R.I.P. Benazir Bhutto
December 27, 2007 15 Comments
There are really only so many times you can write “this sucks” in one day. A remarkable woman taken down. Damn.
Many people have been collecting information and writing commentaries since the news broke early this morning, so I’ll provide a bunch of links. I don’t think I have much to say besides the fact I hope she rests in peace and Pakistan…doesn’t fall apart and head for military rule.
Pakistani intelligence services had intercepted a call from wanted pro-Taliban militant leader Baitullah Mehsud in which he allegedly congratulated another militant after Bhutto’s death, the interior ministry stated.
“There is irrefutable evidence that al-Qaeda, its networks and cohorts were trying to destabilise Pakistan,” interior ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said at a press conference on Friday, at which he presented the transcript of Mehsud’s phonecall.
The interior ministry described Mehsud as an “al-Qaeda leader”. However, retired spymaster Gen. Hamid Gul said it was not certain that al-Qaeda had killed Butto.
Rawalpindi, incidentally, was the city where Benazir’s father, Zulfiqar, was hung by General Zia ul Haq in 1978. One of my relatives reminds me that Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was also killed in Rawalpindi, circa 1950. The place Benazir was killed is called Liaquat Bagh — Liaquat Garden.
I wrote about the previous attack on Bhutto, which killed 150 in October, at Huffington Post.
Additionally, there were sniper shots at a Nawaz Sharif — the other democratic leader and former prime minister — rally as well, killing four people. He was not there. Nawaz Sharif is ineligible to run for elections. Benazir was eligible.
BBC is showing firefighters just washing the street clean with jets of water, pushing the debris from the bombing into the sewers. I think that is very odd, and irresponsible.
I have put the text of the news about Al-Qaeda in the comments.
Update to Update I: I am now skeptical of this.
Freedom requires opposition…dissent and the passionate defense of the right to voice dissent…not religion, or constant agreement or any of the love it or leave it bullshit those who fear the masses toss out as if an argument where a terroristic threat.
Silence the opposition and you smother freedom.
Smother freedom and the will of the people will struggle to catch fire.
I think that’s why Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan despite all the risks….because of the risks…to nurture the fire.
The 30-minute speech was Mr Musharraf’s first major public address since Ms Bhutto’s death.
Mr Musharraf referred to “the pain and anger” of Ms Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), especially in her home province of Sindh.
This is a very significant investigation – all the confusion that has been created in the nation must be resolvedPresident Musharraf
He paid tribute to his political opponent, saying: “I also feel the same sadness and anger – I respect the sentiments of the nation.”
He repeated official allegations that al-Qaeda was behind Ms Bhutto’s killing, and urged the media to “expose” pro-Taleban militant leaders who, he said, were orchestrating suicide attacks in Pakistan.
Benazir Bhutto followed her father into politics, and both of them died because of it – he was executed in 1979, she fell victim to an apparent suicide bomb attack.
Her two brothers also suffered violent deaths.
Like the Nehru-Gandhi family in India, the Bhuttos of Pakistan are one of the world’s most famous political dynasties. Benazir’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was prime minister of Pakistan in the early 1970s.
His government was one of the few in the 30 years following independence that was not run by the army.
Born in 1953 in the province of Sindh and educated at Harvard and Oxford, Ms Bhutto gained credibility from her father’s high profile, even though she was a reluctant convert to politics.
She was twice prime minister of Pakistan, from 1988 to 1990, and from 1993 to 1996.
Politicians do not always get assassinated because they are corrupt or self-serving. If they did—there would be few politicians left standing and fewer still willing to run for public office. More important: Political saints and other innocents are hardly spared the fatwa, the sword, the sniper or the suicide-killer’s exploding bomb. Does this woman really mean to suggest that Bhutto deserved to die because she was a bad…woman? Were Bhutto more to her liking, would she then mourn her death and would Kimball himself then eulogize her?
The medical report — obtained by CNN from Minallah — made no mention of the sunroof latch and listed the cause of death as “Open head injury with depressed skull fracture, leading to Cardiopulmonary arrest.” Read Bhutto’s full medical report
Pakistan’s Interior Ministry said Thursday it was from a bullet or shrapnel wound, but then it announced a day later that Bhutto died from a skull fracture suffered when she fell or ducked into the car as a result of the shots or the explosion and crashed her head into a sunroof latch.
Bhutto’s family and political party maintain that the government is lying, and insist she died from gunshot wounds.
Several videos show a gunman firing a pistol toward her just moments before a bomb detonated nearby as she left a rally.
