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Benazir Bhutto
1953 - 2007
 

 


Benazir Bhutto became prime minister of Pakistan in 1988. Heir to the political legacy of her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (prime minister from 1971 to 1977), she was the first woman in modern times to head the government of an Islamic state.

Benazir Bhutto assumed the prime ministership of Pakistan after 11 years of struggle against the military regime of General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq. She had taken up the leadership of the Pakistan People's Party - founded by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was deposed by General Zia in 1977 and executed in 1979. Over the following decade Bhutto mobilized opposition to the martial law regime, spending nearly six of those years in prison or detention. In a national election following the death of General Zia in August 1988, the People's Party won a plurality of seats in the National Assembly. Bhutto was invited by Pakistan's President Ghulam Ishaq Khah to form a government and was sworn in as prime minister on December 2, 1988.

Benazir Bhutto was born in Karachi, Pakistan, on June 21, 1953. She received her early education in Pakistan. From 1969 to 1973 she attended Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she obtained a B.A. degree cum laude in comparative government. Between 1973 and 1977 Bhutto read politics, philosophy, and economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University. In December 1976 she was elected president of Oxford Union, becoming the first Asian woman to head the prestigious debating society.

Bhutto's plans to enter Pakistan's foreign service ended with the deposition of her father and a decision to dedicate herself to restoring a democratically-elected government. Despite lengthy periods of imprisonment and her self-exile in Europe beginning in January 1984, she directed the rebuilding and restructuring of the People's Party. She travelled widely, presenting the case against the Zia regime, attacking its violations of civil and human rights. In Pakistan, opponents of the regime defied the government's ban on political activity despite mass arrests and intimidation. While relentless in her criticism, Bhutto counseled her loyalists against any resort to armed confrontation, preferring instead to wrest power through the political process.

Martial law ended December 30, 1985, but the civilian government that Zia, as president and army chief of staff, had installed three months earlier was based on nonparty elections. Hoping to revive the campaign for representative government, Bhutto returned to Pakistan in April 1986. Travelling across the country, she attracted crowds that rivalled any in Pakistan's history.

On May 29, 1988, President Zia abruptly dissolved the Parliament and dismissed his hand-picked but increasingly independent-minded prime minister, Mohammad Junejo. Fears that Zia would somehow keep the People's Party from contesting forthcoming elections were removed by his sudden death. Yet the People's Party's failure in the November election to win an outright parliamentary majority resulted in a politically vulnerable Bhutto-led coalition government. An alliance of opposition parties made it difficult for the prime minister to advance the kind of legislative program that had been promised to deal with the country's pressing problems. In particular, matters of social justice, including repeal of fundamentalist laws considered degrading to women, could not be enacted. It was politically expedient to avoid antagonizing religious elements, some of whom believed it "un-Islamic" for a woman to be the head of government. Faced with severe financial constraints, the prime minister also made little progress in bringing reforms to the education and health sectors or in curbing bureaucratic corruption.

Bhutto took care not to offend a military establishment which had allowed the return to a democratic system and refrained from direct interference in domestic politics. The army was appeased in the area of military spending and given wide latitude in formulating and implementing certain foreign and domestic policies, most notably Pakistan's role in orchestrating the Afghan war and terms for peace. Her government's dependence on the military increased with the outbreak of serious civil disorders and violence arising from persisting ethnic and regional antagonisms made more lethal by weapons siphoned off from the Afghan conflict.

To her credit, Bhutto released political prisoners and took other steps to restore fundamental human rights. Heavy restrictions on the press were lifted along with limitations on assembly by unions and student groups. She also gained stature for her success in outmaneuvering the combined opposition in its tactics to oust her from office. Unlike her father, who favored socialist rhetoric and nationalized many economic institutions and activities, Bhutto emphasized economic growth and argued for decreased government subsidies and greater privatization in the economy. During her tenure, the prime minister demonstrated considerable skill in winning international diplomatic and economic support for Pakistan and effectively used the Kashmir dispute with India to rally domestic public sentiment without unnecessarily inflaming it. Among Pakistan's leaders she was considered the most inclined to strive for improved relations with India.

