The Death of Benazir Bhutto

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 is Pakistan? Many of the Pakistani political parties are calling the assassination a set-back for democracy, which could be seriously contested, but her death is certainly a blow to the electoral exercise. Strangely, Altaf Hussain, exiled leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement MQM, called Bhutto a ‘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 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 — the 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 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 to conduct 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, it was her government that helped in the formation of the 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’s 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 the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalists, her list of enemies grew phenomenally.

Despite the ‘deal’ between Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, she was seen as the main challenge to the current government. It is important to note that General Musharraf allowed Bhutto into Pakistan only after tremendous US pressure. When she arrived in Pakistan last October, 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 cannot be absolved and will be the greatest benefactor of her death. Another rival who may have been willing to see her dead are the Chaudhry Brothers — Chaudhry Pervez Illahi and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain of the 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 terrorists attacked Benazir’s homecoming rally on October 18, 2007, she blamed former Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Ilahi. The Chaudhry Brothers have had well documented connections with 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 Bhuttoo 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, Benazir’s 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 polity.

Light at the End of Tunnel

There is no doubt that the death meted out to Benazir Bhuttoo 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 the first time that the death of an opposition leader has been recognized officially. Similarly, the 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 Shibili is a Kashmiri from the Indian side now based in London. He is a security/media consultant and editor of the online quarterly Kashmir Affairs. Read other articles by Murtaza, or visit Murtaza's website.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. SIKANDER QURESHI said on December 31st, 2007 at 7:27am #

    There is not any presence of Al-QAIDA in the world. It is an artificial terrorist party, which has been created by BUSH to encircle the world in his han’s grip. Bush is spreading his hands in all over the world by using Usama’s name, although it might be possible that Usama is enjoying in any place of America. Because how it is possible that America can inform in advance about the SOUNAMI and EARTHQUAKE by using his most advance technology but he has not got any information yet about a man since a long time, who is live and continuously contacting to his other party’s member by telephone and many other ways. World Trade center was also a drama and BUSH was the writer.

    According to my opinion BAY NAZIR was hunted by BUSH’s Al-Qaida and Mr. Musharaf is also involved in this illegal and shameful act.

  2. mehak khan said on January 2nd, 2008 at 12:44am #

    The death of benazir bhutto is really a tragic one in the history of pakistan. Her death deteriorated the country’s political condition more than before. I agreed with SIKANDAR Q that if there is any existence of Alqaida or USAMA then how it is possible that a World SUPER power is not succeeding to catch them. Pakistan is fighting against terrorism at the expence of thier own innocent people. All problems can be solved by peaceful way. Before making the strategy of elliminating the terrorists they should also find root causes of this terrorism. Why Talaban and Alqaida’s organizations took birth? Why the relligious sectarionism is increasing in Pakistan? Pakistan which was made for the defence of ISLAM now there is no security even for the civilians who belong with the various sects of ISLAM. There is no unity among the Muslims in the name of relligion. It seems that these relligious hostilities among the muslims are also created by hte various forces who want to eliminate Islam from its roots. The rivalry between SHIA and SUNI muslims who are killing each other in the various region of Pakistan such as the two sects in the KURRAM AGENCY PARACHINAR have been constantly fighting since two months. Many people have lost there lives, houses and other properties. Still they are losing. The Govt. of Pakistan is unable to defend the lives and properties of the innocent people. It looks very strange that who are providing to them such big weapens which they are using against each other. There are so many questions which arise before the Govt. of Pakistan who is constantly been unable to maintain law and order and stop smuggling of armours. I personally appeal to the International community of human rights that stop the voilent killing of the people of Kurram Agency. There is no supply of food and other neccessities. Schools and colleges are closed since two months. People have started looting each other for their need which is the shameful condition of law and order there. The students and sick people are unable to come to the other cities for their needs because of the fear of suni sect who have blocked the roads. Talaban have also entered to add further fuel in the fire. They are supporting the suni sect which further dteriorated the condition. The death of Benazir is also the result of the narrow mindedness of the polititians and relligious groups in Pakistan. Pakistan can only be stable through unity among the muslims and poiliticians which is only possible if they throw back their own personal interests.

  3. mehak khan said on January 2nd, 2008 at 1:04am #

    The death of Benazir Bhuto is a tragic one.