The U-turn on the sunroof claims will only heighten speculation as to the exact cause of Bhutto’s death.
Benazir Bhutto was for me an inspiration. She was fierce. She was bold. She was beautiful and smart and fearless.
“Muslimists” may have seen her as a sell out. To me she was first and foremost a Pakistani, a woman and a citizen of the world.
Benazir could have easily walked away from what she considered her fate. She could have taken a teaching post at a top university anywhere in England, France or the United States. She could have easily lived for the rest of her life in the upper class comfort offered to her in Dubai.
Yet she chose to put herself in harm’s way for Hope.
I hardly think it’s any coincidence that www.help-pakistan.com is also down, which was the link to the “Don’t Block the Blog!” graphic on my blog. The link disappeared shortly after she was murdered.
I am leaving the link up as an act of hope that the blog will someday return.
The first female leader of Pakistan was killed on Thursday. She was 54. More than a dozen bystanders were killed with her.
Bhutto was certainly a polarizing figure, but however justified criticisms of corruption, hypocrisy and politicking may be, the fact remains that Bhutto was a liberal, secular leader and a strong, intelligent and courageous woman who led her country two times and spoke out against the current regime. And it’s a shame she’s gone.
It remains to be seen how this will impact the future of Pakistan. I hope it serves as a wake-up call that lots of things need to change, but I suspect it will do just the opposite.
So, was Musharraf, who’d just grudgingly conceded to share power with Bhutto and give up his army leadership position, behind the hit? That’s what conspiracy theorists inside my kitchen seem to believe. But then you’ve gotta wonder how he did it. Did Mr. Enemy of Terrorism Musharraf contract out a suicide bomber from Al Qaeda Inc.? Or does the Pakistani Army have a top-secret suicide unit, and if so, what do you have to do to get yourself enlisted in that? Josh Foust, of Registan.net and “That’s So Jane’s!” columns of yore says the theory doesn’t make sense. “She works much better as an opponent than as a martyr” for Musharraf, he claims. CNN seems to be focused on the question of what happens next: will they invoke military rule? (Isn’t that what you would do?)
I am not particularly enthused at discussing Benazir’s checkered past, considering that she is dead and that Islamically, we avoid talking about someone’s shortcomings after their passing. But, in weighing the benefit vs. harm, I find it important that between the eulogies, the unending praises and the references to Benazir’s “martyr” status, that we take a moment to step away and be JUST to history. Revisionist history, especially in matters that may frame the future of Pakistan, can be especially harmful. [from a quote]
Bhutto’s death affects us all — women, social activists, political watchdogs — because she exemplified that to stand up for what is unpopular is never easy. In fact, it’s downright scary, but we continue because it’s the right thing to do.
Whether it’s speaking up for undocumented immigrants, the poor and the disenfranchised, there is always a group who will find the most vulnerable offensive to their way of living.
It is sad to hear that such a strong and willful woman, such as Benazir Bhutto, is no longer with us. Honestly, there were few times I had heard her name mentioned before her untimely death, but at that moment Pakistan, the world, came to a standstill and everyone knew her name. I was glued to the television as soon as I heard Thursday afternoon. She and her cause will forever be remembered. She has had a major impact on the world and will continue to do so because now she is known for what she stood for and for what she did. May she rest in peace and may her loved ones be comforted with the hope that she did not die in vain.
The exact circumstances surrounding the assassination were still unclear. Senior officials in Ms. Bhutto’s party said she was leaving after addressing the rally and stood up through the sunroof of her car to wave at the crowd when she was hit in the head by a sniper in a nearby building. Witnesses said that they heard two or three shots in total, and that the car moved on for another 50 yards before a suicide attacker blew himself up.
Other witnesses described a single assassin opening fire on Ms. Bhutto and her entourage, hitting her at least once in the neck and once in the chest, before blowing himself up. Dr. Abbas Hayat, a professor of pathology at Rawalpindi General Hospital where Ms. Bhutto was taken, said that doctors tried to revive her for 35 minutes but that she had shrapnel wounds and head injuries and was in heart failure. He said he could not confirm whether she had bullet injuries.
Angry supporters rioted in her home city, the southern port of Karachi, The Associated Press reported, shooting at police officers, setting tires and cars on fire and burning a gas station.
In a brief televised address, President Pervez Musharraf called for support from the Pakistani people and declared three days of mourning. “This is a great tragedy which I cannot describe in words,” he said, according to a report on state-run media.
