Benazir Bhutto shedding tears after arriving in Pakistan in October. She was assassinated on December 27, 2007. Her presence in Pakistan was seen by many as representing US political aims in the region.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Benazir Bhutto 1953-2007: She represented a faint hope but now even that has gone
By Peter Popham and Saeed Shah in Rawalpindi
28 December 2007
Benazir Bhutto, twice prime minister of Pakistan and the leading contender to win a third term in the coming election, has been assassinated in Rawalpindi, struck by bullets, then by shrapnel from a suicide bomb that killed at least 16 others. With her died the fragile hope that Pakistan might drag itself from the grip of the military and the jihadists and find its feet once again as a functioning democracy.
She had just finished speaking at a political rally yesterday and was waving to supporters from her car when she was targeted, first by gunshots then by a suicide bomb. Ms Bhutto was taken to hospital but died soon afterwards. "She has been martyred," Rehman Malik, a party official, announced tersely outside the Rawalpindi hospital as party supporters roared their grief, beat their breasts, smashed windows and stoned cars.
Pakistan is not new to political assassinations, a red vein of violence runs through its brief history. Yet, there was a cruel symmetry about Ms Bhutto's death coming in the same garrison town where her father was executed nearly three decades ago.
In 1979, the military dictator was General Zia ul-Haq who had Benazir's father – former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto–hanged in Rawalpindi District Jail.
She was only 26 at the time and was smuggled news of his death via their lawyer. She would go on to inherit his party, his popular standing and his fate.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had faults and made mistakes but, like his daughter, he had enjoyed huge popular support; as prime minister he made peace with India, improved ties with China and gave Pakistan some standing and legitimacy in the world. When, on General Zia's orders, he was sentenced to death, pleas for clemency poured in from world leaders. All to no effect.
General Zia was pitiless because Pakistani politics has never left much space for tolerance and forgiveness. The same logic has now condemned Zulfikar's daughter to a terrible death.
The reverberations from her murder were felt immediately and worldwide. Condemnations and tributes of world leaders poured in and Pakistan itself braced for a violent backlash from her supporters.
As fires burned in cities across Pakistan last night, fears mounted that this huge country of 167 million, the only Muslim nation with the nuclear bomb, might begin to rip apart at the seams.
As prime minister twice before, Ms Bhutto had performed without distinction and had been hounded out of the country by her successor Nawaz Sharif with a sheaf of court cases. But no one could question her courage or her democratic credentials. Like her father, she held Pakistan's frail hopes in her hands. Like him she has been killed.
"It is not a sad day," said Nawaz Sharif, her former nemesis and main rival for power in the forthcoming election, "it is the darkest, gloomiest day in the history of this country." He blamed the government for "a serious lapse in security".
"It is the act of those who want Pakistan to disintegrate," said Farzana Raja, a senior official in her party, the Pakistan People's Party, "because she was a symbol of unity. They have finished the Bhutto family. They are the enemies of Pakistan."
President Musharraf also condemned the killing and declared three days of mourning.
Aged 54, educated at Oxford, Ms Bhutto returned to Pakistan from voluntary exile in the West with a good prospect of winning a third term in power in the election scheduled for 8 January. But, from her arrival, assassins dogged her steps. In Peshawar this week, hundreds came to hear her when thousands had been expected, fear of more bombings keeping the crowds away. Yesterday, in the garrison city that is President Musharraf's headquarters and should be the safest city in the country, the killers caught up with her.
Hope has never been a commodity in great supply in Pakistan, an artificial nation created by wrenching the majority Muslim states of British India out of India and smashing them together in a single country. Every step of its way has been punctuated by bloody death and disorder.
Benazir was the fourth Pakistani leader in 60 years to die violently. Liaqat Ali Khan, prime minister from 1948, was also killed in Rawalpindi, shot down while addressing a political meeting there in 1951, three years after coming to power. The crowd overpowered his assassin and lynched him.
Zia ul-Haq, Bhutto's executioner and Pakistan's military ruler in the 1980s, oversaw the country's Islamisation: he was the front line in the proxy war in Afghanistan, which saw billions of American dollars funnelled by Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan's military intelligence agency (itself staffed increasingly by the devout) to Afghan and Arab mujahedin fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The Taliban and al-Qa'ida were only the most obvious fruits of his rule.
But Zia also died violently, killed in a plane crash in 1988, the probable victim – although blame has never been ascertained – of rival factions in the army.
Civilian rule was restored and Ms Bhutto was elected prime minister later the same year, aged 35. As the first democratically elected woman leader of a Muslim nation at a moment when the whole world was on the cusp of seismic political change, her victory seemed charged with significance.
But Pakistan remained fatally divided and, despite her brains and eloquence Ms Bhutto had none of her father's gift for ramming through reforms.
