Murtaza Shibli: Who Killed Bhutto?


Richard Moore

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Who Killed Benazir Bhutto?
By Murtaza Shibli
28 December, 2007

The death of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is being mourned by 
millions of Pakistanis. She had a profound public base despite staying out of 
her country for nearly a decade and dogged by corruption and nepotism charges.

Her death, however, should not come as a surprise at all. For the past three 
decades, Pakistan has been turned into a "Jihad factory' under the guidance of 
the US and other Western powers. After 9/11 when Pakistan launched a war on its 
own people in the name of "War on terror', it was not uncanny to predict that 
the Jihadis who were nourished previously will turn against their old allies -- 
the politicians and the military and the innocent people of Pakistan will get 
caught and entangled as a collateral.

Martyr of Democracy?

Is Benazir Bhutto a martyr for democracy in Pakistan? Many of the Pakistani 
political parties are calling it a set-back for democracy which could be 
seriously contested, but her death is certainly a blow to the electoral 
exercise. Strangely, exiled leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement MQM, Altaf 
Hussain called her "martyr of democracy'. Altaf Hussain's MQM is blamed for 
hundreds of terrorist actions that led to the deaths of thousands of people in 
Karachi. The world's "greatest democrat' George Bush has claimed that Benazir 
laid down her life for the ideals of democracy.

Benazir Bhutto was indeed a very popular woman politician of her country, but 
she was by no means a democrat. During her tenure as twice Prime Minister of her
country, she stifled the growth of democracy and undermined the democratic 
institutions. She not only concentrated in herself the absolute power of the 
country, but also assumed the title of chairperson for life of her political 
party -- Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

Her husband Asif Ali Zardari is generally seen as the villain who tarnished 
Benazir's image through corruption and violence. Zardari, a jagirdar or landlord
used his traditional violent methods to subdue his opponents and used the 
government power of his wife to extract benefits through his various corrupt, 
and often violent deals. He was alleged to be involved in the killing of Murtaza
Bhutto, Benazir's brother. Asif Zardari had even maintained private jails where 
he tortured his opponents. This all happened while Benazir Bhutto's 
"democratically elected' government was in power.

Benazir's record for corruption surpassed all the pervious governments as she 
amassed huge assets mostly in Dubai, the UK and other Western capitals 
plundering the assets of her country. Her government was involved in the massive
human rights violations particularly in Karachi where the MQM militants had 
virtually brought the financial capital of Pakistan to a grinding halt. The 
reaction of the Benazir government was ruthless operations that killed thousands
of innocent and unarmed civilians.

Although Benazir was portrayed as the "modern and moderate' face of Pakistan who
could help fighting Jihadists, this fact is conveniently buried that it was her 
government that helped formation of Taliban whose legacy continues to ruin 
Pakistan, Afghanistan and beyond.

After her return from self-exile, Benazir went beyond all decency and decorum to
appease the US and other Western powers. Her assertions that she was not opposed
to the American operations in the Pakistan's tribal areas to fight "terrorism' 
and would allow disgraced scientist AQ Khan to be interrogated by the US showed 
her desperation for power. Power was all that mattered and she showed no regard 
to the public feelings or her country's integrity. She even talked tough about 
Jihadis and was willing to follow the course of General Musharraf's military 
response to the crisis rather than any political negotiation to rid the country 
of growing extremism.

Who killed Benazir?

There is no doubt that Benazir Bhutto had many enemies. After her rhetoric 
against Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalists, her list of enemies grew 

Despite the "deal' between Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, she was seen as 
main challenge to the current government. This is important to note that General
Musharraf allowed Bhutto into Pakistan only after tremendous US pressure. When 
she arrived in Pakistan in October last, the millions of people who came to 
receive her gave sleepless nights to the government authorities. This ultimately
paved way for the return of Nawaz Sharief another former Prime Minister who was 
earlier deported as soon as he landed in Pakistan.

Although the Jihadists and Al-Qaeda had allegedly vowed to kill her, the current
Pakistani regime headed by General Musharraf can not be absolved and will be the
greatest benefactor of her death. Another rival who may have been willing to see
her dead are Chaudhry Brothers -- Chaudhry Pervez Illahi and Chaudhry Shujaat 
Hussain of Pakistan Muslim League Q, the political partner of General Musharraf.
The Chaudhry Brothers were the bitterest opponents of Benazir's homecoming and 
tried unsuccessfully to stop President Musharraf from doing a deal with Bhutto.

When the terrorists attacked Benazir's homecoming rally on October 18, 2007, she
blamed former Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Ilahi. Chaudhry Brothers have had 
well documented connections with the Jihadist extremists and are well known to 
use violence for their political goals.

Even if President Musharraf's government may not be directly involved in her 
killing, it can not be absolved of inaction in protecting her. Despite being on 
the "hit list' of terrorists and extremists, Benazir was not provided ample 
security cover. The deterioration of Pakistan's intelligence and security 
apparatus to predict or stop suicide bombings can be gauged by the number of 
rising fatal bombings in and around the highest protected area of the Army 
Headquarters GHQ in Rawalpindi. Benazir Bhutto was also killed in Rawalpindi not
far from the country's military headquarters.

The Future

The future of Pakistan is fraught with instability and the death of Benazir has 
further undermined the internal security of Pakistan. After her death, her party
could win the majority of seats if the elections go ahead, but there is no 
single leader that could hold the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) together. 
Unfortunately, Benazir's legacy for her party is highly undemocratic and there 
is a chance that the PPP could split with many contenders and claimants for the 
throne. This could create further divisions among the Pakistan's fractured 

There is no doubt that the death meted out to Benazir Bhutto is tragic and 
testing for Pakistan. But there are some positive things that seem to be coming 
out of this national tragedy. In his reaction and speech to the nation, 
President Pervez Musharraf declared a three day "official mourning' when the 
national flag will fly at half mast. This is for the first time that the death 
of an opposition leader has been recognised officially. Similarly, Islamist 
Jama'at-e-Islami while condemning the terror act has called for a general 
strike. Other political parties from a wide spectrum of persuasions have 
condemned the killing and offered condolences.

The suicide attack on Benazir's convoy on 18th October 2007 that killed nearly 
150 Pakistani civilians precipitated the anger of Pakistanis against the 
terrorism and extremism. There was a massive public recognition and reaction 
against the extremist ideology. Benazir's death might act as a catalyst to unite
the Pakistani nation and strengthen their resolve to fight the menace that has 
engulfed the country thanks to its willingness to act as proxy to the alien 
interests in the region.

If Pervaiz Musharraf's government can offer initiatives to value the public 
opinion of Pakistanis in this time of multiple crisis and bring about a real 
national reconciliation, Pakistan could emerge from the challenges that are not 
only threatening the core values of its society, but also the very existence of 
the country and its people.

Murtaza Shibli is the editor of Kashmir Affairs, London []

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