NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Bhutto assassination

Bhutto: “She has been martyred”

benazir_bhutto.jpgJust days before parliamentary polls in Pakistan, leading Prime Ministerial contender and anti terrorism crusader Benazir Bhutto was shot dead during an election rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad. “She has been martyred,” said party official Rehman Malik. The Associated Press, citing Malik, reported that Bhutto was shot in the neck and the chest before the gunman blew himself up. At least 20 bystanders were killed in the blast. Bhutto was rushed to a hospital But, at 6:16 p.m. Pakistan time, she was declared dead.

“How can somebody who can shoot her get so close to her with all the so-called security?” said a distraught Husain Haqqani, a former top aide to Bhutto, shortly after news of her death flashed around the world. Haqqani, who served as a spokesman and top aide to Bhutto for more than a decade, blamed Pakistani security, either through neglect or complicity, in her assassination. “This is the security establishment, which has always wanted her out,” he said through tears. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — The evidence here certainly places the security establishment — and thus Musharraf — under suspicion. The use of explosives looks like an effort to obscure who might be responsible — both by means of killing witnesses and by providing the media and government officials with a label they have no hesitation in using: suicide bombing. To call it a suicide bombing is to instantly place this event within the narrative of Islamic extremism.

Back in November, after her return to Pakistan, Bhutto wrote:

It has now been more than two weeks since the horrific assassination attempt against me and the police have still not filed my complaint. They filed their own report without taking statements from eyewitnesses on the truck targeted for the terrorist attack which resulted in the death of more than 158 of my supporters and security guards.

Soon thereafter, I was asked by authorities not to travel in cars with tinted windows — which protected me from identification by terrorists — or travel with privately armed guards.

I began to feel the net was being tightened around me when police security outside my home in Karachi was reduced, even as I was told that other assassination plots were in the offing.

If Musharraf now postpones the upcoming election or bans political rallies, what will be the Bush administration’s response? Another lame statement about looking forward to Pakistan’s return to the democratic path? One thing we can reasonably assume is that neither from Washington nor any other Western capital are we now likely to hear any demands for an independent inquiry into Bhutto’s death. In November Islamabad adamantly rejected any assistance from forensic teams of the FBI and Scotland Yard. Will similar offers now even be made?

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2 thoughts on “NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Bhutto assassination

  1. halfnhalf

    The point nobody makes is that she left the rally, safely…got into an armoured car, safely..then decided to standup in clear view and totally unprotected via the sun roof. It was her decision. And she was shot by, presumably, a sniper or someone near by. Photos are available of all these stages in her departure from the rally. How Mushareff or anyone else could have anticipated her leaving the safety of her armoured car is a good question. How security forces could have protected her, when she was standing quite visibly above the crowd, is another question.

    Judging from the photos, Benazir Bhutto was at least partially responsible for her own death.

  2. Paul Woodward

    These are all excellent points. It’s always very easy when an event of this political magnitude takes place, for those of us attempting to analyze what happened to see too much purposefulness and overlook the adventitious. Those with the intent to assassinate Bhutto had no way of knowing exactly how the final opportunity was going to present itself.

    With the New York Times now reporting that “witnesses described a sniper firing from a nearby building,” this story is already acquiring some of the legendary dimensions of JFK.

    The fact that after her death “no autopsy was done, because the police did not request one,” is only going to add fuel to the conspiracy theories. The only thing that remains indisputable in all of this is that Benazir Bhutto was a fearless woman.

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