The hope she held out may have been a fragile one. But now even that has gone.
'I am 70, but today I feel like an orphan'
Another exhausting election rally behind her, Benazir Bhutto waved to the crowd one last time, her head and torso sticking up through the open sun roof of her white jeep. Shots rang out. She slumped back in the vehicle and fell to one side just as there was a huge explosion to her left. Blood poured from her head. She never regained consciousness.
Ms Bhutto was assassinated after making a campaign appearance in Rawalpindi, the garrison city that houses the headquarters of the Pakistan army, an institution that has always seemed opposed to her. Just a couple of miles across town, her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan's first democratically elected prime minister, was executed in 1979 by a previous military regime.
Eyewitnesses to yesterday's massacre said that the assassin was jumped by Ms Bhutto's squad of bodyguards and promptly detonated his explosives, ripping those around him to shreds. All ambulance crews could do was gather pieces of human flesh from the blood-red street.
Farhatullah Babar, Ms Bhutto's spokesman, was travelling one car in front when the attack took place and recalled the final moments of the woman seen by the West as Pakistan's democratic darling.
"We were leaving the rally, and Ms Bhutto was in the car behind me with her security personnel and her political secretary," Mr Babar said. "Just 50 metres away from the gate, she opened the sun roof and stood up to wave to the crowds outside. Then we heard shots being fired and a blast."
Witnesses said between three and five shots were fired. At least one hit Ms Bhutto in the neck. The leader of the Pakistan People's Party and the other casualties were taken to Rawalpindi hospital, where distraught supporters massed. Pushing their way in, they wept and shouted with no doubt in their minds about who was to blame. "Musharraf is a dog," they chanted. "Musharraf murderer," they yelled. Others could only wail. "Baji Bibi", sobbed one woman. "Sister Bhutto".
Inside the operating room, the former prime minister's body lay on a stretcher, covered with a white sheet, a white bandage wrapped around the neck.
Outon the streets of Rawalpindi, victims of the bombing, their clothes blown off, lay on the road. Two were face down. All that remained of one was a severed hand. The more fortunate, with minor shrapnel wounds, wandered dazed near the Liaquat Bagh Park.
At the hospital, a frail old man reflected on the day's tragic events, tears rolling down his cheeks. "I am 70," Saqib Hussain said, "but today I feel like an orphan."
Ms Bhutto's body was being taken last night, by special flight, to the south of the country, to her home town of Larkana, where her father's body lies in a giant mausoleum.
Bhutto’s death raises spectre of instability
By Farhan Bokhari in Karachi,
Jo Johnson in London and agencies
December 27 2007 12:35
The body of Benazir Bhutto, leader of one of Pakistan’s main opposition parties, was taken to her family village for burial on Friday, a day after she was assassinated by a suicide bomber, throwing the nuclear-armed country into turmoil in the run-up to next month’s general election.
The popular but divisive politician was the first elected female leader of a Muslim state and served as Pakistan’s prime minister twice between 1988 and 1996. She sustained fatal injuries as she left an election rally in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi.
Within hours of her death, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said his party, the Pakistan Muslim League, would boycott the elections in honour of Ms Bhutto and demanded that Pervez Musharraf step down as the nation’s president. He also called for a nationwide strike on Friday.
Doctors at a hospital in Rawalpindi failed to revive Ms Bhutto, 54, leader of the Pakistan People’s party.
Police officer Mohammad Shahid said a suicide bomber had fired gunshots at Ms Bhutto as she was leaving a rally in her campaign vehicle before blowing himself up. Local media said she had suffered head and neck injuries.
It was reported that about 20 others died in the attack, which was followed by reports of riots around Pakistan, along with more fatalities.
Western diplomats warned that the assassination would be a setback to the Bush administration’s hopes of bringing about “a transition to democracy” in Pakistan.
Ms Bhutto’s return to Pakistan in October from eight years of exile was widely seen to have taken place with the support of the US administration, which was keen to promote a moderate politician who could extend a lifeline to Mr Musharraf and buttress the important US ally’s slender base of domestic political support.
“This is an extremely destabilising development for the future of Pakistan,” warned Hasan Askari Rizvi, a commentator on security affairs.
Ms Bhutto’s supporters held angry protests in several cities on Thursday night, attacking police and vehicles and starting fires. Up to 10 people were reported to have died in the violence.
Abida Hussain, a former member of parliament and a PPP leader, warned that violence would escalate.
“Conditions across Pakistan will spin out of control,” she said. “This situation will just not settle down unless president Pervez Musharraf steps down from power. Much of the anger is, in fact, directed against him.”
Officials initially reported that Ms Bhutto, who leaves behind three children, was safe after the attack, one of several attempts on her life since her return from exile on October 18.
