Friday, December 28, 2007

Who Killed Benazir?

Former Prime Minister of Pakistan and a leading opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on 27th December 2007 in a suicide bomb attack at an election rally Liaquat Bagh Park, in garrison town of Rawalpindi. About 20 persons were also killed in the attack.

More than 24 hours after the gruesome incident, there are conflicting theories surrounding the assassination. One theory doing the rounds was that 5 bullets were fired at Benazir by a sniper who later blew himself. Police said a suicide bomber fired shots at Bhutto as she was leaving the rally venue in a park before blowing himself up. According to columnist Hamid Mir Benazir was shot at by a sniper rifle from close range and a few moments later a suicide bomber blew himself to make sure that she did not survive. It was a determined effort. They made sure she didn't survive the attack. She died due to the injury in her neck. Some reports suggest that Bhutto was shot by two men with AK 47 rifles as she was entering her car after addressing an election rally. She was injured in the head and chest. At the same time a blast took place close to her car. She was rushed to the hospital where she was declared dead at 6.16 pm nearly 40 minutes after the attack. (The spokesman for the Pakistani Interior Ministry, Brigadier Cheema in an interview claimed that Benazir died due to shrapnel injuries and not due to bullets fired at her). Though no terror group or organization has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, the blame game has begun with former PM Sharif blaming Musharraf and the establishment of carrying on the attack. Musharraf in turn has blamed the Islamic militants for the assassination.

An Al Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid based in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility for the assassination of former Pakistan Premier Benazir Bhutto, whom he described as 'the most precious American asset.' "We terminated the most precious American asset, which vowed to defeat (the) mujahadeen," Al Qaeda commander and spokesman Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid told Italian news agency Adnkronos International in a phone call from an unknown location. "The radical elements of Pakistan viewed Bhutto as a Westernised heretic and an American stooge and had repeatedly threatened to kill her. Earlier in October, two Pakistani militant warlords based in the country's northwestern areas had threatened to kill her. One was Baitullah Mehsud, head of Tekrik Taliban-e-Pakistan - a coalition of Pakistani Taliban groups, a top militant commander fighting the Pakistani Army in South Waziristan, who has ties to al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. The other was Haji Omar, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, who is also from South Waziristan and fought with the Afghan Mujahidin against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Al-Yazid was described by AKI as the 'main Al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan.' It reported that the decision to kill Bhutto was made by Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri in October. The veracity of the Al Qaeda claims is yet to be verified.

Though Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the assassination, according to British media reports, Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence and Islamist militants are the main suspects in the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto. There is considerable force in this belief as Musharraf and the radical mullahs were the ones who would have benefited most from her death.

A suicide bomber killed nearly 150 people in an attack on Bhutto on October 18 as her cavalcade was passing through the southern city of Karachi after returning home from eight years in self-imposed exile. She narrowly escaped being killed in that attack. Shortly after the failed attempt on her life, Bhutto wrote to Musharraf naming four persons whom she suspected of carrying out the attack. She named Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, a rival PML-Q politician and chief minister of Pakistan's Punjab province, Hamid Gul, former director of the ISI, and Ijaz Shah, the director general of the Intelligence Bureau.

Incidentally, Liaquat Bagh Park is where Pakistan's first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in October 1951. Bhutto's father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged in April 1979 at a spot not very far from where his daughter was killed.