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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Feb 24th
Who killed Benazir Bhutto? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Times Online   
Thursday, 27 December 2007

"I don't fear death... I don't think it can happen unless God wants it to happen because so many people have tried to kill me" Benazir Bhutto, 1953-2007
"I don't fear death... I don't think it can happen unless God wants it to happen because so many people have tried to kill me" Benazir Bhutto, 1953-2007

The main suspects and Obituary: Benazir Bhutto, 1953-2007

From Times OnlineDecember 27, 2007
Who killed Benazir Bhutto? The main suspects
Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent

The main suspects in Benazir Bhutto’s assassination are the Pakistani and foreign Islamist militants who regarded her as a heretic and an American stooge and had repeatedly threatened to kill her.

But fingers will also be pointed at Inter-Services Intelligence, the agency that has had close ties to the Islamists since the 1970s and has been used by successive Pakistani leaders to suppress political opposition.

Ms Bhutto narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in October, when a suicide bomber killed about 140 people at a rally in the port city of Karachi to welcome her back from eight years in exile.

That month, two militant warlords based in the lawless northwestern areas of Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan, had threatened to kill her on her return.

One was Baitullah Mehsud, a top commander fighting the Pakistani army in the tribal region of South Waziristan. He has close ties to al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taleban.

The other was Haji Omar, the “amir” or leader of the Pakistani Taleban, who is also from South Waziristan and fought against the Soviets with the Mujahidin in Afghanistan.

After that attack Ms Bhutto revealed that she had received a letter signed by a person who claimed to be a friend of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden threatening to slaughter her like a goat.

She accused Pakistani authorities of not providing her with sufficient security and hinted that they may have been complicit in the bomb attack. Asif Ali Zardari, her husband, directly accused the ISI of being involved in that attempt on her life.

Ms Bhutto stopped short of blaming the Government directly, saying that she had more to fear from unidentified members of a power structure that she described as allies of the “forces of militancy”.

Analysts say that President Musharraf himself is unlikely to have ordered her assassination, but that elements of the army and intelligence service would have stood to lose money and power if she had become Prime Minister.

The ISI, in particular, includes some Islamists who became radicalised while running the American-funded campaign against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and remained fiercely opposed to Ms Bhutto on principle.

Saudi Arabia, which has strong influence in Pakistan, is also thought to frown on Ms Bhutto as being too secular and Westernised and to favour Nawaz Sharif, another former Prime Minister.


From Times OnlineDecember 27, 2007
Obituary: Benazir Bhutto, 1953-2007
Her ambition and guts were beyond question, but it was her name, political pedigree and vast wealth that helped her to the heights of power

Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto was one of several women who were collectively South Asia’s greatest political paradox, each rising to heights of power on the backs of dead husbands and fathers for the sole reason that they possessed famous names.

Bhutto’s ambition and guts were beyond question, but without her name and family political pedigree — and vast wealth — she could not have become the first female leader of a contemporary Muslim country.

It also happened in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, where two women who hated each other, Begum Khalida Zia and Sheikh Hasina Wajid, carved up the political landscape because one was the widow of the liberation war hero against Pakistan and the other the daughter of the founder of the nation. Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka became the world’s first female head of government in 1960 because her husband had held the job before her — paving the way for their daughter, Chandrika Kumaratunga, subsequently to become Prime Minister and President.

Indira Gandhi led India because her father was Jawaharlal Nehru, and Sonia Gandhi became political king-maker because she was Rajiv Gandhi’s widow.

Benazir Bhutto rose to power because she was the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a former populist Prime Minister who was hanged by the military dictatorship of General Zia-ul Haq in 1979.

The dignity with which she handled herself after his judicial assassination — she called it murder — drew admiring comparisons with the Kennedy family, and touched the hearts of a nation sick of austere military rule. Her beauty and powerful oratory caught the imagination, and army rule weakened as her popularity soared.

