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Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

Posted on December 27, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, People, Politics
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Adil Najam

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 assasin who then blew himself up in a suicide attack. This happened at teh 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:

Assasinated Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto

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.

‘She expired’

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 teh 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.

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Assasinated Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto

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 assasinated. 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.

355 comments posted

Comment Pages: « 45 44 43 42 41 [40] 39 38 37 36 351 » Show All

  1. aruj says:
    February 19th, 2008 1:12 pm

    i feel so sad for what has happened and hopefully the guy who shot benzir will burn in hell. may she rest in peace.

  2. AROOSA says:
    February 19th, 2008 8:28 am



  3. aroosa says:
    February 19th, 2008 8:21 am

    Benazir Bhutto your the best why did you die for i am still rememdering

    February 13th, 2008 3:25 am


  5. meengla says:
    January 31st, 2008 8:25 pm

    @Political Blog,
    Thanks for sharing your first hand account.

    In contrast, I (and probably most other in this Blogspace) remember the funeral of Zia ul Haq. To gain the maximum political milageage (but ostensibly to have a ‘proper State Funeral’), Zia’s burial was postponed against Islamic rules. Many came. Some say 500,000. Many did out of grief, no doubt. But it was also a well orchestrated event where our would be Amir -ul-Mominoon (Nawaz Sharif) vowed to continue Zia’s ‘mission’ (whipping and hanging in public, I hope not!). But I digress.
    In contrast remember the funeral of ZAB. In the dead of night. There is only one picture of that ‘Namaz e Janaza’ that I am aware of.
    In contrast the funeral Benazir Bhutto. The State of Pakistan was absent. But the people of Pakistan were present, from Karachi to Khyber.
    Truly, the people of Pakistan are not so easy to be fooled, contrary to the elitist leanings of the expat and the so-called educated communities of Pakistan. The people of would want their real leaders, however flawed, versus the hoisted ‘leaders’. Today Zia’s son can best hope to win 1-2 seats. Musharraf’s son will probably never settle down in Pakistan (no fault of Bilal Musharraf though), and who speaks of Gen. Yahya anyway? Ayub Khan’s son is a hanger-on for semi-elected regimes. But ‘Bhuttos’ live on because they let themselves to die and that, in the Information Age, gets noticed pretty quickly.

  6. January 31st, 2008 12:54 am

    I am from Rawalpindi, and visited the place where you was assassinated, that place pictures a tomb, with flowers, portraits and banners of her, people praying in front of her photo.and strangely, the place is in fornt of Stage hall.
    She was really a Peoples Leader.

  7. azfar says:
    January 30th, 2008 5:47 am

    the sad and tragic death of ms bhutto is a great loss to pakistani people,politics and to the whole world.she was a great woman and leader.her killers are the most worse people of the world.we will miss her alot.

  8. meengla says:
    January 29th, 2008 4:44 pm

    At last, an article from Aitzaz Ahsan about Benazir Bhutto.
    The Benazir I know: gone but living

    Tuesday, January 29, 2008
    Aitzaz Ahsan

    The writer is a former interior minister and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association

    “The first thing I want to do is to release all political prisoners” she announced as our meeting on November 30, 1988 began at Dr Zafar Niazi’s house in Islamabad. In the elections held after the death of General Zia, the PPP, despite all efforts of the agencies, had succeeded in the elections. After failing to prop up any rival, President Ghulam Ishaq had finally agreed that very day to accept her as Prime Minister of Pakistan.

    The historic meeting of PPP leadership was being held to set top priorities of Bibi’s first government. It was here as the Prime Minister designate that she showed her metal. So far her life and emotions had been premised on the bitter fact that her dearest father had been deposed, imprisoned, humiliated, falsely charged, hanged and then buried without due ceremony. But she brought to that meeting only her winning smile and the undiluted optimism of a political idealist.

    Zia had left behind a large number of political prisoners and convicts of military courts. Each had been denied due process. Releasing them, she said, was going to be her number one priority.

    What pledge should we make to ourselves? she asked. “That we must ensure press freedom”, I suggested. “For anything that it may print?” she asked. “Yes, for anything. We must set a precedent,” I said. And she agreed at once, excited that it was a good idea.

    Next day I was sworn in as her Interior Minister. In that capacity, I received countless recommendations to prosecute this or that publication. I turned down each of these even when our government was brutally and deliberately slandered.

    Once a cabinet colleague complained to her that I was not prosecuting publications for false propaganda against her husband Asif Zardari. “But Malik Sahib,” she retorted, “we have pledged to allow full freedom to the media. We will have to bear with it.” Then she turned to me and asked: “Is there anything that can be done without the government getting involved?” “Yes,” I replied. “Asif should file a civil suit for damages in his personal capacity.” And so it was that Mr Asif Zardari, husband of a serving Prime Minister had the grace to file a private civil suit for damages as an ordinary litigant.

