A personal take on Benazir Bhutto's assasination
This is more than just another headline for me because a close friend of mine was also a close friend of Benazir Bhutto. My friend's work took him to Pakistan for about 8 years that overlapped Bhutto's two terms as Prime Minister. Part of his job entailed keeping close contact with government officials and he often met with Ms. Bhutto. He described her as tough, but warm and friendly.
Ms. Bhutto was educated at Harvard, spoke English well, and was pro-western in her views. After Harvard, she went to Oxford where she became the first Asian woman to head the debating society.
Her ties to the United States and her moderate Islamic faith are probably what killed her.
During Bhutto's terms as Prime Minister, she was accused of corruption by wealthy Pakistanis and the military, who viewed her as too pro-western. Yes, their was corruption during her administration but many of the stories are likely exaggerated.
Ms. Bhutto shut down radical institutions and extradited Ramzi Yousef to the United States because of his ties to the first World Trade Center bombings and other crimes. Yousef had spent much time in the US and entered the country with a fake Iraqi passport. Yes, Virginia -- Yousef had close ties to Iraq.
My friend traveled with Ms. Bhutto occasionally and had warm memories of her. We corresponded frequently during that period of his life and he wrote several times about his respect and admiration for Bhutto. I have not contacted him today but I am sure that it is a sad day for him. Indeed, it is a sad day for Pakistan and the entire world.
Now for the news
The blogosphere and the mainstream media is full of the news of Benazir Bhutto's assasination. In case you've just tuned in, Bhutto was entering her car after addressing a rally of thousands in Rawalpindi. She was apparently shot once in the neck and once in the chest by a suicide bomber, who then blew himself up. As of now, there is no official word as to whether she died from the gunshots or the blast. Approximately 20 others were killed in the attack. From the Associated Press:
The attacker struck just minutes after Bhutto addressed thousands of supporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, 8 miles south of Islamabad. She was shot in the neck and chest by the attacker, who then blew himself up, said Rehman Malik, Bhutto's security adviser.
Sardar Qamar Hayyat, a leader from Bhutto's party, said he was standing about 10 yard away from Bhutto's vehicle.
"She was inside the vehicle and was coming out from the gate after addressing the rally when some of the youths started chanting slogans in her favor," he said. "Then I saw a thin, young man jumping to her vehicle from the back and opening fire. Moments later, I saw her speeding vehicle going away."
At least 20 others were killed in the attack.
Bhutto was rushed to the hospital and taken into emergency surgery. She died about an hour after the attack.
CNN has video here of the chaos after the attack. Fox News also has a video report here. Fox News also has photos here but be warned they are very graphic and not suitable for children.
Who killed Benazir Bhutto?
The blogosphere and the news media are full of speculation about who killed Ms. Bhutto and why. Here is the Times' take on the story:
The main suspects in Benazir Bhutto’s assassination are the Pakistani and foreign Islamist militants who saw her as a heretic and an American stooge and had repeatedly threatened to kill her.
But fingers will also be pointed at Inter-Services Intelligence, the agency that has had close ties to the Islamists since the 1970s and has been used by successive Pakistani leaders to suppress political opposition.
Ms Bhutto narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in October, when a suicide bomber killed about 140 people at a rally in the port city of Karachi to welcome her back from eight years in exile.
Earlier that month, two militant warlords based in Pakistan's lawless northwestern areas, near the border with Afghanistan, had threatened to kill her on her return.
One was Baitullah Mehsud, a top commander fighting the Pakistani army in the tribal region of South Waziristan. He has close ties to al Qaeda and the Afghan Taleban.
The other was Haji Omar, the “amir” or leader of the Pakistani Taleban, who is also from South Waziristan and fought against the Soviets with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.
After that attack Ms Bhutto revealed that she had received a letter signed by a person who claimed to be a friend of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden threatening to slaughter her like a goat.
Regardless of who actually killed Benazir Bhutto, the fact is that the United States has lost a valuable ally and the Pakistani people have lost a great leader. Pray for peace in Pakistan.