The centre-left politician had been defiant in the face of threats, even after a suicide bomber killed almost 140 people at her homecoming parade in the southern city of Karachi.
Mr Musharraf, who came to power in a coup in 1999 against Mr Sharif, quickly condemned the attack and announced three days of mourning. “This cruelty is the work of those terrorists with whom we are fighting,” Mr Musharraf said. “I seek unity and support from the nation.
“We will not sit and rest until we get rid of these terrorists.”
Mr Sharif called the assassination a “tragedy” and blamed Mr Musharraf for the security lapse in Rawalpindi, the same town in which Ms Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was executed in 1979. “Benazir Bhutto was also my sister and I will be with you to take the revenge for her death,” Mr Sharif told grieving supporters outside the hospital in which she underwent emergency surgery.
The shock of the assassination reverberated around the world. Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, who had met Ms Bhutto hours before her murder, said he was “deeply sorry, deeply pained, [that] this brave sister of ours, brave daughter of the Muslim world is no longer with us.”
Gordon Brown called the day’s events “a tragic hour for Pakistan”. US president George W. Bush said his nation strongly condemned “this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistani democracy”.
Bhutto's Killing May Threaten Pakistan's Stability
by Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 27 (IPS) - The assassination of Pakistan's opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto threatens to de-stabilise a country which the United States describes as a trusted ally and a frontline fighter in the global war on terrorism.
The attack on Bhutto in Rawalpindi Thursday was an attempt to thwart her election as prime minister of a civilian government. The polls were scheduled to take place next month.
"The military didn't really want civilian politicians in power," says Barnett Rubin, director of studies and senior fellow at the Centre on International Cooperation at New York University.
"They wanted to use them to legitimate indirect rule, and they were going to do it by rigging the election," he added.
Rubin said Washington's strategy is in "tatters" and that it will be scrambling to say the election either needs to be held as planned or postponed rather than cancelled. But Musharraf, he pointed out, is in a position to pre-empt that, "presumably by declaring a state of emergency."
Zia Mian at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University described the murder of Bhutto and dozens of her supporters as "a tragic event".
He said it casts "a grim shadow" over the national elections scheduled for Jan. 8, which may be postponed.
"It also raises questions about the future of President [Pervez] Musharraf, who is backed by Washington but deeply unpopular at home, and had hoped to use the elections to create legitimacy and support," Mian told IPS.
Mian pointed out that Bhutto's death also throws into question the viability of her Pakistan People's Party (PPP)--which had been founded by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto -- and "which she treated as a personal inheritance and vehicle for her ambition."
In an interview with IPS in October, Bhutto took a tough stand against military rule. "Under a democratic government of the PPP, the army will have to be in barracks and do its duty to defend the country's borders as its constitutional duty," she said.
"We are not looking at the army sharing power with the civil and political authority. The army must remain subservient to the civil authority," she insisted.
Anticipating political chaos in Pakistan, the 15-member U.N. Security Council met Thursday to urge all Pakistanis "to exercise restraint and maintain stability in the country."
In a presidential statement, the Council also "condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist suicide attack by extremists."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that Bhutto's assassination "represents an assault on stability in Pakistan and its democratic processes."
"I strongly condemn this heinous crime and call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice as soon as possible," Ban added.
Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a U.S.-based think-tank, says that although he thought it highly unlikely that Musharraf was behind the killing, many people in Pakistan are holding him accountable.
Markey -- whose work concentrates on India, Pakistan and South Asia -- described the assassination as a "significant blow" to the U.S., which has provided over 10 billion dollars in aid since 2002, primarily to boost Pakistan's war on terrorism.
He said the worst-case scenario, which was unlikely to happen, was that if the army proved "incapable of controlling [the street violence], it may break down."
Markey said there was a "general consensus" among the top leadership of the U.S. administration that "while Musharraf is not perfect, he is still very much of a helpful partner."
"This latest tragedy is likely to reinforce [that view]," Markey added, stressing that the administration is, "likely to stick with him until the bitter end".
In a letter to Musharraf last month, Bhutto accused Pakistan's intelligence services of "involvement" in an attempt on her life last October.
"If something happens to me," she said, "I will hold them responsible rather than militant groups like the Taliban, al Qaeda or the Pakistani Taliban."
Musharraf, a former army general who shed his military uniform only last month, was accused of running a dictatorship by silencing the opposition, muzzling the press and hijacking the judiciary.
In a television interview last month, U.S. President George W. Bush virtually went into raptures over the Pakistani President when he said that Musharraf has not crossed any legitimate boundaries to be deemed a political outcast.
"As a matter of fact, I don't think he will cross any lines. We didn't necessarily agree with his decision to impose emergency rule, and hopefully he'll get rid of the rule," he added.
