“And I believe nobody can be killed until their time is up.”
(To NDTV 24 hours before she took the flight to Pakistan)
Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today at 6.46 pm (IST), plunging Pakistan into mourning and placing question marks on the upcoming elections scheduled in the country, two weeks hence. A catastrophe of mammoth proportion which has created a wave of impact beyond the borders of the country, including a national security alert in India and border security being stepped up at the Line of Control, Bhutto’s death has thrown up a gamut of conspiracy theories that blame, on the one hand, the religious extremism that exists in the country, while holding the government responsible on the other, for not having done enough to protect the woman who ‘was a true Pakistani at heart’ and ‘achieved a remarkable feat by being elected the Prime Minister of an Islamic State’.
The second attack on Bhutto proved fatal, as she had earlier escaped closely when there had been an attack on her life this October on her return to Pakistan, after eight long years. Although Pakistan has been subject to political violence for much of its sixty year history, the incident today remains the worst tragedy witnessed by the country. At 5.30 pm Bhutto entered her car, while exiting a rally from Liaquatbagh. Soon after, two men pulled up beside the car carrying with them AK 47s, which they pumped into the vehicle. Bhutto was shot in the neck and chest and 5 bullets have been recovered from her body. The attackers went on to blow themselves up, which delayed the reach of security by Bhutto’s side for 10 whole minutes. She was then rushed to ‘Rawalpindi General Hospital’ where she was declared dead 40 minutes after she was admitted. At least twenty people were killed in the blast and many more injured. President Musharraf called an emergency meeting after which he went onto issue a statement on television condemning the act and holding responsible the religious extremism that exists in the country for this heinous act. The assassination has invoked strong reactions from leaders across the globe. An official statement from US President George Bush states this to be ‘a cowardly act by extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan’s democracy’ and seeked that justice be insured. He appealed to the people to ‘honour Bhutto’s memory by continuing the democratic process for which she bravely gave up her life’. And Washington is justified to be concerned. With their nuclear installations under possible threat for a militant take-over, The United States is in a dilemma. Still standing staunch advocating their belief in democracy, the United States cannot forget the October attack on Bhutto, which is alleged to have forged an Al-Qaeda- Taliban tie-up after many years. With an internal strife within the Congress regarding the validity of the money funding the ‘war against terrorism’, the American government is handling the incident with extreme sensitivity. A declaration of Emergency seems an imminent possibility in Pakistan now, a proposition to which the
United States would not be able to decline. Reports allege that the United States prefer an army government more capable of handling the internal religious extremism in
Pakistan than a civil one. However, today’s incident places doubts on the ‘bungled up policy’ propagated by Bush and questions have been raised against the validity of an army government and to what extents the involvement of the army is suitable juxtaposed to the security of the citizens. Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, holds President Musharaff’s policies responsible for the terrible state that the country is currently in. A contender for the upcoming elections, Sharif has now withdrawn his candidature and has decided to ‘boycott’ the elections. The question that demands immediate addressal is whether elections shall be held at all in Pakistan next year, as many are claiming that the elections are quite meaningless now. According to Ayesha Siddiqui, writer, Pakistan needs to have a less elitist political system as what is needed is a balance of institutions and extremism is only a peripheral problem. The attack on Benazir Bhutto was condemned by the world, with the United Kingdom calling it a ‘senseless attack’. India’s Natwar Singh has stated that the incident is bound to have ‘serious ramifications’ and will be mourned far beyond the borders of
Pakistan. The United Nations has appealed for calm as has President Musharraf in his addressal to the nation. The Pakistani government has called for a three day mourning. However, the Pakistan People’s Party has called for a fourteen day mourning. Since the attack, 80 cars have been torched around Karachi and a train has been set on fire. Benazir’s husband, who was also known as ‘Mr. 10 Percent’ following alleged reports of his commission taking, a rumour that Benazir vehemently countered all her life, has held the government responsible for the attack. Wazir Samsul Hassan, a close friend of Bhutto, revealed that the latter had written a letter to President Musharraf pinpointing the people she thought could be a threat to her life. A Taliban leader is the prime suspect of the assassination. Shayoni Sarkar