Benazir Bhutto: What if she had not been killed?

Posted on December 27, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, People, Politics
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Adil Najam

Benazir Bhutto was assassinated one year ago today, December 27.

I remember being in utter shock when I first heard that news. In some ways I am still in shock. Indeed, as our wall of newspaper covers showed, the whole world was in shock. That shock, I believe, is also still alive.

And, yet, so much – so very much – has changed. An elected government holds power. Benazir Bhutto’s arch-nemesis Gen. Pervez Musharraf is no longer President of Pakistan. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, is. We still do not know who was behind her death, but speculation remains rife. The economy remains in nosedive. An energy crisis is upon us. One Chief Justice still awaits reinstatement. Another is embroiled in scandal. War talk with India on the East is the rage. Drones pound us on the West. And Pakistan continues to lose both territory and citizens to the extremists who continue to wage a war within Pakistan and on Pakistan. Most of all, anger and angst still define the social disposition.

None of this is new. As a re-reading of our review of 2007 would show there is no evidence that 2008 was any more depressing than 2007 was. It just feels that way. Good things have happened (including elections) but so many bad things have piled on that it becomes difficult to remember what they were. Each new day brings new headlines of death, depression and despondency. And each headline chips away at the national psyche. The angst compounds within us. Gloom adds to gloom and the emergent analysis becomes ever more gloomy.

Speculative it surely is, but even if only for speculation’s sake, what if she had not been killed on that fateful day a year ago?

What if she had survived the attack? Would things have been different? Would the nature of the government she would have formed or run have been different from Mr. Zardari’s government? Would Gen. Musharraf’s fate have been different? Would Justice Iftikhar’s fate have been different? Would the pressure on Pakistan from abroad have been different? Would Pakistan’s response to extremists have been different? All of this, of course, assumes that she would have won the elections and assumed power had she lived. But, would even that have been so?

Time line for the Bhutto family

I do not know the answers to any of these. No one does. But a part of me would like to believe (for the sake of my own sanity) that things in Pakistan would, indeed, have been different – and better – if she had not been killed, even if nothing else had been any different from what it is today. Simply, because the blot of her assassination would have been one less stain for our collective soul to cleanse off. And she would still be there to give hope to at least a few!

45 responses to “Benazir Bhutto: What if she had not been killed?”

  1. Yasir says:


    No one can give you that certificate except you yourself. If you honestly believe that you only want to find the killers then I will take your word for it. WHo am I to doubt it?

    But, it does strike me from this conversation that too many of those suddenly interested in this seem more interesting in “nabbing” Zardari and moved by what seems to be a vendetta against him than in actually finding murderers and terrorists!

  2. Aqil says:


    I can respond to your post in a number of ways but let me limit it to asking you three questions.

    1. What does one need to do in order to earn a certificate of being genuinely interested in finding her killers from you?

    2. Is “raking mud” at the military and using BB’s murder for emotional blackmail also a part of the pursuit for her murderers or just a convenient way for PPP apologists to score political points?

    3. Who should investigate her murder in order to make the process credible and how should conflict of interest be avoided in this process?

  3. Yasir says:

    Aqil, a simple question for you.

    Are you REALLY interested in finding Benazir’s killers because you pain for the woman being murdered, her children orphaned and her husband widowed? Or are you only interested in raking mud because you have convinced yourself in your hatred of Zardari that this would be a good way to embarrass him?

    No need to answer. Just think about it. Maybe this discussion says more about you than Mr. Zardari!

  4. Aqil says:

    meengla and Eidee man:

    Any investigation starts with simple questions like “who benifits” and “who were the enemies or opponents of the murdered person.” Without any knowledge of specific facts, all such possibilities are mere theories but they all need to be considered.

    What’s so absurd about Zardari being a top suspect? Has no man ever killed his wife? Why should Zardari be considered beyond suspicion when it’s well known that they were not on the best of terms and BB was planning to keep Zardari away this time?

    As for the possibility that some people in the establishment were involved or some militents like Mehsud decided to take her out, where did I say that it’s “ridiculous” or inconceivable? I was only pointing out to meengla that these are also just theories, like the one about Zardari’s possible involvement.

    Your knee jerk responses and the way you guys start throwing tantrums in defense of Zardari and the PPP is very typical of what’s wrong with our politics. Excessive personality worship and the holy cow syndrome.

    meengla shamelessly defends the PPP by rubbishing all the corruption cases (for which Zardari had to use the NRO instead of relying on an independent court to throw them out) as “mere corruption charges.” He regularly lables all critics of the PPP as pro-dictatorship and completely ignores the importance of institution building to which the PPP is also a big hurdle. And eidee spends more time getting angry in defense of the PPP and admiring the “courage shown by ZAB and BB in the face of adversity” instead of trying to inteligently evaluate their impact on the country.

  5. Umar AKbar says:

    Dear meengla,

    Reference your letter: mere

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