Bush's support for Musharraf’s increasingly authoritarian regime also drew stinging criticism from several U.S. Congressmen.
Perhaps the sharpest reaction came from presidential aspirant Senator Joe Biden -- chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- whose response was laced with political sarcasm.
"What exactly would it take for the president [Bush] to conclude Musharraf has crossed the line? Suspend the constitution? Impose emergency law? Beat and jail his political opponents and human rights activists?" Biden asked.
"He's already done all that. If the president sees Musharraf as a democrat, he must be wearing the same glasses he had on when he looked in [Russian President] Vladimir Putin's soul, [and said he was "a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country."]
Musharraf is holding the U.S. for ransom primarily for two reasons, according to political analysts. The Pakistani President has been considered by the Bush administration as a "loyal ally" in the U.S.-led global war against terrorism-notwithstanding his ineffectiveness in curbing terrorism in his own backyard.
Secondly, Musharraf has guaranteed the safety of his arsenal of nuclear weapons as long as he is in power. But if Musharraf is ousted, the nukes may be up for grabs.
In such an event, the U.S. has to have contingency plans to ensure the "security" of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
The Pakistan realities behind the photogenic Benazir Bhutto
Thirty seconds from death
London Daily Mail
A reality check from Andy McCarthy…
A recent CNN poll showed that 46 percent of Pakistanis approve of Osama bin Laden. Aspirants to the American presidency should hope to score so highly in the United States. In Pakistan, though, the al-Qaeda emir easily beat out that country’s current president, Pervez Musharraf, who polled at 38 percent.
President George Bush, the face of a campaign to bring democracy — or, at least, some form of sharia-lite that might pass for democracy — to the Islamic world, registered nine percent. Nine!
If you want to know what to make of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s murder today in Pakistan, ponder that.
There is the Pakistan of our fantasy. The burgeoning democracy in whose vanguard are judges and lawyers and human rights activists using the “rule of law” as a cudgel to bring down a military junta. In the fantasy, Bhutto, an attractive, American-educated socialist whose prominent family made common cause with Soviets and whose tenures were rife with corruption, was somehow the second coming of James Madison.
Ron Paul: U.S. policy to blame for Bhutto killing
Ron Paul blames the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on the “interventionist” policy of the United States, and says Al Qaeda is justified in being “annoyed” at us.
Podhoretz: Bhutto killing ends primary’s 'holiday from history'
GFA Leader Says Assassination has Global Repercussions
"The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has far-reaching affects across the Indian Subcontinent and around the world," says Dr. K.P. Yohannan, president and founder of Gospel for Asia, which has more than 16,500 missionaries working in the region.
Ms. Bhutto, a Pakistan opposition leader and former prime minister, died Thursday in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, after a suicide attacker shot her twice then detonated the bomb he was carrying. Along with Bhutto, 20 spectators died in the attack.
The leader had just spoken at a political campaign rally to prepare for elections on January 8 and was inside a vehicle at the time of the shooting. She was rushed to the hospital, but despite emergency surgery she could not be saved.
This was the second assassination attempt against Bhutto. The first was in October, and the attack killed at least 136 people and wounded nearly 400.
While no one has taken responsibility for the assassination, many suspect terrorist activity. Many of Bhutto's supporters reacted to the news of her death with riots and violence, which is resulting in much unrest in the country.
"Our GFA leaders in India told me that this event is bringing a huge crisis to the Indian Subcontinent," Dr. Yohannan reported. "Local newspapers indicate that al-Qaida terrorism may now become a factor in South Asia. Regardless of its origin, the stability of the entire region is being shaken."
"Pakistan is one of the largest Muslim countries and has nuclear weapons," he said, "so this event has repercussions throughout the world."
Bhutto served as Pakistan's prime minister in 1988 and 1996. She was viewed by many as a ray of hope for the country's future. Because of the tremendous instability her assassination has caused, the Pakistani government is considering postponing the upcoming elections.
Dr. Yohannan pointed out that the Church, both in Pakistan and in other South Asian nations, is not separated from the larger society.
"This situation affects the kingdom's work," he said, "making life more difficult for everyone.
"But is it my prayer that through this terrible event, the people of Pakistan and India will realize the need for a greater reality. I ask all Christians to join with me in praying for the people of Pakistan, and that God will use this crisis to open the eyes of those who do not know Him."
"We pray for the peace of the entire region," he added.
Gospel for Asia is a mission organization involved in evangelism and church planting in Asia's unreached regions. Currently Gospel for Asia supports more than 16,500 native missionaries in 10 countries. On average, these missionaries establish approximately 10 fellowships every day among unreached villages and people groups. Gospel for Asia is also committed to training native missionaries in its 54 Bible colleges.
Source: Christian Newswire