Who killed Benazir Bhutto? Was this another case of explod­ing man­goes?

By Fareeha Qay­oom


e live in inter­est­ing times.

For exam­ple, today was a full action thriller, a fairly aver­age day when I look back — we lived through two bomb explo­sions in Peshawar as a nation, I per­son­ally dealt with work-frustrations like a CEO of a ven­dor yelling at me for his company’s short-comings, (not reply­ing to his emails or text mes­sages, deliv­ery delays, gen­eral irre­spon­si­bil­ity and unco­op­er­a­tive behav­ior) or his com­plaints that his cus­tomer does not under­stand he is bet­ter than China and it would have been quite fun if his client had to actu­ally deal with a Chi­nese ven­dor, that  she does not appre­ci­ate his hard work despite chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances or his genius, and email­ing USA with updates, break­ing the news to his cus­tomer that her night­mare is not over,  that there is still more to come, chas­ing elu­sive staff mem­bers and col­leagues who refused to pick up the phone or take my calls, and call­ing a friend and a col­league who is in hos­pi­tal with a bro­ken leg because of a road acci­dent, the doc­tors had to oper­ate on his leg and left him with­out a sup­port­ing plas­ter cast for his bro­ken bones since the lat­est tech­nol­ogy in med­i­cine has not reached Pak­istan yet (auto­mat­i­cally dis­solv­ing stitches – old hat in the west!), long hours of load-shedding in the day-light hours, dri­ving around this hot after­noon in fairly mad traf­fic to visit  PTCL cus­tomer ser­vice to pick up copies of our delayed bills that they for­got to mail before the due date which is just a day away, the bank to pay a few util­ity bills like tele­phone and gas, (thank God, they are open in the after­noons now!), wit­ness­ing the after­math of an acci­dent on the road, won­der­ing what hap­pened from the state of the banged up cars, stop­ping by at Read­ings and not find­ing any­thing decent or fun to read, drink­ing health and hap­pi­ness over a cup of tea for a friend for her birth­day at Read­ings, the best gift she asked me to deliver on her birth­day wher­ever I hap­pened to be at 5:00 pm, pick­ing up my brother from work around 5:30 pm, call­ing ahead to inform our cook to have the tea ready for the whole fam­ily by 6:00 pm, stop­ping by at neigh­bor­hood store to buy a phone card and on reach­ing home around 6:00 pm, find­ing out we are out of milk so we can’t have tea imme­di­ately, then find­ing out we are out of cook­ies after the tea was served and hav­ing to send him out again to get some cook­ies, (talk about staff dis­or­ga­ni­za­tion even with con­sid­er­able plan­ning on your part!),  watch­ing my mom watch an Indian soap opera, sand­wich­ing the activ­ity of read­ing the var­i­ous news reports on the net in between, reply­ing to my emails, hav­ing din­ner before the sched­uled load-shedding, watch­ing my younger brother watch the var­i­ous talk shows where the hot topic of dis­cus­sion con­tin­ued to be the lat­est UN report on Benazir Bhutto’s assas­si­na­tion, blog­ging and now writ­ing — yes, it was fairly an aver­age day in Pak­istan. The report by the way was eclipsed by the two explo­sions in Peshawar for a bit but what the heck; the whole town is still talk­ing about the UN report.

