Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's first elected leader in more than a decade and the Moslem world's only female leader, has presented the military with a "medal of democracy."

She said Thursday that the award recognizes the military's decision to step out of politics after 11 years of direct involvement."We are proud of our armed forces who gave national interests precedence over personal considerations," the prime minister said.

A plane crash killed military strongman Mohammad Zia-ul Haq last August, paving the way for the first free elections since 1977. That year, a coup engineered by Zia ousted Bhutto's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was tried for state crimes and hanged in 1979.

Several top generals and the U.S. ambassador died when Zia's Hercules aircraft went down outside the city of Bahawalpur.

Investigators say it was probably sabotage, but no definite cause or suspect has ever been found.

In a nationally televised speech, Bhutto also promised not to break faith with the expectations of the people who propelled her to power. "We are determined to face every challenge with courage, bravery and determination," she said.