do well,” Galbraith wrote. “And I thought her eventual leadership of Pakistan—assuming she was permitted to live—became inevitable” with her father’s death.

Bhutto served as prime minister from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996; she lived in exile from 1998 to 2007 and was assassinated in December 2007, two months after her return to Pakistan.

She spoke about politics in her 1989 address, calling for a new international organization for the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide:

Bhutto quoted the poet-philosopher Iqbal: “ ‘Life is reduced to a rivulet under dictatorship. But in freedom it becomes a boundless ocean.’ This is true in Pakistan, and on every continent on earth. Let all of us who believe in freedom join together for the preservation of liberty. My message is, democratic nations unite.”

Read a PDF from the July-August 1989 issue with more detail on Bhutto’s speech, as well as Galbraith’s full profile, which includes a photo of Bhutto with her mother on her own Commencement day, and Galbraith’s recollections of his friendship with Bhutto.