He blamed terrorists for the attack, saying “Pakistan and the nation faces the greatest threat from these terrorists.”
[from second article]
Political analysts and opposition politicians have predicted that Ms. Bhutto’s death will be one calamity too many for the president, after months of blunders and falling popularity since he moved in March to dismiss the Supreme Court’s chief justice.
“I think he is in an extremely weak position,” said Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a professor of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences. He suggested that Mr. Musharraf might still resort to extreme measures, like widespread election fraud or another period of emergency rule, to ensure that the party that backs him wins the elections and provides him with the necessary parliamentary support to continue as president. “This is an election that Musharraf cannot afford to lose,” he said.
If Boris Yeltsin had been killed at the moment he bravely defied the August coup attempt of 1991, he’d be remembered as a hero and a martyr, rather than as an ultimately disappointing Russian president. I suppose it’s only natural that, as the accolades come for the courage in defense of democracy of the woman so prematurely cut down, so too come the remarks of her critics, anxious to tell us that she wasn’t the saint she may now seem. That she had been accused of corruption during her two previous stints as Prime Minister. That her niece Fatima had doubted her commitment to democracy (though the remark that “Along with the leaders of prominent Islamic parties, she has been spared the violent retributions of emergency law,” with its suggestion that Benazir Bhutto was buying safety by cozying up to the Islamists, doesn’t seem so fitting now).
She was pronounced dead in hospital in Rawalpindi, the home of the Pakistan army and the same city where her father, former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in 1979 after being deposed by a military coup.
“It is the act of those who want Pakistan to disintegrate,” said Farzana Raja, a senior official from Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party. “They have finished the Bhutto family.”
Across Pakistan — a country long used to political violence and ruled by the military for more than half of its life — friends and foes alike were stunned by the death of a woman whose family had courted tragedy across two generations.
“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,” wrote columnist Adil Najam in the popular Web site All Things Pakistan (http://pakistaniat.com).
“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.”
In an October email to her U.S. spokesman, Mark Siegel, Benazir Bhutto cast blame on her future assassination, saying that in the event of her death, she would consider Pakistan’s leader, Pervez Musharraf responsible.
Thursday on The Situation Room, Wolf Blitzer said that he knew about the email two months ago, but was asked to withhold the story and tell it only in the event of her death.
The day she was assassinated last Thursday, Benazir Bhutto had planned to reveal new evidence alleging the involvement of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies in rigging the country’s upcoming elections, an aide said Monday.
Perhaps more shockingly, an attendee at the rally where Bhutto was killed says police charged with protecting her “abandoned their posts,” leaving just a handful of Bhutto’s own bodyguards protecting her.
“Police officers had frisked the 3,000 to 4,000 people attending Thursday’s rally when they entered the park, but as the speakers from Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party droned on, the police abandoned many of their posts,” wrote Saeed Shah in an essay published by McClatchy News Service. “As she drove out through the gate, her main protection appeared to be her own bodyguards, who wore their usual white T-shirts inscribed: ‘Willing to die for Benazir.'”
As deadly protests continued to rage on Pakistan’s streets, the country’s Interior Ministry said that Bhutto – buried Friday without an autopsy – had died after she was thrown against the lever of her car’s sunroof, fracturing her skull.
Initially, the government had said that flying shrapnel killed Bhutto, 54, after a shooting and suicide bombing as she left a political rally in the city of Rawalpindi.
The new version of events fueled ever-present conspiracy theories in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation that’s on the front lines of President Bush’s war on terrorism and risks sliding further into political chaos.
[in third linked article]
New details of Benazir Bhutto’s final moments, including indications that her doctors felt pressured to conform to government accounts of her death, fueled the arguments over her assassination on Sunday and added to the pressure on Pakistan’s leaders to accept an international inquiry.
Athar Minallah, a board member of the hospital where Ms. Bhutto was treated, released her medical report along with an open letter showing that her doctors wanted to distance themselves from the government theory that Ms. Bhutto had died by hitting her head on a lever of her car’s sunroof during the attack.
In his letter, Mr. Minallah, who is also a prominent lawyer, said the doctors believed that an autopsy was needed to provide the answers to how she actually died. Their request for one last Thursday was denied by the local police chief.
You know what’s worse? A good half of the articles I’ve seen are about how Bhutto’s assassination will affect the U.S. I’m not even going to start.
I don’t know much about Benazir Bhutto, but I hope that Pakistan can recover from her murder and that her family and friends have the support they need right now.