Bhutto married Asif Ali Zardari on December 18, 1987. The son of a politically active, wealthy landowning family from the Sindh Province, Zardari's background was similar to that of his wife - not surprising since Bhutto acceded to a traditionally arranged marriage. They had two children.

On August 6, 1990, President Ghulam Ishaq Khah, apparently supported by the Pakistan military, suddenly dismissed Bhutto from the office of prime minister. Citing government corruption, nepotism, and abuse of power, Khah dissolved the National Assembly and declared a state of emergency. Bhutto called her dismissal "illegal and unconstitutional" and worried about the fate of her People's Party. The caretaker government continued its campaign against Bhutto by arresting her husband October 10, charging kidnapping, extortion, and loan fraud. In elections held on October 24 Bhutto's party suffered a major defeat. The victorious alliance named Nawaz Sharif, a conservative industrialist, to be prime minister.

Bhutto, vowing to seek office in elections to come, spent the next few years trying to regain support and political favor. She served as chairperson of the standing committee on foreign affairs of the National Assembly and was again elected to the position of prime minister of Pakistan in October 1993.

In November of 1996, Bhutto was again ousted from her post, this time by Farooq Leghari, the man she had chosen for president. Again accused of nepotism and corruption, Bhutto was placed under house arrest, though never officially charged with anything. Less than a year later, Bhutto again attempted to regain power.

In Pakistan's general elections in February 1997, Nawaz Sharif celebrated a landslide victory over Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party. Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML) won a resounding 134 of 217 seats in the National Assembly while Bhutto saw the PPP reduced to a mere 19 seats and virtually erased from the key Punjab provincial assembly.

In an interview with Time magazine in March 1997, Bhutto said, "If the elections had been fair, free, and impartial, the Pakistan People's Party would have won on the basis of the development work we have done, on the basis of restoring peace, of increasing education and health expenditures, bringing the deficit down, repaying debt and bringing peace to Karachi. The results were engineered…. The whole thing was a fraud for the people of Pakistan."

In her defeat, Bhutto said she no longer desired the prime minister's post. "My father worked from morning to night. I worked from morning to night. My father, what did he get? He got hanged. What did I get? I got slandered," she said. "Let there be a new leadership. I want my party to win the next elections, and I will help my party prepare to win. But I don't want to be prime minister."
 


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Benazir Bhutto was a Pakistani politician who became the first woman to lead a post-colonial Muslim state. Benazir was twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. She was sworn in for the first time in 1988 but she was removed from office 20 months later under orders of then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan on grounds of alleged corruption. Bhutto was re-elected in 1993 but was again removed by President Farooq Leghari in 1996, on similar charges.

Benazir Bhutto lived in self exile in Dubai since 1998, until she returned to Pakistan on 18 October 2007 after reaching an "understanding" with General Musharraf in which an amnesty was granted to her -- in addition to others -- and all corruption charges withdrawn. She is the eldest child of former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a Pakistani of Sindhi extraction, and Begum ("Lady") Nusrat Bhutto, a Pakistani of Kurdish extraction. Benazir studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Oxford, and has a Harvard University degree. Her paternal grandfather was Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto who came to Larkana Sindh before partition from his native town of Bhatto Kalan which is situated in the Indian state of Haryana.


Education and personal life

Bhutto attended the Lady Jennings Nursery School and then the Convent of Jesus and Mary in Karachi. After two years of schooling at the Rawalpindi Presentation Convent, she was sent to the Jesus and Mary Convent at Murree. She passed her O-level examination at the age of 15. She then went on to complete her examinations from Karachi Grammar School.