Tribute to Benazir 8
Photo by Ammar Abd Rabbo

The mys­te­ri­ous deaths of our pop­u­lar lead­ers are not all that strange in our part of the world. Some say, Jin­nah was also mur­dered by slow poi­son and many straight for­ward assas­si­na­tion attempts were made on his life at var­i­ous points in his life. Our first Prime Min­is­ter Liaquat Ali Khan was also assas­si­nated. Prior to that, many unsuc­cess­ful attempts had been made on his life already. Appar­ently, a hired gun finally killed him who hap­pened to be an Afghan national by ori­gins and he also hap­pened to work for the British Gov­ern­ment for quite some time. Though, he was not on the pay­roll at the time. It’s not clear why he was killed. How­ever, the mur­derer was also killed imme­di­ately by the angry mob after he suc­cess­fully com­pleted his mis­sion so the real truth can never be known now – it died with the assassin’s death. How­ever, CIA’s declas­si­fied doc­u­ments; fifty years after the event, do dis­play a lot of unseemly inter­est in the polit­i­cal devel­op­ments of that time in Pak­istan. Fur­ther­more, a con­spir­acy the­ory pub­lished in a ‘Com­mie’ daily or a weekly is men­tioned in the secret dis­patches that points to CIA’s involve­ment and the deci­sion that US gov­ern­ment will not offi­cially com­ment on this as it will give this news report cred­i­bil­ity by their denial (or is it analy­sis?) undue impor­tance, besides, the news report had already slipped through the cracks, since no one had been pay­ing any atten­tion to it any­way so the secret dis­patches men­tion the feel­ing of sat­is­fac­tion and self con­grat­u­la­tion for pass­ing through this dif­fi­cult time fairly quickly, even if the guy (Nadeem some­body or the other) who wrote it should be dis­creetly inves­ti­gated! Hmm.

Some say Zul­fiqar Ali Bhutto was also killed by an inter­na­tional con­spir­acy and Zia-ul-Haq was their cho­sen instru­ment. The stuff of con­spir­acy the­o­rists; Gen­eral Zia-ul-Haq was also a vic­tim of var­i­ous assas­si­na­tion attempts — I remem­ber as a kid think­ing why are they going on and on (on PTV) about the fact that the assas­sins had hid­den the bomb in the Mus­lim holy book – the Quran and it was a sac­ri­lege but they didn’t find the assas­si­na­tion attempt itself shock­ing? Finally Zia was also booted out by an act of God or was it the case of explod­ing man­goes on C130? I remem­ber (still as a kid), Azhar Lodhi, PTV news anchor cry­ing on TV and find­ing that shock­ing instead of the actual death of so many peo­ple includ­ing Zia-ul-Haq. (Maybe I was com­fort­ably numb even then? I know now we don’t find sud­den, unnat­ural and untimely death shock­ing any­more.) Now, I don’t have a prob­lem believ­ing that par­tic­u­lar con­spir­acy the­ory because I can see for myself that (a dark and mil­i­tant face of) ‘Islam’ cre­ated by west­ern spin doc­tors was used as a weapon by USA to fight Rus­sia with full coop­er­a­tion of Gen­eral Zia-ul-Haq and now the same weapon is being used to fight Pak­istan and the entire Mus­lim world.  (May be the ‘right-wing Islamist’ con­spir­acy the­o­rists are right after all? Or maybe Pro­fes­sor Hunt­ing­ton is right. After all, he wrote the book ‘Clash of Civ­i­liza­tions’ where he cited cur­rent events — 80s and 90s — to sup­port his the­ory that the next two nat­ural ene­mies of the west­ern civ­i­liza­tion would be the Mus­lim and then the Chi­nese civ­i­liza­tions in that order. The facts make a strange kind of sense!  :) )

Benazir Bhutto was the lat­est pop­u­lar leader who died in recent his­tory of Pak­istan. Nawaz Sharif is another one who is sup­posed to be on the hit-list, since he is con­sid­er­ably more pop­u­lar than PPP right now, hence, high secu­rity mea­sures. He might die in mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances too in Pakistan’s future if he becomes a ‘loose can­non’ again. He was con­tained by Gen­eral Mushar­raf, (another west­ern instru­ment if you believe the same con­spir­acy the­o­rists!)  Who was in turn con­tained by Pres­i­dent Zardari (another west­ern instru­ment) who in turn was con­tained by the judi­ciary! (Who just hap­pened to be Nawaz Sharif’s or is it the establishment’s instru­ment? I am quite con­fused which par­tic­u­lar set of con­spir­acy the­o­rists to believe on this point so I leave it all up to you.) No, it’s not my the­ory, just pop­u­lar con­spir­acy the­o­ries that strangely enough fit the facts and cur­rent events!

