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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 104

Why kill Benazir Bhutto?

By Rajen Thakur

Because she was pro-America?

So is every major politician of Pakistan, tied to one or the other faction of the US establishment. Pervez Musharraf himself is closest to the USA. Nawaz Sharif , through the House of Saud, has indirect links with the Bush administration. The reason for singling her out must lie elsewhere.Benazir Bhutto: "Learning from Europe following World War II, we will build democracies and common markets, we will open up markets, we will open up roads and we will open up endless opportunities for the people of South Asia."Benazir Bhutto: "Learning from Europe following World War II, we will build democracies and common markets, we will open up markets, we will open up roads and we will open up endless opportunities for the people of South Asia."

Even Benazir's severest critics, carp as they did against her, could not deny her courage. She took the battle to her enemies. She campaigned in areas dominated by militants. More important, she recognised most clearly the ideological aims of her enemies. She articulated most explicitly the ideological response to frustrate them. She was a threat they could not tolerate. Like abject cowards they killed her. Like a true warrior she died in battle writes Rajendra Puri in the Statesman.

Before returning to Pakistan, Benazir outlined her political aims. She said: "Learning from Europe following World War II, we will build democracies and common markets, we will open up markets, we will open up roads and we will open up endless opportunities for the people of South Asia."

What changed?

The Saudis embarked on a global effort to stread Wahhabism, their religiously based ideology. In particular they financed madrassas in Pakistan. These madrassas have not turned out scholars. They have instead produced warriors eager to kill infidels and apostates as a part of a jihad to establish the global supremacy and dominance of Islam.

Vali Nasr has told PBS' Frontline:

[I]n one madrassa in Pakistan, I interviewed 70 Malaysian and Thai students who are being educated side by side with students who went on to the Afghan war and the like. These people return to their countries, and then we see the results in a short while. ... At best, they become hot-headed preachers in mosques that encourage fighting Christians in Nigeria or in Indonesia. And in a worst case, they actually recruit or participate in terror acts.

Yet apologists for the Saudis remain a dominant voice within Washington's foreign policy Establishment. And both presidents and congress have failed to do anything serious about Western dependence on oil controlled by our enemies, reports US magazine
Visiting Pakistani journalist Aroosa Alam says the Taliban, who are already being named as the culprits, could have had no real interest in assassinating Benazir Bhutto, Asit Jolly from Chandigarh writes in the Asian Age.

Recently in news because of her rumoured relationship with Punjab's former chief minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh, Ms Alam who is presently in Delhi said any search for Ms Bhutto's killers must instead focus on Pakistan's security establishment and its well known linkages with forces inimical to moderate and democratic thought.

"Do I need to remind you that in the FIR after the Karachi Bombing, Mohturma (Ms Bhutto) had named as many as five top-ranking figures, including the IB chief, the chief minister of Punjab and the chief minister of Sind," she told this newspaper shortly after reports of the Bhutto assassination came in on Thursday evening.

According to Ms Alam, new measures deployed after October's Karachi bombing, included a mandatory, three-tiered security ring, which should have made it impossible for any potential assassin or even a fidayeen (suicide) bomber to get within striking distance of the People's Party of Pakistan chief. "Despite this, the killers were able to get at Mohturma and that too just after she got into her car. Do you know that even senior journalists are not permitted anywhere near her at the place where the assassins walked in with ease?" Ms Alam said.

Ironically, the very woman who was virulently attacked by Punjab's ruling Shiromani Akali Dal for being an ISI agent just yesterday, says she has no doubt that "Benazir Bhutto was killed in connivance with the Pakistan's security establishment." She said, "How other than a conspiracy can you explain the safe passage granted to the assassins."

Dubbing the haste in blaming the Taliban as shortsighted, Ms Alam pointed out that Bhutto had in fact struck a deal with them during her last regime. "They (Taliban) had nothing to fear from her imminent return to power in Pakistan. Yes, she did talk about tackling fundamentalists, but this is something you can find in all political speeches," she said.