After completing her early education in Pakistan, she pursued her higher education in the United States. From 1969 to 1973 she attended Radcliffe College, and then Harvard University, where she obtained a B.A. degree cum laude in comparative government. She was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

The next phase of her education took place in the United Kingdom. Between 1973 and 1977 Bhutto studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She completed a course in International Law and Diplomacy while at Oxford. In December 1976 she was elected president of the Oxford Union, becoming the first Asian woman to head the prestigious debating society.

On 18 December 1987 she married Asif Ali Zardari in Karachi. The couple have three children: Bilawal, Bakhtwar, and Aseefa.


Bhutto's father deposed and executed

After a trial that began on 24 October 1977 on charges of "conspiracy to murder" of the father of Ahmed Raza Kasuri, a dissident PPP politician, Benazir Bhutto's father, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged on 4 April 1979. Despite many clemency appeals from foreign leaders requesting Zia to commute Bhutto's death sentence, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who had assumed as President and chief Martial Law administrator (which he had decreed), dismissed the appeals and upheld the death sentence. The hanging of an elected Prime Minister by orders of a military dictator was condemned by the international community and by lawyers and jurists across Pakistan.


Prime Minister

Bhutto, who had returned to Pakistan after completing her studies, found herself placed under house arrest in the wake of her father's imprisonment and subsequent execution. Having been allowed in 1984 to return to the United Kingdom, she became a leader in exile of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), her father's party, though she was unable to make her political presence felt in Pakistan until after the death of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. She had succeeded her mother as leader of the Pakistan People's Party and the pro-democracy opposition to the Zia-ul-Haq regime.

On 16 November 1988, in the first open election in more than a decade, Benazir's PPP won the largest bloc of seats in the National Assembly. Bhutto was sworn in as Prime Minister of a coalition government on 2 December, becoming at age 35 the youngest person — and the first woman — to head the government of a Muslim-majority state in modern times. That same year, People Magazine included Ms. Bhutto in its list of The Fifty Most Beautiful People.

Bhutto's government was dismissed in 1990 following charges of corruption, for which she never was tried. Zia's protégé Nawaz Sharif subsequently came to power. Bhutto was re-elected in 1993 but was dismissed three years later amid various corruption scandals by then president Farooq Leghari, who used the Eighth Amendment discretionary powers to dissolve the government. The Supreme Court upheld President Leghari's dismissal by a 6-1 ruling. In 2006, Interpol issued a request for her arrest and that of her husband.

The criticism against Benazir came largely from the Punjabi elites and powerful landlord families who opposed Bhutto as she pushed Pakistan into nationalist reform, opposing feudals, whom she blamed for the destabilization of Pakistan.


Petitions for disqualification

On 17 September 2007 Benazir Bhutto accused Pervez Musharraf's allies of pushing Pakistan into crisis by their refusal to permit democratic reforms and power-sharing. A nine-member panel of Supreme Court judges deliberated on six petitions (including one from Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan's largest Islamic group) asserting that Musharraf be disqualified from contending for the presidency of Pakistan. Bhutto stated that her party could join one of the opposition groups, potentially that of Nawaz Sharif. Attorney-general Malik Mohammed Qayyum stated that, pendente lite, the Election Commission was "reluctant" to announce the schedule for the presidential vote. Bhutto's party, Farhatullah Babar, stated that the Constitution could bar Musharraf from being elected again because he is already chief of the army: "As Gen. Musharraf is disqualified from contesting for President, he has prevailed upon the Election Commission to arbitrarily and illegally tamper with the Constitution of Pakistan."


Policies for women

During election campaigns the Bhutto government voiced its concern for women's social and health issues, including the issue of discrimination against women. Bhutto announced plans to establish women's police stations, courts, and women's development banks. Despite these promises, Bhutto did not propose any legislation to improve welfare services for women. During her election campaigns, Bhutto promised to repeal controversial laws (such as Hudood and Zina ordinances) that curtail the rights of women in Pakistan. Her party never did fulfil these promises during her tenures as Prime Minister, due to immense pressure from the opposition.

