Benazir Bhutto Killed in Election Rally Attack in Rawalpindi
Today, more than 20 people were killed and 60 were injured in a gunfire-and-bomb attack during an election rally of the Pakistan Peoples Party in Rawalpindi. Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s most popular politician, was also one of the victims. The former Pakistani Prime Minister was 54 years old and she had returned to Pakistan on October 18, 2007, after she had reached an understanding with General Pervez Musharraf, the troubled country’s current President.
Benazir Bhutto was the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, which was the most liberal party in Pakistan, known to fight for such issues as women’s rights, as well as rights of the poor and the oppressed. Benazir Bhutto and her party promoted equality, justice and tolerance.
Before leaving into self-imposed exile in 1998, Benazir Bhutto was twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan and she practically became the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state. However, despite her popularity and charisma, the political militant was removed from both her mandates as Prime Minister of Pakistan on grounds of alleged corruption. Thus, Bhutto was forced to leave into self-imposed exile in 1998, but returned to Pakistan about two months ago, when President Pervez Musharraf allowed her to participate in parliamentary elections planned for January 8.
Despite Bhutto’s supporters’ despair, her assassination was probably no surprise for international political analysts. Benazir Bhutto herself had spoken frankly of the dangers she would face in her race to regain political power: “There are risks that must be taken” and “I’m prepared to take them,” Bhutto once said. The political woman had already survived a previous attempt on her life since she returned from exile. In fact the same day she came back home a suicidal attack that had Benazir Bhutto as target killed more than 140 in Karachi.
Today’s attack also involved a suicidal assassin, who reportedly fired shots in Benazir Bhutto’s direction just prior to detonating an explosive pellet-ridden vest. Blame for the assassination was quickly cast on President Pervez Musharraf’s government. After Bhutto’s death, Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistan Muslim League’s leader and a former Prime Minister of the country, said his party would boycott national elections next month; he also called on Musharraf to quit as the nation’s leader.
“Under the present circumstances and under Musharraf, neither is campaigning possible nor is a free election,” Sharif told reporters in Islamabad.
On the other hand, Pervez Musharraf appealed for calm in a message broadcast on state television. He also announced three days of mourning in Pakistan. “We will fly the Pakistan flag at half-mast in her honor,” Musharraf said, adding also that “Terrorists are the greatest threat to Pakistan, and we won't rest till we defeat terrorism.”
George W. Bush, President of the United States, spoke to Musharraf just a few hours since the attack; he condemned the attack by calling it a “coward act” by “murderous extremists”. “Mrs. Bhutto served her nation as prime minister, and she knew her return to Pakistan earlier this year put her life at risk. […] The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act,” said Bush.
It is known that the United States strongly supported a partnership between Benazir Bhutto and Perez Musharraf, who was now urged by U.S. officials to maintain progress toward a vote.
Ironically enough, one of late Benazir Bhutto’s recent rally greetings was “Bhutto is alive! Bhutto is alive!”
However, Benazir Bhutto will always remain an important symbol of inner strenght and braveness!