It was a measure of Bhutto’s political ambition that in 1987 she submitted herself to an arranged marriage to somebody she did not love — the son of a Karachi cinema owner — aware that the highly conservative electorate would not tolerate being led by an unmarried woman. She constantly endured the sometimes salacious taunts of clerics who accused her of dating men while she was studying at Harvard and Oxford.

She was elected leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, founded by her father, and in national elections in November 1988 swept to power. She had returned from exile in London to be cheered by hundreds of thousands of people who were as confident as she was that a new and prosperous era was beginning and that the Army would at last allow democracy to take root.

Never had Pakistan been more optimistic or certain of itself. In less than two years, however, the military engineered Bhutto’s dismissal on the grounds of incompetence and corruption, and a new era of failed democracies and squandered hopes began.

Almost her entire time in her first term of office was spent fighting political battles with clerics and others determined to get her out. There was little opportunity for policymaking or economic planning, and the country reeled in financial crisis as the rich grew richer through corruption. Reports of rampant fraud by her husband, Asif Zardari, sullied the Bhutto name. Downtrodden women and the poor, groups which she had pledged to help, felt betrayed.

Three years after her dismissal, however, following even worse misrule and corruption under the government of Nawaz Sharif — also dismissed at the Army’s behest — she was re-elected Prime Minister. But circumstances did not improve, and nationwide loathing of the antics of Asif Zardari, openly branded “Mr Ten Per Cent” by the press, helped to wreck Bhutto’s credibility at home and abroad.

There was widespread speculation about the obvious power Zardari exercised over his wife, and about her apparently inexplicable refusal to curtail his activities even though they were helping to destroy her credibility and undermine her leadership.

In 1996 the Army once again arranged her dismissal, clearing the way for another chaotic period of misgovernment by Nawaz Sharif. This endured until the military seized direct power once more in 1999, with Pervez Musharraf, the chief of staff of the Army, effecting a bloodless military coup.

Benazir faced imprisonment on a range of charges, including corruption, but she was allowed to go into exile, which she spent mostly in London, while an exiled Nawaz Sharif occupied a borrowed palace in Saudi Arabia. The two old enemies passed many years plotting to see who could be first to return to power when military rule ended. Even in exile Bhutto maintained a wary contact with Musharraf, in which power-sharing came under discussion.

With the stock of Musharraf falling lower within Pakistan in the opening years of the new millennium, with his uneasy alliance with the US as its principal partner in the “war on terror” coming under constant attack, both verbal and physical from Muslim clerical leaders and their followers, and with a groundswell of demand in the Western countries that supported him that he submit his presidency to ratification by a popular vote, the return of Bhutto to Pakistan, to play some sort of role in the political process, suddenly began to be spoken of again as a possibility.

On October 5 this year Musharraf signed a national reconciliation ordinance which gave amnesty to Bhutto and other opposition political leaders — though significantly not, at first, to Sharif. All corruption charges against her were dropped. The following day Musharraf won a parliamentary election which legitimised his tenure of the presidency. On October 18, Bhutto returned in triumph to Pakistan, assuming on-the-spot leadership of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

Two suicide bombs exploded shortly after she arrived at Jinnah International Airport, Karachi. She was unharmed, but among the 136 killed in the blasts were 50 security guards of the PPP who had formed a human chain around the truck that was carrying her away from the airport. It was a portent of things to come, and an indication that the old enmities that had twice forced her from power were never far from the surface in Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto was born in Karachi in 1953, the eldest daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a Pakistani of Sindhi extraction, and his wife Begum Nusrat Bhutto, who was of Iranian-Kurdish extraction.

The Bhutto family was not a happy one. Benazir’s mother openly supported one of her sons as the rightful heir of the political dynasty before he was killed in a shoot-out in Karachi, saying that as a man it was his right to take over the party.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto adored his daughter but never hid his contempt for both his sons. His ancestors had grown rich by helping the British to rule Sind province (now Sindh), for which they were handsomely rewarded.

Although presenting himself as a man of the people he never gave up the family’s huge feudal landholdings. Neither did his daughter. It was often said of her that her political life was driven by a need to vindicate her father, a foul-tempered man who made enemies easily. She was to fail, just as she failed to fulfil the dreams of the millions who had believed passionately in her and in her father.

