What's Behind Benazir Bhutto'sAssassination?
January, 05 2008By
Source: Left TurnBenazir Bhutto, the "life chairperson" of Pakistan's largest and most popular political party, the PakistanPeople's Party (PPP), is now dead. Her assassination took place while she was campaigning for nationaland provincial assembly elections, scheduled for January 8. After the assassination rioting ensuedthroughout the country, particularly in Karachi and Bhutto's native province of Sindh, which have beenaflame with protests and social unrest.The assassination and suicide bombing occurred in Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the Pakistanimilitary and supposedly one of the nation's most secure areas. In an even further twist of irony, the siteof the tragedy is also the place Pakistan's first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated in1951. It is also not far from the prison where Benazir's father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged byanother US-supported military dictator, General Zia ul-Haq.
Who's to Blame
As is typical with the Bush administration, before any evidence had been offered, and with importantfacts about the whole gruesome episode still in question, it unequivocally ascribed Bhutto'sassassination to Al Qaeda or a like-minded Islamist group. All President Bush seemed interested in wasreminding Pakistanis how significant the upcoming national elections were, since only those couldperhaps offer a way out for Musharraf's ongoing crisis of legitimacy. That the elections are being stage-managed by Musharraf and the military security establishment, is hardly a secret, even Bhutto herselfremarked that they would be rigged. But Bush insisted that Pakistan "honor Benazir Bhutto's memory bycontinuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life." After the assassination,Musharraf commented that this was a moment of national mourning and placed the culpability forBhutto's murder immediately and squarely on Islamic extremists.But questions are arising of the complicity of the government and its vast network of military-intelligence agency operatives in this crime. Even if the Musharraf regime is not directly implicated inthe assassination of Bhutto, a strong argument is being made that its blatant negligence engendered aresult it welcomed in private. When the first assassination attempt on Bhutto occurred on October 19,involving a massive bomb attack killing 140 people, she made it clear that she believed elements withthe military security establishment were responsible.Over the past few weeks, Bhutto incessantly complained that the government was completelyunaccommodating of her most elementary security requests, including providing her with an armoredcar with tinted glass windows, and the equipment to jam electronic bomb detonations. It seems thatBhutto herself, though cognizant of the grave danger to which she was making herself vulnerable,depended on her political importance (not least to the US) to protect her. Her miscalculation turnedout to be fatal.
Bhutto's murder initially made it uncertain whether the military government headed by Musharraf asPresident will proceed with the controversial elections. However, now that Bhutto's political party, the