Only after her stints as Prime Minister did her party initiate legislation to repeal the Zina ordinance, during General Musharraf's regime. These efforts were defeated by the right-wing religious parties that dominated the legislatures at the time.


Policy on Taliban

The Taliban took power in Kabul in September 1996. It was during Bhutto's rule that the Taliban gained prominence in Afghanistan. She viewed the Taliban as a group that could stabilize Afghanistan and enable trade access to the Central Asian republics. Her government provided military and financial support for the Taliban, even sending a very small unit of the Pakistani army into Afghanistan.
Recently, she has taken an anti-Taliban stance and has condemned terrorist acts committed by the Taliban and their supporters.


Exile

After being dismissed by the then-president of Pakistan on charges of corruption her party lost the October elections. She served as leader of the opposition while Nawaz Sharif became PM for the next three years. Elections were held again in October 1993 and her PPP coalition was victorious, returning Bhutto to office. In 1996 her government was once again dismissed on corruption charges.


Charges of corruption

The French, Polish, Spanish and Swiss governments have provided documentary evidence to the Pakistan government of alleged corruption by Bhutto and her husband. Bhutto and her husband faced a number of legal proceedings, including a charge of laundering money through Swiss banks. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, spent eight years in prison on similar corruption charges. Zardari, released from jail in 2004, has suggested that his time in prison involved torture; human rights groups have supported his claim that his rights were violated.

A 1998 report indicates that Pakistani investigators have documents that uncover a network of bank accounts, all linked to the family's lawyer in Switzerland, with Asif Zardari as the principal shareholder. According to the article, documents released by the French authorities indicated that Zadari offered exclusive rights to Dassault, a French aircraft manufacturer, to replace the air force's fighter jets in exchange for a 5% commission to be paid to a Swiss corporation controlled by Zardari. The article also said a Dubai company received an exclusive license to import gold into Pakistan for which Asif Zardari received payments of more than $10M into his Dubai-based Citibank accounts. The owner of the company denied that he had made payments to Zardari and claims the documents were forged. The paper also said that Zardari's parents, who had modest assets at the time of Bhutto's marriage, now own a 355-acre estate south of London. The estate has been auctioned through a court order.

Bhutto maintains that the charges levelled against her and her husband are purely political. "Most of those documents are fabricated," she said, "and the stories that have been spun around them are absolutely wrong." An Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) report supports Bhutto's claim. It presents information suggesting that Benazir Bhutto was ousted from power in 1990 as a result of a witch hunt approved by then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The AGP report says Khan illegally paid legal advisors 28 million Rupees to file 19 corruption cases against Bhutto and her husband in 1990-92.

However, Bhutto and her husband still face wide-ranging allegations of theft concerning hundreds of millions of dollars of "commissions" on government contracts and tenders. Despite this, a power-sharing deal recently brokered between Bhutto and Musharraf will allow Bhutto access to her Swiss bank accounts containing £740 million ($1.5 Billion). Another one of her prime assets include her 10 bedroom mock Tudor Surrey mansion.


Switzerland

On 23 July 1998, the Swiss Government handed over documents to the government of Pakistan which relate to corruption allegations against Benazir Bhutto and her husband. The documents included a formal charge of money laundering by Swiss authorities against Zardari. The Pakistani government had been conducting a wide-ranging inquiry to account for more than $13.7 million frozen by Swiss authorities in 1997 that was allegedly stashed in banks by Bhutto and her husband. The Pakistani government recently filed criminal charges against Bhutto in an effort to track down an estimated $1.5 billion she and her husband are alleged to have received in a variety of criminal enterprises. The documents suggest that the money Zardari is alleged to have laundered was accessible to Benazir Bhutto and had been used to buy a diamond necklace for over $175,000.