She was educated in Karachi at Lady Jennings Nursery School and the Convent of Jesus and Mary. She then had two years at Rawalpindi Presentation Convent before going to the Jesus and Mary Convent in Murree, where she took her O levels at the age of 15. She then went to Karachi Grammar School where she took her A levels.

She continued her studies in the US, from 1969 to 1973 at Radcliffe College. From there she went to Harvard, where she took a good BA in comparative government and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. From the US she came to Britain to read philosophy, politics and economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, while also doing a course in international law and diplomacy. In 1976 she became the first Asian woman to be elected President of the Oxford Union.

After completing her education she returned to Pakistan. Her father, who had been deposed, was in jail, and she was placed under house arrest. She was to be intermittently with him during his last days.

It was some years before Bhutto talked in detail of the day that her father was executed inside Rawalpindi Central Jail while she and her mother were held at a deserted police training camp at Sihala. She recalled waking suddenly at 2am and screaming “No!” Her father’s body was taken away immediately for burial, with no family members present, and his clothes were handed over to Benazir and her mother by a junior jailer who told them that the end had been peaceful.

“The scent of his cologne was still on his clothes, the scent of Shalimar,” Bhutto wrote in her 1988 autobiography, Daughter of the East. For two years she had done nothing but fight in the courts and on the international stage to save her father, and now she felt shattered and empty. On her last visit to his cell she asked: “What will I do without you to help me?” He shrugged helplessly, unaware that he was to be hanged the next day. After 30 minutes Bhutto and her mother were ordered to leave.

Bhutto used her speaking skills — she was more comfortable in her first language of English than Urdu — to campaign relentlessly against the Zia regime after her father’s death, and was frequently placed under house arrest. That only heightened her popularity. She spent the summer of 1981 in an insect-infested jail cell in Sindh, fighting heat and insect bites, and in 1984 was allowed to travel to England to be treated for a serious ear infection.

She remained in exile until Zia lifted martial law in December 1985. She returned to a massive welcome on the streets and instantly began to organise mass protests and civil disobedience campaigns to force Zia out. His death in a still-unexplained air crash in 1988 — there was apparently an on-board explosion — cleared the way for elections.

No one ever doubted Bhutto’s resilience and determination, but few could praise her for effective governance. She fought formidable objects — she was young, attractive, inexperienced and, above all, female in a political system controlled jealously by men. In her early days of power she tried to calm tensions with India, but a strong and entrenched rightist parliamentary opposition scuttled any attempts at progress at home or abroad. She was perhaps doomed from the outset.

As a head of government she relied heavily on Washington — a vital paymaster — to keep her in power, and she presented Pakistan as a frontline state in the fight against Islamic extremism, making her the darling of the US before corruption and incompetence soured her name.

Her husband went to jail for corruption but was later allowed to leave the country. When Bhutto, threatened with jail on corruption charges, also went into exile in 1999 a sickly Zardari did not join her. The marriage appeared to be dead.

In spite of her failures in the past, her return to Pakistan in October 2007 at the head of the PPP as opposition leader was greeted with wild enthusiasm by large numbers of the party’s followers who still saw in her a liberal middle way in Pakistani politics. Her launch of the PPP’s electoral manifesto stressed that if elected the party would concentrate on the “Five Es” — employment, education, energy, environment, equality. Her optimism was high for a convincing performance for the PPP in elections scheduled for January 8.

But continuing physical attacks on the party’s personnel and premises were a constant reminder of the dangers lying in her path. Already this month three PPP workers had been killed in an attack by gunmen on the party’s headquarters in Quetta, Baluchistan province.

Bhutto herself was fatally injured in a suspected suicide attack as she left a rally in Rawalpindi after addressing an audience of thousands.

Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1988-90 and 1993-96, was born on June 21, 1953. She died of injuries sustained in a bomb attack on December 27, 2007, aged 54.


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