    That is what she was. At once humane and proper. How can I recount in such as short piece, all aspects of a life lived to such fullness particularly when I have worked so close to her during her life? Even books will fail to do justice. Presently only a few instances establishing her more prominent qualities must suffice. One was fortitude.

    Between 1990 and 1993 there were as many as 18 prosecutions against her and her husband Asif Zardari. Both were also slandered and defamed. I had publicly promised to turn these prosecutions “from the trial of Mohtrama into the trial of Ishaq Khan”. In the end, they were both acquitted in all those cases, with her husband bravely facing adversity and she standing by him like a rock. She had the fortitude to bear the designed torment aimed at her by the notorious regime of Jam Sadiq Ali in Sindh.

    Never will I forget that one day in 1992 when I entered the outer gate of Landhi Jail to defend Asif in a trial being conducted inside the jail itself. There she was, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, carrying two young infants, Bilawal and Bakhtawar, in her arms, and sitting on a pile of bricks. I was furious and immediately went to the Jail Superintendent. But she calmed me down saying that she had learnt not to expect any decency from the jail staff. After all, she herself had remained imprisoned for five years as a young girl.

    Through all her trials and tribulations, she demonstrated amazing charm and stamina. When she came to stay with us in Gujrat in December 1986, she arrived at 3 am on that freezing December night having traveled a full 10 hours from Lahore, but she sat up chatting with Bushra for another one hour with Zaynab, our youngest, in her lap. Early in the morning she was up, fresh as a flower, all ready to meet local party officials.

    She kept punishing schedules and was the only politician who had toured the entire Pakistan, city by city, town by town, village by village and hamlet by hamlet at least five times. She knew the party workers by face and the towns by the streets.

    And through it all she remained a model of womanhood at its most sublime. While being the most hardworking, hands-on, leading politician of the country, she was unabashedly feminine at the same time. In this intolerant and male dominated country, she refused to be uncomfortable about her womanhood. She gave birth to her first child in the middle of 1988 election campaign and another child while she was the first woman Prime Minister of Muslim Pakistan.

    Then there was her courage. She was afraid of nothing. I was on her truck at the time of the blast of 18 October. Next morning when I met her she was in her normal routine. I did not know that I was seeing her for the last time. When I sought her leave to return to Lahore for my Supreme Court Bar elections, she said “It will be a landslide in your favour. Good luck. And thanks for being here.” When I was withdrawing from the parliamentary contest I sent word to her and she consulted me, through Senator Safdar Abbasi on my choice for my substitute. She accepted the choice. But I was arrested the day after my election as President SCBA and denied permission even to attend the funeral or soyem of the one who believed in freeing political prisoners and the media, and in politics of non-violence.

    As a political leader she could organize and mobilize the biggest political organization in Pakistan, set the political agenda, make millions of ordinary people dream the greatest dreams for this land and yes, in fair elections, win elections too. She could do all that. But what she could not tackle were certain self-appointed guardians of the state, who refused to allow people the right to solve their problems themselves and who harassed, hounded, threatened and conspired against her. They did not permit her a fair shot at the democratic game because they knew that she would win, not by breaking the constitution or at gun point but through the sheer will of ordinary people who are supposed to be sovereign. Even on the last day of her life, her foremost concern was not how to win the elections but how to prevent them from being rigged. I wonder if people understand that in this lies a tragedy, not only for Bibi, but for this nation.

    Many sincere analysts questioned the integrity of her politics. They did not understand that after facing conspiracy after conspiracy, Bibi was forced to factor painful ground realities in her decision-making, always striving to achieve one day her true political ideals.

    This fundamental question may indeed be addressed through another question: Why, during the 30 years from 1977, when an elected and popular Prime Minister was ousted at gun point to the date when Bibi lost her life to another gun, the total period for which she, the most popular political leader, was allowed to govern the country was three times less than the time that Chaudhry Shujaat’s party remained in power? The real source of this country’s problems may be revealed by the answer. In kowtowing to the civil and military bureaucracy there is a premium. He and his ilk can do it. She could not. They survive. She had to be eliminated.

    One cannot help wondering why our establishment that claims to be obsessed with maintaining the federation, could not bring itself to see in Bibi that glorious human chain that kept all four provinces together, and as an asset and an ally instead of a foe.

    Above all else I will remember her for three qualities: a constant urge to reach out to her people, a willingness to take on Herculean challenges, and for her ability to forgive, even embrace, her enemies. These three qualities made her superhuman. And all three took her to her tragic, yet heroic death.

    All I can now say is: ‘Bibi it is an honour to have worked for you and with you. The Himalayas wept the death of your father. The world weeps for you.’

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