News Analysis: Who Killed Benazir Bhutto
News Analysis: Who killed Benazir Bhutto?
By Najam Sethi, Daily Times, Pakistan
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has raised two important questions. Who killed her and why? And what happens next to the Pakistan People’s Party and by corollary to Pakistani politics?
Most Pakistanis are by instinct inclined to believe that the “agencies” did it. This is the easy explanation for anything that happens in this country which is either inexplicable or unpalatable. All political assassinations in Pakistan remain inexplicable since the truth about them has never been investigated or investigated but not made public. But the truth of Ms Bhutto’s assassination may also be subliminally unacceptable to many Pakistanis because a religious or “Islamist” element may be at its unpleasant core.
This response is also partly due to the ubiquitous role of the “agencies” in ordering Pakistan’s political contours since the 1980s, including making and unmaking governments and elections. So we can hardly be blamed for suspecting the “agencies” or clutching at half-baked theories. Certainly, the political opposition to President Pervez Musharraf would like everyone to think so. It suits the politicians’ purpose because it discredits the Musharraf regime and seeks to exploit the widespread anger and outrage at the killing of a popular leader to try and overthrow him.
But if the “agencies” have done this at President Musharraf’s bidding, why is no one asking about their motives for doing so, or whether this suits him in any way, considering that it is likely to provoke a popular movement to undo his regime? Indeed, why is no one wondering whether there is some non-agency link between Ms Bhutto’s assassination and the assassination attempts on the lives of President Musharraf (two), the former corps commander of Karachi, Ahsan Saleem Hayat (one), the former prime minister Shaukat Aziz (one) and the former interior minister Aftab Sherpao (two)? Surely, the “agencies” did not target these gentlemen.
Of course, Ms Bhutto did not make any explanations easier following the assassination attempt on her on 18 October when she pointed to “remnants” of the Zia regime in the Musharraf administration, including some former “agency” people. Apparently, she had been given to understand as much, but by whom and why we will never know.
There may also have been an element of political opportunism in her accusations at the time. She was trying to distance herself from President Musharraf to regain her credibility because most Pakistanis were unhappy at the prospect of a “deal” between her and him. Indeed, she was seen as being let off the hook regarding the corruption cases against her in exchange for agreeing to work with him at a time when he was terribly unpopular both for his political blunders regarding the judiciary and also for his pro-US stance on the “war against terror”. Most Pakistanis saw this war an unjust American war and not a just Pakistani war.
Later, however, Ms Bhutto saw the writing on the wall and changed tack. She started to say that the biggest threat to Pakistan lay in religious extremism and terrorism, a clear allusion to the Al Qaeda network that was trying to lay down roots in Pakistan’s tribal areas as part of its global strategy after Iraq to reclaim Afghanistan and make Pakistan a base area for Islamic revolution.
Shortly before she returned to Pakistan, Daily Times reported a statement by Baitullah Mehsud, an Al Qaeda-Taliban warlord based in Waziristan, saying that he had trained “hundreds of suicide bombers” and was determined to kill Benazir Bhutto because she was an American agent. The story was based on an interview given to Daily Times by a sitting member of the Pakistan senate who has been a conduit for Masud’s statements and who had recently met him.