The PPP has responded by flatly denying the charges, suggesting that Swiss authorities have been misled by false evidence provided by Islamabad.

On 6 August 2003, Swiss magistrates found Benazir and her husband guilty of money laundering. They were given six-month suspended jail terms, fined $50,000 each and were ordered to pay $11 million to the Pakistani government. The six-year trial alleged that Benazir and Zardari deposited in Swiss accounts $10 million given to them by a Swiss company in exchange for a contract in Pakistan. The couple said they would appeal. The Pakistani investigators say Zardari opened a Citbank account in Geneva in 1995 through which they say he passed some $40 million of the $100 million he received in payoffs from foreign companies doing business in Pakistan.


Poland

The Polish Government has given Pakistan 500 pages of documentation relating to corruption allegations against Benazir Bhutto and her husband. These charges are in regard to the purchase of 8,000 tractors in a 1997 deal. According to Pakistani officials, the Polish papers contain details of illegal commissions paid by the tractor company in return for agreeing to their contract. It is alleged that the arrangement "skimmed" Rs 103 mn rupees ($2 million) in kickbacks. "The documentary evidence received from Poland confirms the scheme of kickbacks laid out by Asif Zardari and Benazir Bhutto in the name of (the) launching of Awami tractor scheme," APP said. Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari allegedly received a 7.15 percent commission on the purchase through their front men, Jens Schlegelmilch and Didier Plantin of Dargal S.A., who received about $1.969 million for supplying 5,900 Ursus Tractors.


France

Potentially the most lucrative deal alleged in the documents involved the effort by Dassault Aviation, a French military contractor. French authorities indicated in 1998 that Bhutto's husband, Zardari, offered exclusive rights to Dassault to replace the air force’s fighter jets in exchange for a five percent commission to be paid to a corporation in Switzerland controlled by Zardari.

At the time, French corruption laws forbid bribery of French officials but permitted payoffs to foreign officials, and even made the payoffs tax-deductible in France. However, France changed this law in 2000.


Middle East

In the largest single payment investigators have discovered, a gold bullion dealer in the Middle East is alleged to have deposited at least $10 million into one of Zardari's accounts after the Bhutto government gave him a monopoly on gold imports that sustained Pakistan's jewellery industry. The money was allegedly deposited into Zardari's Citibank account in Dubai.

Pakistan's Arabian Sea coast, stretching from Karachi to the border with Iran, has long been a gold smugglers' haven. Until the beginning of Bhutto's second term, the trade, running into hundreds of millions of dollars a year, was unregulated, with slivers of gold called biscuits, and larger weights in bullion, carried on planes and boats that travel between the Persian Gulf and the largely unguarded Pakistani coast.

Shortly after Bhutto returned as prime minister in 1993, a Pakistani bullion trader in Dubai, Abdul Razzak Yaqub, proposed a deal: in return for the exclusive right to import gold, Razzak would help the government regularize the trade. In November 1994, Pakistan's Commerce Ministry wrote to Razzak informing him that he had been granted a license that made him, for at least the next two years, Pakistan's sole authorized gold importer. In an interview in his office in Dubai, Razzak acknowledged that he had used the license to import more than $500 million in gold into Pakistan, and that he had travelled to Islamabad several times to meet with Bhutto and Zardari. But he denied that there had been any corruption or secret deals. "I have not paid a single cent to Zardari," he said.

Razzak claims that someone in Pakistan who wished to destroy his reputation had contrived to have his company wrongly identified as the depositor. "Somebody in the bank has cooperated with my enemies to make false documents," he said.


During exile

2002 election

The Bhutto-led Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) secured the highest number of votes (28.42%) and eighty seats (23.16%) in the national assembly in the October 2002 general elections . Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) managed to win eighteen seats only. Some of the elected candidates of Pakistan Peoples Party formed a faction of their own, calling it PPP-Patriots which was being led by Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat, the former leader of Bhutto led PPP. They later formed a coalition government with Musharraf's party, PML-Q.


