“I know every child thinks of their mother as superwoman, I certainly did,” wrote Bilalwal Bhutto – Zardari in The Guardian, reminiscing his mother’s struggles as a woman in the patriarchal world of politics.
When New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her pregnancy – it was received both positively and negatively with #knitforJacinda trending while some raised concerns over her ‘durability’ as a leader.
But for Bilawal and his sisters, it brought back memories of their mother and her time in office. In 1988, Benazir Bhutto became the first world leader to give birth while in office.
“At the time, as her children, we did not appreciate how extraordinary her life was,” Bilawal wrote. “Looking back it is clear that despite her accomplishments, every day she had to prove that as a woman she had every right to be who she was, larger than life and leading from the front, every step of the way.”
“In 1988 my mother led a nationwide election campaign, wrote a bestselling book, had her first child and became the youngest and first female prime minister of the Muslim world,” read the opinion piece in The Guardian.
Bilawal explained the obstacles Benazir faced as a woman leader when the country was deeply rooted in patriarchy following the conservative regime of General Ziaul Haq.
“He radicalised Pakistan to such an extent that we are still haunted by his actions today. So aggressive and pervasive was the misogyny that as a result of his extremist legislative rollbacks Pakistan became the first country on earth to revoke rights already granted to women.”
The PPP leader remembered the backlash his mother’s second pregnancy, also while in office, received.
“Perhaps most controversially when she was pregnant with my sister, Bakhtawar, her prime minister-ship was challenged for that fact,” he recalled. “There were calls for her dismissal, the setting up of a caretaker government because a pregnant woman had no right to be prime minister. It’s not like the constitution allowed for maternity leave.”
Recollecting her fight against former President General Pervez Musharraf, Bilawal writes that she consistently fought for democracy, and advocated for the release of political prisoners including that of her husband, former President Asif Ali Zardari, who spent a collective 11-and-a-half years in prison without a conviction.
“All the while raising her children as a single mother, lecturing and giving speeches to make a living, making time to have a meal with us every day, taking us to the mosque every Friday, helping us with our homework, and much to our annoyance, never missing PTA meetings!”