Benazir Bhutto, 54, was expecting it, but the suddenness and violence of her death has left the world shell shocked. She has left Pakistan in complete disarray, being pulled at from all directions. The divide is visible in the responses to her death, with the government ducking for cover as Pakistan sheds tears for a leader who had returned after 10 years of self-imposed exile to at least try and light a lamp of democracy writes Seema Mustafa in the Asian Age.

Stubborn but charming, the charismatic Ms Bhutto could do no wrong for Pakistan People's Party cadres, who questioned her on occasion but were unwavering in their admiration and support. Hers was a life of high drama, interspersed with personal and political tragedy. Her father was hanged in 1979 when she was only 26 years old. Ms Bhutto herself was imprisoned just before his death for five long years in solitary confinement. She went to London, where she began a campaign against then President Gen. Zia-ul Haq, and later became one of the main forces behind the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy.

The young and glamorous Ms Bhutto returned to Pakistan in 1986, and after Gen. Zia's death two years later she became the first democratically-elected woman Prime Minister of Pakistan, and indeed that of any Muslim country. She was removed from office 20 months later on grounds of corruption, but made a comeback in 1993 — only to be removed again three years later on the same grounds. Hers was not a great prime ministership, as she belied hopes that she would lead Pakistan out of the growing wilderness of fundamentalism. In fact, she was said to have had a decisive hand in the creation of the Taliban, and disappointed many when she was perceived as being more than friendly with the radical elements that were gaining ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan at the time.

Her marriage to Asif Zardari was controversial, to say the least. He came to be known as "Mr 10 Per Cent" in Pakistan, an indication of corruption. The marriage was not seen as particularly happy, but after Mr Zardari was released from a Pakistani prison he joined Ms Bhutto and their children in Dubai in 2004. The PPP leaders were not particularly enamoured of Mr Zardari's personality, and took exceptional care to keep a distance in their dealings with him. In fact, Benazir Bhutto was not very fortunate in her personal life.

She lost her two brothers as well: Murtaza was shot in mysterious circumstances in 1996 and Shahnawaz was found dead in a French Riviera apartment in 1985. Benazir was the only surviving political member of the Bhutto family; and now she too is no more.

Benazir was a natural leader, and the PPP remained loyal to her during her nearly decade-long exile in Dubai. She was a visible figure, using her education at Harvard and Oxford to good advantage. She was easily accessible to the media, gave lengthy interviews and was a familiar figure at high-profile seminars and conferences in the West. News of her imminent return to Pakistan enthused the PPP, bringing back a level of cohesiveness and palpable excitement. Her decision to continue her dialogue with the United States as well as with representatives of President Pervez Musharraf, despite his strong attack on the judiciary, however, dampened spirits and lost her some goodwill. But she managed to work out a deal and returned to Pakistan to a tumultuous welcome which spilled on to the streets of Karachi and ended with the first terrorist attack on her. She escaped narrowly.

It was then that she said she expected another attack, and said that the intelligence agencies and the Pakistani establishment were responsible.

Benazir, unfortunately, had become too identified with the West for the fundamentalist forces within Pakistan and in Afghanistan. She was seen as pro-Musharraf and pro-US, and was clearly an easier target for the assailants given her popularity and the crowds that surrounded her at any given moment. She was a symbol of democracy for a country being torn apart. The tears in her eyes when she set foot in her homeland just a few weeks ago are now being shed by all of Pakistan which mourns her tragic and untimely death and fears for its own future.

Also predicting a scenario of unprecedented unrest that already seems to be unfolding across Pakistan, Ms Alam said, "Not just the PPP but every Pakistani with a commitment to democracy will turn out into the streets. The protests you saw in the wake of the chief justice's dismissal were only a small sampler. Now the world will see the real thing unfold."

Rajen Thakur, a researcher-columnist.

- Asian Tribune -

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