Early 2000s

In 2002, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf amended Pakistan's constitution to ban prime ministers from serving more than two terms. This disqualifies Bhutto from ever holding the office again. This move was widely considered to be a direct attack on former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. On 3 August 2003, Bhutto became a member of Minhaj ul Quran International (An international Muslim educational and welfare organization).

Since September 2004, Bhutto lived in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where she cared for her children and her mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, travelling to give lectures and keeping in touch with the Pakistan Peoples Party's supporters. She and her three children were reunited with her husband and their father in December 2004 after more than five years.

On 27 January 2007 she was invited by the United States to speak to President Bush and congressional and State Department officials.

Bhutto appeared as a panellist on the BBC TV programme Question Time in the UK in March 2007. She has also appeared on BBC current affairs programme Newsnight on several occasions. She rebuffed comments made by Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq in May 2007 regarding the knighthood of Salman Rushdie, citing that he was calling for the assassination of foreign citizens.

Bhutto had declared her intention to return to Pakistan within 2007, which she did, in spite of Musharraf's statements of May 2007 about not allowing her to return ahead of the country's general election, due late 2007 or early 2008. It is speculated that she may be offered the office of Prime Minister again.

Arthur Herman, a U.S. historian, in a controversial letter published in The Wall Street Journal on 14 June 2007, in response to an article by Bhutto highly critical of the president and his policies, has described her as "One of the most incompetent leaders in the history of South Asia", and asserted that she and other elites in Pakistan hate Musharraf because he is a muhajir, the son of one of millions of Indian Muslims who fled to Pakistan during partition in 1947. Herman has claimed, "Although it was muhajirs who agitated for the creation of Pakistan in the first place, many native Pakistanis view them with contempt and treat them as third-class citizens."

Nonetheless, as of mid-2007, the US appeared to be pushing for a deal in which Musharraf would remain as president but step down as military head, and either Bhutto or one of her nominees would become prime minister.

On 11 July 2007, the Associated Press, in an article about the possible aftermath of the Red Mosque incident, wrote:

Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister and opposition leader expected by many to return from exile and join Musharraf in a power-sharing deal after year-end general elections, praised him for taking a tough line on the Red Mosque. I'm glad there was no cease-fire with the militants in the mosque because cease-fires simply embolden the militants," she told Britain's Sky TV on Tuesday. "There will be a backlash, but at some time we have to stop appeasing the militants."

This remark about the Red Mosque was seen with dismay in Pakistan as reportedly hundreds of young students were roasted to death and remains are untraceable and cases are being heard in Pakistani supreme court as a missing persons issue. This and subsequent support for Musharaf led Elder Bhutto's comrades like Khar to criticize her publicly.

Bhutto however advised Musharraf in an early phase of the latter's quarrel with the Chief Justice, to restore him. Her PPP did not capitalize on its CEC member, Aitzaz, the chief Barrister for the Chief Justice, in successful restoration. Rather he was seen as a rival and was isolated.


Possible deal with the Musharraf Government

In July 2007, some of Bhutto's frozen funds were released. Bhutto still faces significant charges of corruption. In an 8 August 2007 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Bhutto revealed the meeting focused on her desire to return to Pakistan for the 2008 elections, and of Musharraf retaining the Presidency with Bhutto as Prime Minister. On 29 August 2007, Bhutto announced that Musharraf would step down as chief of the army. On 1 September Bhutto vowed to return to Pakistan "very soon", regardless of whether or not she reached a power-sharing deal with Musharraf before then.

Many observers see such a deal improbable. In summer 2002 Musharraf implemented a two-term limit on Prime Ministers. Both Bhutto and Musharraf's other chief rival, Nawaz Sharif, have already served two terms as Prime Minister. Musharraf's allies in parliament, especially the PMLQ, are unlikely to reverse the changes to allow Prime Ministers to seek third terms, nor to make particular exceptions for either Benazir or Sharif.

