On 5 July 1977, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was overthrown by Army Chief General Zia ul Haq. Arrested by the new government, Bhutto was charged with the murder of a political opponent and executed in 1979. Benazir Bhutto, meanwhile, was held under house arrest. She then left for Britain after her father's death as the leader-in-exile of the opposition PPP. Following Haq's lifting of martial law in 1986, Bhutto returned to Pakistan and became the nation's most prominent prodemocracy leader. After Haq's death, Bhutto won the national elections in December 1988, becoming the prime minister and the first female leader of a Muslim nation.
There was initial euphoria in both Pakistan and the West that Bhutto's leadership would bring about substantive reforms. But this optimism did not take into account the scale and scope of the problems she faced, and her first stint as prime minister witnessed few meaningful changes. In August 1990 she was ousted by a military coup, which claimed corruption on the part of her government. In October 1990, the United States suspended military and economic assistance to Pakistan because of the coup and its ongoing nuclear weapons program. After Bhutto's return to power in 1993 she visited Washington in April 1995, convincing American policymakers to suspend sanctions previously imposed on Pakistan.
During her second term in office, Bhutto made small strides toward reform, mainly in health care and education. Her second term also witnessed the rise of the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan, which seized power in September 1996 with financial backing from Pakistan. In November 1996, however, Pakistanian President Farooq Leghari again dissolved Bhutto's government on charges of corruption and financial irregularities.
In 1999 Bhutto and her husband, Ali Zardari, were convicted of corruption. That same year, Bhutto left Pakistan. She has been living in exile in London and in Dubai. Zardari was freed in November 2004 after eight years in jail. Bhutto continues as the leader of the PPP.
Bhutto, Benazir. Daughter of the East. London: Mandarin, 1988.; Bhutto, Benazir. Pakistan: The Gathering Storm. New Delhi: Vikas, 1983.; Kapur, Ashok. Pakistan in Crisis. London: Routledge, 1991.