Benazir Bhutto killed

History

Benazir Bhutto has become a martyr, said a spokesperson for her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) when it was announced that the opposition leader had been killed in an attack. She died in Rawalpindi, the city where her father was hanged in 1979. But does Pakistan really need more martyrs?

It was the second assassination attempt since Benazir Bhutto returned from foreign exile in October this year. On 19 October, more than 130 people were killed in an attack against the procession in which she was making her triumphal return to Karachi. She was, therefore, very aware that she was in danger, but still she stayed in her native land, for she felt that she had no other choice. Her death marks the end - for the time being at least - of the Bhutto political dynasty. Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was prime minister of Pakistan when general Mohammed Zia ul-Haq seized power in 1977. Two years later, her father was executed by the military regime. Her two brothers also met violent deaths.

Cult figures
Even after their deaths they remained cult figures in Pakistan’s divided political landscape, says Mohammed Amer Morgahi of the Institute for the Study of Islam in Leiden, the Netherlands. He says that Benazir Bhutto has now joined them. He comments, „Her father when he was assassinated was also called a martyr. That also provided a big legacy. Her influence was also based on her family tradition.”

No successor
A major problem now, according to Amer Morgahi, is that the PPP really doesn’t have any to fill Ms Bhutto’s now vacant shoes, especially so since the party’s fate has always been so closely connected with the Bhutto family. Yet, he argues that there is clearly a need for a party such as the PPP, which could provide an alternative for the two competing power blocs in Pakistan. On the one side there is the regime of the current president, Pervez Musharraf. He came to power through a coup in 1999, and got himself into the United States’ ‘good books’ by presenting himself as someone who could thwart the rise of radical Muslims. On the other side are the fundamentalists, who are particularly strong in the area bordering on Afghanistan and who would like to see Pakistan become an Islamic state.

Despite his own claims, critics say that Musharraf has done little to tackle the fundamentalists in Pakistan. Upon her return to the country, Benazir Bhutto said she would do that if her party were to win the coming elections. Ms Bhutto was, in fact, a rival of President Musharraf - who has his headquarters in Rawalpindi - but recently the similarities between the two - as opponents of the growing fundamentalist movement - had seemed stronger than their differences. There had even been speculation about a possible alliance between the two leaders after the elections on 8 January 2008.

Death sentence
That possibility may have signed Ms Bhutto’s „death sentence” as it were, said journalist Mariana Baabar, speaking from Rawalpindi, particularly so given the bad blood she caused with her decision, earlier this year, to support the government when it laid siege to the fundamentalist Red Mosque in Islamabad. „That […] annoyed al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and ever since they have been hitting PPP targets.”

The fundamentalist religious students in the Red Mosque had direct links with Afghanistan and the Taliban. Meanwhile, responsibility for the killing of Ms Bhutto has been claimed from inside Afghanistan by al-Qaeda commander Mustapha Abu al-Yazid. For President Musharraf, too, difficult times have arrived with the murder of Ms Bhutto. The „state of emergency” has already been a well-tried tool under his regime, but in the past that has never managed to provide a decisive victory against the fundamentalist. Critics doubt whether that would be any different now. After all, Musharraf himself has been the target of repeated attacks. The difference between him and Ms Bhutto, as Mohammed Amer Morgahi says, is the president has been lucky, while Ms Bhutto’s luck failed her. (radionetherlands)

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