On 2 October, 2007, Gen. Pervez Musharraf named Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, as vice chief of the army starting 8 October with the intent that if Musharraf won the presidency and resigned his military post, Kayani would become chief of the army. Meanwhile, Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed stated that officials agreed to grant Benazir Bhutto amnesty versus pending corruption charges. She has emphasized the smooth transition and return to civilian rule and has asked Pervaiz Musharaf to shed uniform.

On 5 October 2007 Musharraf signed the National Reconciliation Ordinance, giving amnesty to Bhutto and other political leaders – except exiled former premier Nawaz Sharif – in all court cases against them, including all corruption charges. The Ordinance came a day before Musharraf faced the crucial presidential poll. Both Bhutto's oppsition party, the PPP, and the ruling PMLQ, were involved in negotiations beforehand about the deal. In return, Bhutto and the PPP agreed not to boycott the Presidential election.

On 6 October 2007, Pervez Musharraf won a parliamentary election for President. However, the Supreme Court ruled that no winner can be officially proclaimed until it finishes deciding on whether it was legal for Musharraf to run for President while remaining Army General. Bhutto's PPP party did not join the other opposition parties' boycott of the election, but did abstain from voting. Later Bhutto demanded security coverage on-par with the President's. Bhutto also contracted foreign security firms for her protection.

En route to a rally in Karachi on 18 October 2007, two explosions occurred shortly after Bhutto had landed and left Jinnah International Airport. She was not injured but the explosions, later found to be a suicide-bomb attack, killed 136 people and injured at least 450. The dead included at least 50 of the security guards from her Pakistan People’s Party who had formed a human chain around her truck to keep potential bombers away, as well as 6 police officers. A number of senior officials were injured. Bhutto was escorted unharmed from the scene.

Bhutto later claimed that she had warned the Pakistani government that suicide bomb squads would target her upon her return to Pakistan and that the government had failed to act. She was careful not to blame Musharraf for the attacks, accusing instead "certain individuals [within the government] who abuse their positions, who abuse their powers" to advance the cause of Islamic militants. Aides close to Ms. Bhutto said that one of those named in a letter she sent the government was Ijaz Shah, the director general of the Intelligence Bureau, another of the country’s intelligence agencies and a close associate of General Musharraf. Bhutto has a long history of accusing parts of the government, particularly Pakistan’s premier military intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of working against her and her party because they oppose her liberal, secular agenda. The ISI has for decades backed militant Islamic groups in Kashmir and in Afghanistan.

There is an interesting discrepancy in the accounts between those published in western newspapers and Pakistani tabloid and eye witness accounts of the assasination attempt . Benazir's husband categorically refused to accept suicide bombing thesis and attack by alqaeeda and Taliban . Correspondingly , Pakistani Taliban leader Mehsud denied responsibility and Jamaat Islami , a Benazir opponent announced three days mourning for the dead .

Benazir's associates point to first a grenade attack (small) , then twenty seconds later by huge bombs , one right and and one left of Truck carrying Benazir , this following by a brief burst of gun fire directed at vehicle's roof .The PPP sources claim that yet another non exploded bomb was fixed on bridge which they had already crossed . In other words it was a sure short non suicide assassination attempt .

Some witnesses report there was a sizzling sound which they think was an underground wire signal towards the explosive devices . At least two people on the top of the vehicle were killed . Reportedly Benazir escaped, as she was protected by a 30 inch tall bullet proof lining on top of truck and that she was descending downwards into lift into truck space proper at the time , hence neither shrapnel nor bulleting killed her. Total injured according to PPP sources is 1000 and killed atleast 160 .

PPP has lodged FIR but has been cautious in blaming but army circles are deeply concerned and ouster of chief minister of Punjab and sindh is being debated to diffuse public anger.

 

 

 

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