Cover of Time Magazine
Photo by Ammar Abd Rabbo

I actu­ally don’t care who killed Ms Bhutto. (Sorry to sound unpa­tri­otic!) As far as I am con­cerned, she’s dead now. She was a great leader. But you can’t bring her back. Yes, she was a great loss to our nation but it’s over. We need to move on. Instead of wast­ing con­sid­er­able time and money and sus­pend­ing front line exec­u­tive secu­rity staff who prob­a­bly were only fol­low­ing someone’s orders, we should con­cen­trate on big­ger issues fac­ing our coun­try right now. Like inno­cent cit­i­zens dying daily on the streets and bazaars of Pak­istan or the ram­pant unem­ploy­ment and bank­rupt­cies because of gov­ern­ment poli­cies includ­ing bad man­age­ment of essen­tial util­ity com­pa­nies like WAPDA, PEPCO and LESCO or Sui Gas, or the con­sid­er­able pub­lic bur­den of debt on each cit­i­zen because of the IMF loan with puni­tive mea­sures due in 2011 or high infla­tion rates or the state of the econ­omy or the state of secu­rity.

The case of the mys­te­ri­ous death of Benazir Bhutto — we should leave it for the future gen­er­a­tions to fig­ure out. No new facts have been dis­cov­ered by the UN report. Yes, Ms Bhutto died on Musharraf’s watch so ulti­mately the buck stops with him, how­ever, it doesn’t mean he ordered her killing. (No, I am not defend­ing him. I just find it strange that the gov­ern­ment has taken this fact as stated by the report and made it out that Mushar­raf ordered her killing! Do they have a prob­lem under­stand­ing Eng­lish or the media has it wrong? I know I per­son­ally didn’t read the 65 page report nor do I want to, I only have the media reports to base my opin­ion on but it’s fairly clear to me that all the report meant was that since it hap­pened on his watch, ulti­mately he is respon­si­ble.). How­ever, the fact remains that by the same token our cur­rent gov­ern­ment is quite unmoved when her inno­cent cit­i­zens die under her watch– for exam­ple, five or is it six chil­dren who died today in Peshawar due to the first bomb explo­sion – April 19th 2010. Every inno­cent loss of life should be equally impor­tant to our gov­ern­ment and yet doesn’t merit the same zeal, time or money! Yes, the secu­rity was slack; (Well obvi­ously, if they suc­ceeded in killing her!) Yes, they were too quick to jump to con­clu­sions – (well, only an enemy of state could have been inter­ested in killing her and the obvi­ous pub­lic enemy num­ber one was Bait­ul­lah Mah­sud, head­ing the TTP at the time; so what, if he denied killing her? He was a crim­i­nal and there­fore was not a cred­i­ble wit­ness). They could hardly offi­cially blame the semi-hostile to out­right hos­tile to semi friendly to out-right friendly to totally indif­fer­ent neigh­bor­ing coun­tries like India or Afghanistan or USA or NATO or USSR or Iran or China or Saudi Ara­bia or Bangladesh or Nepal or Sri Lanka for her death. I mean, get real!

So what if the evi­dence was cov­ered up quickly? There was the Scot­land Yard inves­ti­ga­tion as well. They failed to find any­thing sin­is­ter either. The whole thing is incon­clu­sive any­way.

The only bizarre item I find in the whole UN report as reported by media is that Pres­i­dent Zardari was not respon­si­ble for her mur­der. (Why would they even men­tion that in the UN report when there was never any offi­cial fin­ger point­ing at him or any evi­dence to sup­port that the­ory?!)

I find it equally strange that crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion by the gov­ern­ment is going to only start now after the fil­ing of UN report, two years (or is it nearly three years?) after her death when the trail has already gone cold. What was pre­vent­ing them from con­duct­ing their home-brewed inves­ti­ga­tions? Please move on. We are not inter­ested in find­ing out who killed her. The for­mer pres­i­dent and the cur­rent pres­i­dent both have claimed that they already know who killed her and since they don’t want to tell us, let’s not waste pub­lic time or money on futile exer­cises. Let’s move on. We will find out the truth from CIA dis­patches fifty years from now any­way describ­ing what might have happened…why spend so much more to fig­ure out what we or rather our gov­ern­ment knows already? Sigh. For­get it.

It’s time to take care of the liv­ing; the dead are already dead and in God’s hands. ■

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Clas­sic Who­dunit mur­der mys­tery Pakistani-style, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rat­ing