News is just breaking that former Prime Minister and head of the Pakistan People’s Party, Benazir Bhutto was killed in Rawalpindi in a terrorist attack.
She was gunned down by an assassin who then blew himself up in a suicide attack. This happened at the end of her rally in Liaquat Bagh, Rawalpindi; the same place where Liaqat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first Prime Minister was assassinated. Major news networks are now reporting that following bomb blasts at Benazir Bhutto’s rally in Rawalpindi, shots were fired directly targeting her. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari says that one of these shots hit her in the neck and killed her.
According to early BBC reports:
Pakistani former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been killed in a presumed suicide attack, a military spokesman has announced on TV. Earlier reports said Ms Bhutto had only been injured and taken to hospital.
Ms Bhutto had just addressed a pre-election rally in the town of Rawalpindi when the bomb went off. At least 15 other people are reported killed in the attack and several more were injured. Ms Bhutto had twice been the country’s prime minister. She was campaigning ahead of elections due in January.
The explosion occurred close to an entrance gate of the park in Rawalpindi where Ms Bhutto had been speaking. Benazir Bhutto had been addressing rallies in many parts of Pakistan
PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar initially said that Ms Bhutto was safe. But later he told the BBC that Ms Bhutto had died. Another member of the PPP, Wasif Ali Khan, told the Associated Press news agency from the Rawalpindi General Hospital: “At 6:16 pm (1316 GMT) she expired.”
I, like most Pakistanis, am still too numb with shock and grief to think coherently about what has happened or what the implications of this are for the country and for the world. But this I know, whether you agreed with her political positions or not you cannot but be in shock. Even as I type these lines I am literally shaking. Hers was a tragic life story. So tragic that had it not been real no one would have believed it.
At this point all sorts of thoughts float through the politics of this. Why did this happen? Why was it not stopped? What could have been done to stop this senseless murder? Maybe she should not have come back? Who did this? What will this mean for the elections? What will this mean for the PPP? What will this mean for Gen. Musharraf? What will this mean for Pakistan? But all of these are paled by thoughts about Benazir as a person. The woman. The wife. The mother. The human being. What about her?
I have not always agreed with her politically but there was always a respect for her political courage. I had met her many times, first as a journalist covering her when she had just returned to Pakistan in the Zia era and before she became Prime Minister. Later a number of times in her two stints as Prime Minister and thena few times during her exile. In that last period she toll to referring to me as “Professor sahib” and some of our exchanges were more candid (at least on my part) than they had been earlier.
At a human level this is a tragedy like no other. Only a few days ago I was mentioning to someone that the single most tragic person in all of Pakistan – maybe all the world – is Nusrat Bhutto. Benazir’s mother. Think about it. Her husband, killed. One son alledgedly poisoned. Another son assassinated. Daughter rises to be Prime Minister twice, but jailed, exiled, and finally gunned down.
Today, in shock, I can think only of Benazir Bhutto the human being. Tomorrow, maybe, I will think of politics.